The Dunedin Blue Jays get no love.
And their fans (all 161 of them in attendance last night) get even less. The club-owned team is a place for prospects to play in the Blue Jays system, and not much else. When Blue Jays President and CEO Mark Shapiro was asked last fall where the D-Jays would play when renos to antiquated Dunedin Stadium take place as part of an $80 million-plus spring training retrofit, Shapiro acknowledged, “you know we’re not exactly displacing a huge fan base there.”
Minor league baseball, more than anything, is a business. For the owners of the affiliates, it’s a way to sell a cost-friendly fan experience. For their MLB partners, winning is nice, but it’s not a priority, especially at the lower levels. In the case of the Blue Jays, when a prospect has met the objectives set for the player, Director of Player Personnel Gil Kim shows up with his notebook, and in the words of one affiliate official, “he’s not leaving empty handed,” usually taking the team’s best player with him.
With their team chasing a playoff spot, the baker’s dozen dozen of D-Jays fans who showed up to their game last night against Jupiter were treated to the site of recently promoted Chad Spanberger in Right Field. In three years of college and over 160 games of pro playing time, Spanberger has never played the Outfield. With Kacy Clemens on the roster, something had to give, and Spanberger traded in his first baseman’s mitt for an OF glove.
And the results were predictable.
Dunedin reliever Jackson McClelland came in to the game in the 9th, and tossed a 1-2-3 inning. With the game tied at 3, the D-Jays failed to score in the home half of the 9th, so the game was headed to extras,
With the new extra innings rule in place, Jupiter began the top of the 10th with a runner on 2nd. After McClelland had issued a walk, a soft fly ball was lofted to RF. Whether Spanberger was unable to track it in the lights is unknown, but an easily catchable flyball landed a few feet in front of him, and what proved to be the winning run came home.
In the long run, the game meant little to the organization. Putting Spanberger in RF was chance to keep Spanberger in the lineup, while SS Logan Warmoth, to whom the team paid a sizeable bonus after drafting him in the 1st round last year, was given a night off from defensive duties and was at DH. Don’t question if it was fair to the fans, D-Jays players (including McClelland and the other Dunedin Pitchers on the night), or even Spanberger himself.
Again, it’s a business.