Visiting families leaving Florida amid COVID-19 cancellations

Spring Training closes down, leaving many wondering what to do next

Featured Video Play Icon
A Chicago Cubs hat left in the sand on Clearwater Beach.  Kaj Larsen/Toronto Observer

CLEARWATER, Fla. — What started out as a week full of anticipation has quickly become a series of widespread cancellations.

As a result of Major League Baseball suspending spring training, some fans are leaving Florida with concerns over COVID-19 trumping the desire to stick around and soak up the sun.

“Families from all across the states came to meet up for the final two weeks before the season starts and they’re just bummed,” said Sue Kloosterman, a Barrie, Ontario, native, describing her interactions with fellow hotel guests.

According to Kloosterman, the hotel where she is staying is down 40 percent occupancy since spring training cancellations.

Among those who are opting to prioritize staying home are the groups that elected to cancel their trips entirely upon learning of the MLB’s decision to postpone until further notice. The Tampa Bay Times has reported several cancellations of flights and vacations.

LISTEN: COVID-19 crisis in sports

“She did say when they checked in, they said people were phoning and canceling the reservations at the hotel because they weren’t coming now,” added Kloosterman about her earlier conversation with a baseball fan.

Concerns beyond physical well-being include fears over refunds for tickets, particularly regarding those who purchased through third-party sites.

“We’re just worried, we got our tickets through StubHub, and they said we’ll get a full refund, but we’ll see if that happens or not,” said Rob Dupuy, a Phillies fan disappointed with this week’s events.

StubHub’s official refund policy as per their website reads as follows: “Our policy is to provide a full refund with fees if an event is canceled.”

As of Thursday evening, the Florida Department of Health claimed the number of confirmed residential and non-residential cases in the state stood at 51.

With multiple new cases being confirmed daily, expectations are cancellations may continue into the regular season.

“There are some disappointed people, but you know what, everywhere. I mean Disney World is closing and we just saw on the news that Busch Gardens is staying open for now, but they might be closing it.

So, I mean, it’s not going to be just baseball fans, it is going to be a lot of people,” said Kloosterman.

There’s always the beach

Rob Dupuy is sitting on a lawn chair, soaking up the sun on the Clearwater Beach.

He is not sweating the cancellations of Spring Training.

“It isn’t a bad place to get stuck, with no games,” he says. “I can’t really complain too much.”

Dupuy traveled from the Pennsylvania area to watch some sports action.

But the COVID-19 virus halted his plans.

“This was the weekend for Philly because we had the Flyers, who were supposed to play the Lightning last night.” Dupuy said. “And that game got canceled, and then spring training so a lot of people flew down to go to both events.”

Clearwater is the spring training home of the Philadelphia Phillies, and the city was dotted with their apparel. The beach is a four kilometre stretch of white sand and umbrellas.

It isn’t just Clearwater, as all of Florida in March has created a melting pot of fans, bringing Canadians and Americans from all over the continent to enjoy the weather and action.

Dunedin, the home of the Bluefield Blue Jays, is a 15-minute car ride from Clearwater.

Even so, Clearwater is filled with Blue Jays hats and apparel from fans and Canadians alike, including a Centennial College graduate from Barrie, Ontario named Sue Kloosterman.

Florida and Toronto are separated by more than 2,500-kilometres, with the weather a night and day difference.

About this article

By: , , , , , and
Posted: Mar 14 2020 2:55 pm
Edition: Toronto
Filed under: Special Reports Baseball COVID-19 News Sports