Blue Jays spring-training home of Dunedin, Florida ready to welcome Canadian visitors again

If you’re a Toronto Blue Jays fan, you won’t be able to see them play any home games until the COVID situation in Ontario improves, but you might be able to catch a game if you can get to Florida.

The Major League Baseball team has been playing its home games in its spring training facility in Dunedin, Florida since opening day and the original plan was that would last until May 21 which would amount to 22 games, or 27 per cent of the home schedule.

The way things are going in Canada’s largest province with the pandemic, it’s probably a good bet that their stay there will be extended, although there is talk of playing some games in Buffalo, New York, if necessary. At least it would be closer to home, but I’d imagine fans (and probably players) would rather see their team play in the Sunshine State if they had the chance.

A delegation from Visit Florida met with media and travel advisors last week to pitch the attractions of Dunedin which has been the springtime home to the Jays for the past 44 years when they play at TD Ballpark,  which has been newly renovated as a state-of-the-art player development facility.

More akin to a minor-league ballpark, the intimate stadium is a great place to catch a game, especially during February and March when the Jays would normally be playing Cactus League pre-season baseball.

Located on the state’s west coast near Clearwater, Dunedin has more to offer visitors than just baseball, including the thing that all sun-starved Canadians crave during the cold months and that’s ready access to an abundance of beautiful beaches.

Among the beaches nearby include St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island Beach and Clearwater Beach, which frequently top lists as the best beaches in the United States. If you’re looking for something off the beaten path, the Visit Florida Beach Finder Tool will help you find a beach to suit your tastes. The state has 1,327 kilometers of beaches so you’re bound to find something.

There’s a Dunedin in Scotland and this cit,y with its quaint downtown filled with antique shops, art galleries and inviting restaurants, shares the name because it was founded in 1899 by a pair of Scotsman. Those Scottish roots remain strong.

“We are one of the only cities in our state that has bagpiping as a part of the school band for middle school and our high school and we also have an adult city band that on any given day you can see a bagpiper on the pier and our marina,” said Dunedin Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski. “We also host a one of the largest Highland Games and Celtic festivals.”

Bujalski said Dunedin’s downtown is one of its great strengths.

“Most of the things that are going on in downtown are restaurants and retail and they’re all independently owned, so you’re not going to find these places anywhere else except in Dunedin and we’re very, very proud of that. So in other words, no chains, and we guarantee that you’re going to get to know the name of your local bartender or waitress or even owner of a restaurant,” she said.

“We are really known for our breweries as well we have eight breweries in our city and we partner with visit St. Pete/ Clearwater on brewery tours,” said Bujalski, adding that the city is proud that is home to the state’s oldest microbrewery, Dunedin Brewery.

And, of course, because it’s by the sea, Dunedin boasts a wonderful marina where you’re going to find great seafood, fishing and dolphin-watching charters and the ferry that will take you to Clearwater Beach.

The mayor added that the city is also known for the arts, so you’ll find galleries, mural tours, a history museum, historical walking tours and even the state’s largest arts-teaching facility.

“Interestingly enough, we have all of this and we’re only 38,000 people that live here, and we’re only 10 square miles, so we are packed full. And then, almost every weekend you’re going to find a festival,” she said.

“But of course, along with our beaches, we have baseball, and we couldn’t be more proud to be the original home for the Toronto Blue Jays’ spring training. We just love them. We have been so thrilled to have been able to sign a deal to have them here for another 25 years,” concluded Bujalski. “We’re really proud and want to welcome you back and hope that we get to see you soon.”

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