***Stop #1 on the #MiLBRoundTripper: the Dunedin (FL) Blue Jays***
A bright, sunshiny evening spent with my family in the cozy confines of Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, Florida felt like an opportune time to talk baseball with my five young children – until I began.
You see, as a self-proclaimed baseball nut, my children should know a thing or two about the game I love.
I should have spent the evening explaining the game’s intricacies – the beauty of a well-played sacrifice bunt, the importance of the signs from the third base coach and why a pitcher shakes off the catcher’s signals from time-to-time.
Instead, while watching the Dunedin Blue Jays, the advanced Class-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, I was stuck in the baseball equivalent of pre-school.
Although initially horrified at my kids’ lack of baseball acumen, I quickly filled with excitement at the nostalgic chance to explain baseball to them, just like my father did with me.
Again, until I began.
Lesson #1: A home run versus scoring a run.
As the first Blue Jay crossed home plate after a long sacrifice fly to center field, my 8 year-old daughter, Vivi, was jubilant, “Dad, a HOME RUN!”
I shrugged, but pulled Vivi and her 4 year-old brother, Everett, nearer. My lecture started slowly – with the difference between scoring a run by virtue of a teammate making contact and hitting a round-tripper.
The lesson seemed well-received until I fielded a follow-up question from my 4 year-old, “Dad, so a home run has to go over the fence?”
Wanting to keep the lesson to the “need-to-knows”, I responded to Everett, “No, son. But, most of the time it does in the pros. These guys are good!”
Lesson #2: The inning – not the “ending”
I may as well have been teaching Everett long division when talking about, what he was calling, an “ending.”
“Evie, first things first – it’s an INNING. With an ‘I’.” A 4 year-old cannot spell so he didn’t get it – so, we moved on to the basics.
An inning, as explained to a 4 year-old means: three outs for each team batting, and a total of nine innings in a full game.
I should have stopped there but completely lost Everett in a failed attempt to explain half innings and the speed of the breaks in-between. Those would be subjects for another ball game, another night.
For tonight, though, he knows with 100% certainty, that there are nine INNINGS leading to the ENDING of a game.
That qualifies as a baseball pre-school A+.
Lesson #3: The 7th inning stretch and which team’s name to yell out
Emersyn, my 1 year-old, didn’t allow for us to experience the actual 7th inning stretch with our royal blue, Blue Jay-clad cohorts, so we did the next best thing – I led a rendition in the family’s minivan, on our way out of the parking lot.
To my surprise (and delight), my kids knew the words – most of the lyrics, at least. The melody muted, however, as we approached the “root, root, root” for section of the classic, rhythmic tune.
There was no consensus on who we were supposed to “root, root, root” for – spawning a spirited debate from the backseat.
My 11 year-old, Yosef, passionately argued that, “It’s easy! We say the name of the team we came to see!”
Lynden, age 9, had his older brother’s back, “Yeah, you have to yell for the team whose stadium you’re in. Duh!”
My daughter, Vivi, was triumphantly defiant, “Mostly, we say ‘Cubs.’ But, tonight we could say ‘Blue Jays,’ right Dad?”
I settled the score, “Guys, you’re all right. The song actually says ‘root, root, root, for the home team.’ But, if you don’t know who to yell, it’s just fine to say Cubs.”
Just as my pre-school level baseball knowledge seemed to stem the tide, so did my rousing end to our minivan-hymnal, “For it’s 1, 2, 3 strikes, ‘You’re out’ at the old, ball game!”
The rousing end to the song revved me up – compelling me to joyously yell, “LET’S GET SOME RUNS!”
My children fell silent and stared in bewilderment.
Needless-to-say, my Harry Caray inspired ending was a baseball reference that I’ll have to explain next time.
That is, after my children graduate from baseball pre-school.
About Dunedin, FL:
From the moment you first enter Dunedin you will feel at home. There is an indescribable sense of comfort, quaintness and charm in our delightful Dunedin. Don’t let this convince you that we are a sleepy Southern town though… Dunedin, Florida offers some of the best dining in Tampa bay, world class major league baseball, art and culture, and even the #1 Beach in America! All of this with a touch of Southern charm.
The city of Dunedin, Florida is the Home of Honeymoon Island, the #1 state park in the Florida. The Island boasts clear emerald green waters with baby powder like sandy beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. For the avid biker or walker there are miles of nature trails through the island just waiting to be explored. Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island, its’ neighbor, are a step back in time into a world of old Florida beaches before condos and hotels were developed. Both these islands are all natural and unspoiled by any development.
Dunedin is also home to the Toronto Blue Jays for spring training and for the Dunedin Blue Jays year round. Come to our stadium and enjoy a major or minor league game complete with a hot dog and a foam finger.
Dunedin has so much to offer but if you can’t find it here you are minutes to major cities such as Clearwater, Tampa and St. Petersburg.
Come spend a day, a week, a lifetime and discover truly delightful Dunedin Florida is in your heart.
The #MiLBRoundTripper’s next stop: Clearwater (FL) Threshers