Saturday, March 10, 2007

Spring Training in Dunedin

Yesterday we went to see the Toronto Blue Jays play the Houston Astros at Knology Park in Dunedin, Florida. Parking is much easier here than at larger stadiums, and getting our tickets and finding our seats was a cinch. Our seats were right up front near first base, where we could hear the crunch of the cleats, and the coaches, players, and umpires talking. Of course, we did have to watch for foul balls, but most of those went up and over the stadium roof. I was only a few seats away from the random seat chosen for the Jet's Pizza Home Run Half Inning (if the Blue Jays get a home run in that inning, you get a family pizza party. If not, you get a coupon for a free pizza).

Fans were quiet, but playing attention, following each player. Well, most of the fans were quiet -- there were those shirtless guys over on the Astros side. The water and lemonade vendor was a very polite young man, and the beer guy ("Somebody's thirsty out there!") has a baritone voice reminding me of James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams. A pair of ospreys sat on the light poles, watching the game, and seagulls buzzed around looking for snacks and adding a few comments.

Spring training is serious business, but still much more relaxed than regular season. The players are more accessible, and the scale of the stands and field are more intimate as well. Yesterday the Blue Jays' bat boy and the 3rd base coach were both another year older, so they played happy birthday for them.

It was a beautiful Friday afternoon, warm with clear blue skies, and there was plenty of pink skin as the game went on. The announcer gave a weather update -- it was a balmy 30 degrees in Toronto. For the seventh inning stretch, our beer guy led the crowd in singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." The Astros won, 9 to 7.

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