The Toronto Blue Jays will soon being flying south for Spring Training. Time for them to put the Rogers Centre nest to better use until a June return from Dunedin.
Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase
You would think that after dragging the hearts and dreams of the Blue Jays fan base through 3 months of off-season paralysis by analysis, the front office would have immediately celebrated the signing of coveted free agent George Springer with a bash that would make Mardi Gras revelers blush. Still, the “official” announcement of the Springer 6-year, 150 large deal was arguably the biggest off-season announcement by a Toronto baseball club since the blockbuster trade acquiring franchise icons Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar 30-plus off seasons ago.
The Springer signing, coupled with the addition of Hyun-jin Ryu the previous winter, is the signing Blue Jays fans have been waiting for since the scorched earth policies of the Anthopolous Era last brought their side to the playoffs in 2015-1016. Dicker back and forth about the length of the contract or the fact that Springer is not a true centerfielder all you want- the Springer signing is a BIG deal.
But the biggest off-season move for the 2021 season has yet to transpire-and it needs to happen TODAY!
Not long after the Jays were eliminated by division rival (and sabermetric role model) Tampa Bay Rays, I penned an article for jaysfromthecouch.com pointing out the most obvious piece of Blue Jays news related to the 2021 season. The Toronto Blue Jays are not going to open the season playing games at the Rogers Centre. Does the reading of this statement of fact suck? Yes it does. Even the bittersweet joy of an American who could take advantage of my beloved Jays playing home games in the U.S. does not even out the pain of knowing the team would not celebrate Opening Day in its rightful place.
But the knowledge that the Mark Shapiro-led efforts to renovate the training complex in Dunedin, FL would pay major league caliber dividends on the multi-million dollar investment in state of the art facilities made the idea easier to accept. For Toronto players, who would need to set up temporary homes to participate in Spring Training anyway, it would bring a piece of mind knowing that at least for a few months they could unpack their lives and feel “at home”.
Naturally, the Toronto front office did not pay my brilliant insights one seconds worth of notice. Sadly, public perception and sponsorship dollars will always trump (no, not that one) common sense. Through government and friendships, I tried to get local officials to go on record to confirm plans that were being put in place to accommodate Blue Jays baseball beyond scheduled Spring Training games. This being Jays From the Couch and not a tabloid, I resisted printing speculation. But now the clock is ticking closer to the opening of camp in Dunedin. The time is now for Shapiro and Rogers Communications to announce our Blue Jays will be based in Dunedin for the immediate future.
Don’t be disheartened-this actually will prove to be a beneficial thing. A benefit to players knowing they have a bed to come home to after home games and road trips that isn’t earning team officials rewards points. A benefit to fans who can actually plan for the best ways to support and watch the Jays until their Canada Day return to Toronto. Most important of all, a benefit to Provincial and Federal efforts to support and advance vaccination efforts.
The last item is the most beneficial of all. But we’ll get back to that later. Let’s put politics and health policy aside and take an honest look at the Jays’ predicament. Only the most optimistic fan, team official and government representative will advance the ideal that the Blue Jays will play their entire regular season in Toronto. When you think of it, allowing a professional sports team to travel across borders and host recreational events for profit really needs to be far down the priority lists of everyone trying to cope with a pandemic. So the team executives and ownership simply needs to be honest. Build upon the goodwill and accolades being heaped upon you for signing a premiere free agent and say “We are going to open the 2021 season at our Dunedin complex.” Then embrace the gift the MLB schedule makers have given you and boldly state, “Regardless of changes to the border restrictions and COVID infection rates, the Toronto Blue Jays are committed to playing out our schedule in Florida until the June 29-July 1 scheduled series with the Seattle Mariners. At which time we will join all of Toronto and Canada in celebrating the most cherished of national holidays- Canada Day- by returning to our home field at Rogers Centre.”
Could it get any better than that? Yes it can.
For its part, Rogers Communications, intrepid owners of the Toronto Blue Jays and national business leader, will announce that it will devote its resources to ensuring the vaccination of as many citizens as possible. Forego cosmetic and revenue-centric renovations to Rogers Centre and instead focus on converting the facility into a safe, secure location for COVID-19 testing and vaccination. Don’t laugh-this can be and MUST be a priority for Rogers Communications, the Blue Jays, and local and national government agencies.
Brewing giant Budweiser just announced that it would not devote millions of advertising dollars to 30 second spots on the Super Bowl broadcasts in February. Instead, Budweiser will be utilizing those funds to underwrite national public service spots promoting COVID vaccination efforts and safety protocols. Even the most cynical amongst us has to credit Budweiser for taking such measures when no one has called for them to do so. Even with the logistical nightmares that securing the vaccines are presenting to governments everywhere, the step of Rogers putting its money where it can be utilized most effectively to help restore a return to normalcy is a patriotic act.
So from the Opening of Spring Training until June 1, Rogers can finance the purchase of testing supplies and personal protective equipment to ease the burden of such costs at its location; thus freeing funds for larger scale government agencies to serve rural and First Nation communities. If you are willing to spend 25 million dollars this season on a baseball players services, you can find the dollars to spend on keeping your customers and fanbase alive.
Rogers Communications and the ownership structures are already suffering financial losses directly related to the absence of ticket sales and game day revenues-for which Federal tax codes will allow you certain advantages your fans could never hope to realize. The team is not going to be allowed to play games in Ontario by April. Even a delay to the start of the season will not change that fact. Sadly, none of these proposals will change the cold fact that far too many Blue Jays fans will not live to see the opening of the 2021 season. Sometime the truth hurts and you turn away from facing the facts. The fact is Rogers and the Toronto Blue Jays can realistically make a tangible impact on how the facts can be changed for the common good.
It starts with telling the truth about starting the season in Dunedin-today. It continues with an organizational commitment to social enhancements over bottom-line setbacks. It can be celebrated on Canada Day in the Rogers Centre. On the field. In the stands. In the community you pledge to serve.
Now that is an off-season move that truly makes the Toronto Blue Jays a better team.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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