Blue Jays and Orioles fans migrate south for sunny spring training

A brand-new stadium brings baseball fans another reason to enjoy spring baseball in Dunedin

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The Toronto Blue Jays have called Dunedin their spring training home since the team's inception in 1977. Marco Oliveira/Toronto Observer

DUNEDIN, Fla. – Spring training brings baseball fans together in a big way, with traditions and vacation with friends or family forming quite a way to spend time with loved ones.

The atmosphere is one to behold, with an aura of its own, one of the main reasons fans enjoy spring training more than the Major League regular season.

Bill Vanblyderveen, a Toronto Blue Jays fan from Burford, Ontario, travelled to Dunedin with his family of four, their second year coming for vacation.

“This is our third game — excellent sports, weather’s been great, the atmosphere is great at the ballpark,” Vanblyderveen said. “For me, personally, I like the interaction with the players and how close it is, much better than the Rogers Centre. You actually get to see people up close and get lots of autographs.”

A fan wearing a Bo Bichette jersey.
A fan watches on as Bo Bichette plays in Spring Training. MARCO OLIVEIRA/TORONTO OBSERVER

The relaxed and recreational feeling spring training gives people allows it to be more of an enjoyable experience.
Robert Murphy, a baseball fan from Winter Park, Fla., credits the atmosphere but also the players battling to advance through the minor leagues.

“The fact that you have young players that are trying to get to Triple A, Double A, the majors —and the stars play a few innings, but then you see the young hungry guys play,” Murphy said. “It’s more relaxed and casual and the pitchers don’t dominate like they do in the regular season.”

For Leroy Williams, a Baltimore Oriole fan from Bushwood, Md., attending spring training is an annual tradition, going on 12 years now, as well as having travelled across the United States to attend minor-league games.

LISTEN: Michael Mazzei and Rachael Bishop talk Jays vs. Orioles.

“Oh, this is great. You get an opportunity to see some of the guys that maybe won’t be here this year but several years,” Williams said. “I’ve done a lot of travelling across the country and I catch a lot of minor-league games during the regular season.

“It reminds me of those types of ballparks where it’s kind of open, accessible to everything, and you get an opportunity to be closer to the action.”

Buy me some peanuts and… gator bites?

By Hayley McGoldrick

DUNEDIN, Fla.  – Hot dogs and peanuts have always been the backbone of baseball stadium concession stands. The odd pretzel or nacho dish may find their way into the hands of fans but for the most part fans are looking for their Loonie Dogs at the game.

For fans like Tim and Debbie Ewert of Alberta, Canada, a simple hot dog will continue to do the trick at the ballpark. “I guess it’s the whole experience,” he said. “We don’t have hot dogs at home,” she added.

But in recent years ballparks have seen the likes of pulled-pork macaroni and cheese, crème brulee French toast and churro dogs appear on the menu of concessions.

Here, at the Toronto Blue Jays’ TD Ballpark, concessions owner Russ Williams has curated a menu with a variety of foods for the baseball lover from any background.

“People’s eating habits have changed,” Williams said, “People are eating healthier, we now have veggie wraps and chicken caesar wraps. You have to go with what the people want; it doesn’t matter what I like.

“What we try to be is diverse enough so that we have something interesting enough for everybody. This is Florida, so we have the gator bites. We’re part of Canada, ergo the peameal sandwich and we have poutine.”

The ballpark even carries an Impossible Burger, a plant-based hamburger that mimics the taste of real meat for vegans or vegetarians looking for options between innings.

“It was an act to a need. Some people wanted it,” Williams said. “I try to just get something for everybody so when you come here, you go, ‘Hey, that was pretty cool.’.”

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Posted: Mar 12 2020 10:01 am
Edition: Toronto
Filed under: Special Reports Baseball Sports