Imagine a warm — OK, it’s Florida — a hot summer day in Dunedin when you can watch young professional baseball players scrap and hustle for a chance to accomplish their dreams of making the major leagues.
Or think of yourself at a cooler night game under the lights when the Elysian field of TD Ballpark almost glows under the imitation sun of the LED lamps.
It’s a scene that almost takes you back to childhood when the brilliant emerald field made you begin your own dream of playing baseball for a living, a tableau that brings a serene sense of calm that is interrupted only by great catches, brilliant double plays and walk-off home runs.
But in Dunedin, few people take advantage of the chance to watch professional baseball and take in the sport that is still the National Pastime. At least until football season.
TD Ballpark holds a Major League Baseball-mandated 8,500 seats. But as the Blue Jays play inspired ball, there are usually just a handful of people watching the spectacle.
Indeed, the Blue Jays averaged 381 diehards in 2022, last in the Florida State League.
It’s certainly intimate, but sometimes it almost seems like the team is putting on a private exhibition.
Dunedin, you’ll line the streets for bagpipe parades and golf cart processions. But you’re missing at TD Ballpark.
Where is Dunedin?
“I have no idea,” said Pam Pravetz, president of the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber has been a consistent booster of the Blue Jays with various promotions, but seemingly to no avail. “The only thing I can say is we just don’t have as many people around in the summer. People say they love going to a minor league game, but they don’t. Maybe it could be promoted a little more.”
The Chamber itself sponsors promotions that include Chamber Night and Pride Night, not to mention Teachers Night and ticket giveaways.
“We promote anything they’re doing over there,” Pravetz said.
The Blue Jays have some enticing promotions of their own, including the upcoming Bike Night on April 28; Fishing Night on May 25; and Chris Weinke Bobblehead Night on June 16.
Incidentally, Weinke was a popular player even if his uninspiring lifetime minor league statistics included a batting average of .248 with 69 home runs. He would go on, of course, to quarterback the Florida State University football team to the national championship and earn a Heisman Trophy at age 28.
The Blue Jays’ weekly calendar features $1 beer night on Thursday; Buy One-Get One Margaritas and frozen drinks on Fridays; and Sunday, or “FUNday” as they call it, includes $2 mimosas and seltzers at the air-conditioned Eddie’s Bar in left field.
The ushers are a friendly and jocular crew, and parking, as part of the Dunedin tradition, is free.
Kids, meanwhile, can roam the stadium freely and chase foul balls if they can’t convince bullpen pitchers to toss them one.
So, what do you want, Dunedin? How many other cities of its size can boast a professional baseball team in a beautiful stadium as one of its many charming amenities?
Your presence can even have an effect on the team’s performance.
“The players like to see people in the stands,” said manager Donnie Murphy. “I think it helps them play at a higher level.”
Meanwhile, Pravetz has a strong suggestion for Dunedin denizens.
“Come on, people,” she said. “Get out there and go to the baseball park.”