OK, this isn’t precisely breaking news, as the post we’re talking about was time-stamped at 6:40 PM ET this evening, but it’s new to me, and to my Twitter feed, and definitely relevant, especially for those Jays fans who like to spend parts of their spring in the quiet town of Dunedin on Florida’s gulf coast– and especially for those who’ve been making the pilgrimage for years.
The Jays have held Spring Training in Dunedin since their inception, at what once was Grant Field, and now, at the same site, what’s now called Florida Auto Exchange stadium. But in the near future they will be there no more.
Houston beat writer Brian McTaggart of MLB.com has the news, as he tells us that Astros owner Jim Crane reveals that the Jays have signed a letter of intent to join his club in brand new facility in Palm Beach Gardens, following a deal he says is “95 percent” sure to be completed.
“The Blue Jays have committed and signed a letter of intent, so we’re ready to move forward,” Crane said. “That thing should be buttoned up hopefully by the end of October. We’ll get that stadium built and it will be a fabulous new facility in Palm Beach Gardens.”
The earliest the new facility could be open, we’re told, is 2016.
So that’s two more years in Dunedin, and despite the surprising charm that I found in my brief time in the city– charm by Florida standards anyway, with its brew pub and hippie beach bar denizens who grew up in Detroit and fought in Vietnam, and… um… actually mostly just those two things– I can completely understand why. Not only are the stadium facilities outdated– it sure will be weird to see the Jays play home games, Spring Training or not, in a swishy new stadium– but the minor league complex is a ten minute drive away. With no land available to put both the major- and minor-leaguers in one place, and what must be a frustrating series of bus trips involved for those who need to go back and forth, it just wasn’t a modern operation. It’s why we’ve heard many rumours along the way that this was coming.
But there is charm to it. And– perhaps I say this as someone who has only been to Dunedin once, and briefly, and hasn’t had to endure the yearly grind– it’s kind of a shame to see the long relationship end after a couple of generations. I’m sure it will be sad for a lot of people, in two years, to say goodbye to the employees and attendants whose faces they’ve been used to seeing every spring.
I’m just guessing, though. Besides, taking all that maudlin nonsense out of the equation, for anyone who is part of the Jays organization, or the media, or even the fans, a new facility probably actually sounds like a king hell of a thing. Hey, and we’ll get to see the ascendant Astros by then, too!
So it goes.