Toronto Blue Jays News

Dunedin update: Blue Jays hoping for renovations, have options

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Nov 2, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Toronto Blue Jays new president Mark Shapiro speaks to the media during an introductory conference at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 2, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Toronto Blue Jays new president Mark Shapiro speaks to the media during an introductory conference at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /
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Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro has come to appreciate the community surrounding the organization’s spring training complex in Dunedin, Florida

As spring training wraps up in Dunedin, the Toronto Blue Jays are hoping their relationship with the small Florida city extends beyond next season.

After a 40-year relationship, the contract between the Blue Jays and Dunedin government is set to expire at the end of 2017, but the sides have been working to develop an extension that includes upgrades and renovations to the existing facilities.

“It’s absolutely clear how passionate the community is about wanting us here and how much pride they take in having us here,” president Mark Shapiro told Shi Davidi earlier in the week. “To feel like a community is galvanized around you being there is a positive thing.”

Community is a word highlighted in yellow by the new regime of Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins. Not only does this apply to the team’s surroundings in Florida, but also the community that exists within the club and how this spring training complex can impact that.

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Davidi reports that he Blue Jays are now attempting to obtain additional land surrounding the Bobby Mattick Training Center for a “training and development complex” and additional fields. This would leave the Florida Auto Exchange Stadium to be used solely for spring games while keeping the players from becoming too disconnected in camp.

“There are casual interactions in weight rooms,” Shapiro said,” things that happen where it’s good modelling for the minor-league players to see the way those guys (in the majors) work. Even as important is the ability for us as an organization to be together. You’re only together one time a year.”

Toronto is not without options, though.

“There are plans with drawings to expand the Philadelphia Phillies’ top-notch spring facility in neighbouring Clearwater to house the Blue Jays, as well,” Davidi writes, but adds that they have yet to examine it.”

Deadlines here are not exactly as pressing as Edwin Encarnacion’s contract situation, but there is encouragement to be taken from the wheels in motion.

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We’re at the stage where this is a business matter, but if you allow the heart to speak louder than the head for a moment, Dunedin is a relationship worth extending if at all possible. The area has become part of the fabric of the Blue Jays culture, with many Canadian families treating it as a second home each spring.

Earlier in the month, a team of journalists at the Toronto Observer put together this excellent piece on the relationship between Toronto and Dunedin and the sense of family that comes with it for many fans.

The endgame here will not likely be a boardroom flurry, like some player contract negotiations, but expect to see this story develop over the coming months as a slow game of give and take with the Blue Jays looking to solidify their offseason culture in Florida.

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