March means one thing to any baseball fan, spring training is taking place in Florida (or Arizona depending on your favourite team) and that means that baseball is around the corner! This March I got the chance to take in two Jays spring training baseball games in Florida, and had a great time watching some pre-season baseball.
Game 1: March 13, Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays (Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, Dunedin)
I’ve seen the Jays play a couple times before in spring training, however this year was the first time that I saw them play at their home park in Dunedin. Unfortunately the weather was overcast all through the game, and their was on-and-off drizzle, but not enough that the game was delayed at all.
With the park seating just over 5,000 the atmosphere is quite a bit more intimate than what you would experience at a major league park such as Rogers Centre. I purchased front row seats right behind home plate on Stub Hub for considerably more than the $25 face value of the ticket, but certainly for a fraction of the cost you would pay for similar tickets to see the Jays and Red Sox back in Toronto.
Banners of individual Jays players such as Marcus Stroman and Jose Bautista are on display visible outside of the stadium once you pass through the turnstiles, similar to what you would see outside Rogers Centre.
One of the vendors selling food in my section certainly knew his audience well, and after shouting out what he was selling would often add something like “Swiss Chalet quarter chicken”. When asked if he had KFC he responded “No, but I have Pizza Pizza” (for the record he had neither and as far as I could tell everyone knew that and was in on the joke, perhaps except for the Red Sox fans in attendance, who may have been confused by why this was funny).
The starting pitching matchup for the game was between two veteran starters, J.A. Happ for the Jays, and knuckle-baller Steven Wright for the Bosox.
The outcome: the Jays won 4-3, as a result of a two RBI double by Barney, and a solo home run from Morales. One fan a few rows behind me yelled, “You’ve got big shoes to fill Morales”, the first time Morales came up. Then of course, at a later at-bat he hit a home run.
See more pictures from the game at the end of the post.
Game 2: March 17, Toronto Blue Jays at Philadelphia Phillies (Spectrum Field)
On St. Patrick’s Day I was lucky enough to see another win for the Jays, as they beat the Phillies 7-5. The Phillies pulled out to an early 3-1 lead over the Jays in the third inning, the Jays scored a second run in the fourth inning, and then a breakout fifth inning saw them getting five runs to take them to a 7-3 lead, largely on the strength of a Darrell Cecilliani grand slam. The Phillies scored two in the bottom of the fifth but came up short.
Marco Estrada started for the Jays, and there were a total of five relievers (Bo Schultz, Aaron Loup, Ryan Tepera, Brett Oberholtzer and Matt Dermody).
There were just over 11,000 fans in Spectrum Field, which while the majority appeared to be Phillies fans based on hats and shirts worn, there were still a huge number of Jays fans attending the game.
Notable in the game was the appearance of former Jay Michael Saunders, who played right field for the Phillies, and former Jay Pat Venditte, who came in for relief in the 8th inning, and struck out three.
I have included below a mix of photos from the two games I attended. The players are a mix of long-time Jays, new signings and prospects.