Dunedin FL and The Toronto Bluejays, a Spring Training History

Dunedin-TD Ballpark - Spring Training Home for The BlueJays

If you are a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays, you surely know about its spring training games at TD Ballpark in Dunedin, Florida. It is a famous ballpark where fans can enjoy baseball games and interact with their favorite players. Spring training in Dunedin has always been a gathering place for the fans of the Blue Jays. 

In the article, I will talk about Dunedin FL and The Toronto Bluejays. I am going to discuss the history between Dunedin and the Toronto Blue Jays. Then, we will get to know about some of the best players of the Dunedin Blue Jays. 

Dunedin, Florida has been the spring home for Toronto Blue Jays for many years now. TD Ballpark is currently the spring training ballpark for the team, and it will continue to be so for a long time.   

As the blue jays have agreed to continue to have its spring training in Dunedin, new renovation projects are planned to enhance the stadium facilities. Here is all about the history of Dunedin FL, TD Ballpark, and the Blue Jays you need to know.

History

Grant Field stadium was the first sports stadium in Dunedin, FL. The Blue Jays played in this stadium from 1977 to 1989. Back then, the stadium could accommodate 3,417 seats for the audience. The stadium had a different name but it changed to Grant Field in 1938 in memory of Mayor Albert J. Grant. He served as the mayor of Dunedin from 1927 to 1928. He donated the land for building Grant Field Stadium. The stadium was inaugurated in 1930.

The Toronto Blue Jays had their first game against the New York Mets in the stadium on 11 March, 1977. The Blue Jays defeated the New York Mets 3-1. Since then, Dunedin has become the spring training center for Toronto Blue Jays. Also, the Blue Jays team is the only Major League franchise that has never changed its Spring Training stadium.  

Grant Field operated for 50 years. Then, in 1990, it was replaced with Dunedin Stadium, which we also know as TD Ballpark. It took approximately $2.4 million to build the new stadium. The seating capacity was increased to 6,106. During this renovation, the stadium went through a lot of changes. However, the clubhouses and playing field remained the same. 

From 1994 to 1995, there was a Major League Baseball Strike. In 1995, during the strike, The Blue Jays wanted to hold regular-season competitions at TD Ballpark with replacement players in Florida because the Ontario law prohibited the practice in the Jays regular home in Canada. Although the strike ended on February 21, 1995, no significant regular seasons took place in the Dunedin stadium.

Presently, TD Ballpark stadium is where Toronto Blue Jays, the minor league of Dunedin Blue Jays, and the baseball team of Dunedin High School are training. The Dunedin Blue Jays play their regular season games during the summer in the stadium.

This stadium has many names. This includes Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, Knology Park and Dunedin Stadium (2018). 

Renovations

As the Toronto Blue Jays got more comfortable playing in Dunedin, It agreed to continue its spring training in Dunedin. So, they signed a new agreement with the stadium in the fall, 2000. According to the agreement, the Blue Jays decided to stay for its spring sessions for 15 years. 

Since the Blue Jays wanted to plan for a long term solution and to stay in the only location they had ever used for spring training, a deal was crafted with Pinellas County and the City of Dunedin to perform much needed renovations on the stadium and the player development center in Dunedin.

A $12 million renovation plan was introduced at that time. The state of Florida paid $6 million, Pinellas County gave $3 million, and the Blue Jays and Dunedin paid the rest of the renovation money for the stadium.   

The agreement and renovation plan started in March 2002. A new two-story building has been constructed next to the stadium. In the building, there are training rooms, weight rooms, a clubhouse, and office space. Recently, the building has gone through some changes. The restrooms were modified and the grandstand seats were replaced. 

In 2017, the agreement expired, but the Blue Jays negotiated again. With this agreement, a new project of renovating the stadium as well as building a new complex has been planned. In April 2018, The County approved a funding request for the new project. 

The initial budget for the project was $81 million, but in September 2019, the budget for the renovation was fixed to be $102 million. The Blue Jays added additional $20 million, and the city agreed to contribute $530,000. The rest of the project funds came from the states. 

The new renovation project began in late March, 2019. According to this new agreement, TD Ballpark will remain the spring training stadium for Toronto Blue Jays, and the Dunedin Blue Jays for another 25-year. The agreement was signed between the City of Dunedin, the Blue Jays, Pinellas County, and the state of Florida. 

On February 24, 2020, TD Ballpark was again opened for the Spring Training Season of 2020. The stadium’s seat number was increased from 5,500 seats to 8,500 seats. As a result, more people can come to the stadium and enjoy baseball. 

Besides adding new seats for more audience, some other features are also added. One of them is a boardwalk allowing 360-degree walkway around the stadium. Some other features are new bars and food courts.

Moreover, a kid’s zone and an exclusive Jays shop are also added in the courtyard beside the left-field side. The children coming to the stadium with their parents can enjoy playing in the kid’s zone, and the parents can enjoy games in the stadium peacefully. The bathrooms, suits and offices are also renovated based on the new agreement. 

The New Complex

Dunedin - TD Ballpark

Most of the project budget was used for a new building and training complex for the Blue Jays Players. Many of the newer spring training facilities that teams were moving to had the player training center and the stadium at the same location. The Blue Jays compromised and kept the training complex at its current location, away from the main TD Ballpark.  The training complex is located at 1700 Solon Avenue in Dunedin, FL. It only takes less than 10 minutes to reach the new complex from the TD Ballpark. 

The complex has a half field and three additional full fields. It also includes two new cages for batting and balling practice. Thus, players can practice and play comfortably. 

The administration building and clubhouse occupies about 110,000 sq. feet. Other facilities include a weight room of 10,000 sq. feet. The building will have 2 dining rooms, 2 training rooms, 8 locker rooms, 3 sports labs, 2 fuel bars, barber shops, movement studio, flexible swimming pool, diving pools, and sauna. There are classrooms for instructions, large conference rooms for meetings, call rooms, offices, and staff rooms. 

The project of renovation is fully planned focused on the growth, luxury, and entertainment of the Blue Jays team members. The extra facilities helped Dunedin secure the Blue Jays for years to come. 

The renovated ballpark will be open for the Blue Jays in 2021. The ballpark has more shade than the previous ball park, a new second deck, an outfield seating arrangement, and a 360-degree concourse. This plan was made to make the ballpark more enjoyable and comfortable for the audience visiting the stadium, and feedback from the 2020 Spring Training was all positive. 

Location

Dunedin is one of the oldest cities in Florida. Once it was an important seaport in the area. However, Dunedin is still well-known for its beaches. You can also visit Caladesi Island. The island is one of the top ten beaches in the United States.

Couples can visit Honeymoon Island in Dunedin. Although it was established as a honeymoon resort in the 1930s, it is now turned into a state park.

Dunedin has now become a place where the Toronto Blue Jays fans gather to enjoy the spring training of their favorite baseball team. People gather in TD Ballpark to watch the games and meet the players. It is not uncommon to see snowbirds and locals decked out in the bright blue and white or powder blue jerseys of the Blue Jays. The bright red maple leaf in the logo is ever present in the city.

The ballpark is a mile or so south of downtown Dunedin. There are many small shops and restaurants in this part of Dunedin.

Therefore, whenever you feel thirsty, you can visit a bar or restaurant for one or two drinks. Chances are you will meet many people who are fans of the Blue Jays and they are in Dunedin to enjoy the spring training games. 

If you want to visit TD ballpark here is the exact address: 373 Douglas Avenue #A  Dunedin, FL 34698. 

The Dunedin Blue Jays

The Dunedin Blue Jays are a Dunedin, Florida based minor league baseball team. They are the Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays Major League baseball club. Dunedin Blue Jays play in the Florida State League. 

They play their home games in TD Ballpark. But when TD Ballpark was going through renovations in 2019, the team played in Jack Russell Memorial Stadium in Clearwater, the former home of the Philadelphia Phillies Spring Training.   

The Dunedin Blue Jays originally formed in 1978. They were formed as the Class A affiliate of the new Toronto Blue Jays franchise. The Dunedin Blue Jays played two seasons but they were disbanded after the season of 1979. However, the team was again established in 1987 and is still active. 

The Dunedin Blue Jays have won five division championships, in 1999, 2000, 2003, 2006, and 2017. The team became co-champions of the FSL in 2017. 

Famous Duneding / Toronto Blue Jays Players 

If you are interested to know about the Blue Jays, you can start with knowing about famous players who played for the Blue Jays, that got their starts in Dunedin, both during spring training and with the Dunedin Blue Jays minor league team. Here are some players you should know about:

Brett Cecil

Born: July 2, 1986 (age 34 years), Dunkirk, Maryland, United States
Height: 1.85 m
Bats: Right Throws: Left
Current team: St. Louis Cardinals (#27 / Pitcher)
Dates joined: November 21, 2016 (St. Louis Cardinals), 2016 (Dunedin Blue Jays, Buffalo Bisons), 2009 (Toronto Blue Jays)

Brett Cecil was born in Dunkirk, Maryland on July 2, 1986. He is a professional baseball player and he plays as a free agent. He has played in Major League Baseball (MLB), the Toronto Blue Jays and St. Louis Cardinals.

Brett Cecil started playing baseball at the age of eight. His father was very supportive and he used to take Cecil 20 miles away from home to White Marsh Park in Bowie, Prince George’s County. This way, Cecil could compete with other baseball players. 

He played as a pitcher for DeMatha Catholic High School and the Maryland Terrapins of the University of Maryland, College Park. In the 2005 summer season, he pitched for the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League and threw the first and only no-hitter by a single pitcher in league history.

In 2007, he first pitched in a professional league for the Class A Auburn Doubledays. He was promoted to the Dunedin Blue Jays in 2008. After that, he joined the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Finally, he was promoted to the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs. 

In 2009, he was invited to attend spring training with the Blue Jays, but started the season in Triple-A. He got his MLB debut on May 5, 2009, for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Brett Cecil pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays from 2009 to 2016. In these 7 years, he contributed a lot to the games of the Blue Jays. He is normally right-handed, but he pitches left-handed.  

Nate Pearson

Born: August 20, 1996 (age 24 years), Odessa, Florida, United States
Height: 1.98 m
Weight: 111 kg
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Current team: Toronto Blue Jays (#24 / Pitcher)
Dates joined: 2020 (Toronto Blue Jays), August 2019 (Buffalo Bisons), 2018 (Dunedin Blue Jays)

Nathan Alexander Pearson was born on August 20, 1996, in Odessa, Florida. He is currently playing for the Toronto Blue Jays. He is the top prospect in the Blue Jays Organizations. He is ranking the 9th position on the list of top 100 MLB prospects in 2020. He is a right-handed pitcher. 

Pearson studied in Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School in Spring Hill, Florida. As a senior, he went 9–1 with a 1.75 earned run average (ERA) and 117 strikeouts and hit .318 with nine home runs and 30 runs batted in (RBI). 

When Pearson attended Florida International University (FIU), he played college baseball for the FIU Panthers. He made 19 appearances with one start, going 1–1 with a 2.70 ERA and 33 strikeouts. After a year, he transferred to the College of Central Florida and played for the college too. He received the title of the JUCO Pitcher of the Year by Perfect Game.

In the Major league Baseball Draft of 2017, Pearson was one of the top prospects. He was selected 28th overall by the Toronto Blue Jays. He signed with the team on June 28 for a $2.45 million bonus. He was nominated to the All-Star Futures Game in 2019 for his performance in the minor leagues.

Pearson made his MLB debut On July 29, 2020, against Max Scherzer and the Washington Nationals. The Nations won the match 4-0 but Person gave a great performance. He went five innings, giving up two hits and two walks with five strikeouts, and gave no runs in his debut.

Anthony Alford

Born: July 20, 1994 (age 26 years), Columbia, Mississippi, United States
Height: 1.85 m
Position: Outfielder
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Current team: Pittsburgh Pirates (#6 / Left fielder)
Home runs: 3
Dates joined: 2020 (Pittsburgh Pirates), 2017 (Buffalo Bisons), Toronto Blue Jays (2017–2020)

Anthony Joseph Alford was born on July 20, 1994, in Columbia, Mississippi. He is a former player of the Toronto Blue Jays and now he is playing as an outfielder for Pittsburgh Pirates. 

During his academic life, Alford was a football player but he also played baseball. He got an opportunity to play football and baseball when The Toronto Blue Jays selected him. 

He signed a contract with Toronto which paid him a $750,000 bonus. Toronto let him attend university to play football and then play baseball in the summer. 

After the season of 2016, the Blue Jays allocated Alford to the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League. In the same year on October 31, Alford became an AFL All-Star. He was included by The Blue Jays to their 40-man roster after the season to keep him safe from the draft of rule 5.

Alford appeared in 23 games for Mesa during the Fall League season and hit .253 with three home runs and 15 RBI. He was named an AFL Rising Star at the end of the season.

The Blue Jays called up Alford to play against the Baltimore Orioles in 2017. He began in left field and was eighth in batting position. Alford recorded a double for the first hit of his career in the game against the Milwaukee Brewers on May 23, 2017. Unfortunately, he fractured his wrist and was placed on the 10-day disabled list.

Alford ranked as the third-best Blue Jays prospect by Baseball America in January 2018 and 60th in baseball. Alford got his first major league home run for Toronto in a match against the Orioles.  

Conclusion

By now, you have a sense of the strong connection between Dunedin FL and The Toronto Bluejays. As we can see, the Blue Jays have been calling Dunedin home for spring training since they first came into Major League Baseball. They even established a minor league – the Dunedin Blue Jays based on Dunedin, Florida.