It’s time for Blue Jays to play ball — in Dunedin

DUNEDIN — The Blue Jays are just happy to have a familiar home as they return to their spring base in Dunedin Thursday to start playing regular-season games.

And city officials could not be more thrilled to have them there.

“There are no words to describe how excited we are,” Dunedin Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski said. “There really aren’t.”

The north Pinellas County city of about 36,000 is obviously an unusual site to host a major-league team on a scheduled basis — likely the smallest ever, according to research by baseball’s Hall of Fame.

But these are extraordinary times, with pandemic protocols forbidding the Jays from returning to play in Toronto.

After a stressful search for a home at the start of the delayed 2020 season that eventually landed them at their Triple-A site in Buffalo, N.Y., the Jays proactively decided to spend at least the first two months (22 games) of this season in Dunedin. Their home schedule opens with a four-game series against the Mike Trout/Albert Pujols/Shohei Ohtani/Joe Maddon Angels.

“That’s our home, so it will be good to get back home,” said shortstop Bo Bichette, a Lakewood High product. “It’s a comfortable spot.”

The Jays have been doing extensive work to get the 8,500-seat stadium, which was renovated for the 2020 season as part of a new deal in Dunedin, up to major-league standards.

Among the biggest: supplementing the previously upgraded lighting with four trucks providing additional…

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