Playing the first two months of their home schedule at their spring training base in Dunedin has created a number of unusual situations for the Blue Jays.
This weekend presents another: A “road trip” for a series against the Rays at Tropicana Field, 20-some miles away.
Jays players and staff were given the option of treating the series like a regular trip by staying at the Renaissance Vinoy hotel in downtown St. Pete, or of staying at their Dunedin-area homes with families and taking a bus from the team facility, or driving on their own. All are getting meal money.
“We’re split about half and half,” general manager Ross Atkins said Thursday. “Given our unusual circumstances we were trying to be as flexible and adaptable as possible.”
The Jays got back to Florida late Wednesday after playing in Boston to conclude the second leg of a trip that started in Kansas City, and they had Thursday off.
After playing the Rays through Sunday at the Trop, they return to TD Ballpark in Dunedin for their second homestand, hosting the Nationals (Tuesday-Wednesday) and Braves (April 30-May 2). They played six games on the first homestand to generally good reviews, averaging about 1,500 fans per game.
“I can’t say enough about our players and our staff, just how well they’ve embraced it and made it their home for the time being,” Atkins said. “We cannot wait to be back in Toronto. I can’t say enough about what the staff, the business and stadium operations, that team, has done to accommodate our players to the best of their ability to have what they need.
“But it is still a situation that can be better. We can’t get to Toronto soon enough and remain as hopeful as we can to get there as soon as possible.”
The Jays have committed to play home games in Dunedin through a May 21-24 series against the Rays. While awaiting approval from the Canadian government to return to play in Toronto, they also are making preparations to shift their home base to Buffalo, N.Y., where they played last season, rather than stay in Dunedin through the summer heat and rain.
Atkins said they will meet with their players next week and finalize a timeline for deciding where to play in June.
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