This past week, the Toronto Blue Jays unveiled the club’s new state-of-the-art practice and training facility located in Dunedin, FL. Named as the Toronto Blue Jays Player Development Complex, the massive multiplex will serve as the home for the Jays and affiliated minor league teams for practice and training purposes.
“For a baseball player, it’s like Disney World,” Blue Jays President and CEO Mark Shapiro said on Thursday evening. “You’ve got everything you could possibly have; it’s a place you want to be. It fosters comradery and the team environment. It’s taking space, bricks and mortar and saying it is possible for a building to help drive championship culture. Is it possible for a building to drive performance? I think this building answers that.”
A state-of-the-art facility unlike any other.
Presenting our new Player Development Complex! pic.twitter.com/ggKaqjeobv
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) February 25, 2021
After nearly three years and $99 million, the 65-acre Player Development Complex has just opened to the Blue Jays’ players and coaching staff. Featuring six full practice fields, two half-fields, 12 different pitching mounds, 12 covered batting cages, three sports-science labs, a hydrotherapy water room, pools, outdoor weight training area, a 22,000 square foot indoor weight room, three minor league locker rooms and a 3,700 square foot major league clubhouse, this state-of-the-art facility has it all.
Oh wait, there’s more. The Player Development Complex also has a barbershop, a lounge, a kitchen and a major league dining facility as well.
“I felt it was one of the biggest opportunities for the organization to move a step closer to become a sustainable championship organization,” Shapiro added. “I felt that it was an opportunity and a huge driver to bring all of our players under one roof, to shift from a spring-only facility to really move and skip a generation. We went from last generation to next generation, skipping this current generation. We’ve gotten that feedback from our players, which has been great. Just to see them in it and actually walk into it every day has been a pretty incredible moment for me.”
Isn’t it beautiful? 😍 pic.twitter.com/WTWAxTqBKE
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) February 25, 2021
Unable to begin the 2021 MLB season at Rogers Centre in Toronto due to COVID-19 cross-border travel and various governmental protocols, the Blue Jays are once again opening camp from Florida at the home of their Low-A affiliate.
“It is a symbol of the commitment from the ownership to the state of Florida, the city of Dunedin, and the county here,” Shapiro said. “It’s been a collective effort, certainly not one person’s vision or plan. It’s gratifying to be in here and I’m really proud. All our fans should be (proud) of what this environment is like.”
“It’s meaningful to our fans because it’s part of the ingredients,” Shapiro continued.” What are the things that we can control that can contribute to a championship environment? This is one of those things. If we don’t give the best facility possible for our players to train, rehabilitate and develop, then that’s on us. Now we’ve checked that box and now we continue to think about how we can deliver that to our players and continue to improve upon it, and what’s the next step.”
Welcome inside our new Player Development Complex! pic.twitter.com/PAIc8P1s14
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) February 26, 2021
Speaking of improvements, the Blue Jays roster has seen a number of additions over the course of the shortened offseason. Coming into spring training as the biggest spender, Toronto has added the likes of outfielder George Springer, infielder Marcus Semien and pitchers Kirby Yates and Robbie Ray. According to Shapiro, news of this facility certainly helped sway those players’ decisions on joining the club.
“We weren’t under one roof,” Shapiro said of the previous installments of the Jays and their affiliates. “So having our minor leagues and player development in the same place and under the same roof, there are certainly still some stratifications involved. We now have the opportunity for George Springer to model for Orelviz Martinez what it means to have the work ethic, what it means to work in the batting cage, and what it means to shag fly balls. The casual interaction between a minor league coach and a major league coach… we were a disconnected organization.”
And how the Player Development Complex was crafted? Shapiro says it was the combination of ideas and bits and pieces taken from models on display from many world-class training centers that helped build the framework for the Jays’ new facility.
The University of Michigan, Vanderbilt University, Wake Forest University, AT&T Stadium, U.S. Bank Stadium and AT&T Center were each explored and served as important roles within the facility’s blueprint.
“We were thoughtful in looking at all the best facilities around the world,” Shapiro said. “But we also made sure that we stayed true to baseball and the Toronto Blue Jays while staying flexible to what the future holds for what the next generation looks like as well… It used to be just show and go. Show up and get ready for spring training, get in shape and go. Now we’ve got nutritionists, mental performance coaches, sports scientists, physios, trainers and strength coaches. So the ability to be thoughtful in how we integrate all those areas and how our players can best use that information, the coaching and the resources is next to none.”
The Blue Jays are set to open the 28-game spring training schedule on Sunday, February 28 against the New York Yankees at 12:05 PM central. The 2021 regular season schedule sees take on the Yanks on Thursday, April 1.