As Canada's remaining Major League team, the Toronto Blue Jays represent all of Canada, with fans from coast to coast to coast. Blue Jays players tell new players how exciting it is to not only play for a city, but an entire country.
Major League Baseball started the World Baseball Classic in 2006 to reach international markets, so wouldn't it make sense to build close ties between Team Canada and the Major League team that makes its home in Canada? Unfortunately, as Sportsnet's Shi Davidi wrote in his recent piece, the WBC organizers have planned for Team Canada to train in Phoenix, Arizona rather than at the Toronto Blue Jays' Spring Training site in Dunedin, Florida.
The separation between the two Canadian teams would mean that fans watching the Blue Jays at Spring Training would not be able to see Team Canada, nor would exhibition games between the two teams be possible (wouldn't it be cool to have a contest allowing fans to decide which team Brett Lawrie plays for?). In Toronto--and presumably all across the country--the excitement surrounding the Blue Jays is palpable, and I expect Spring Training tickets would be much more difficult to secure in 2013 than it was this past March. As Davidi points out, this would have been a great opportunity for spillover interest in Team Canada. Also, we have a limited number of baseball reporters in Canada, and for most of them, their first priority in March will be on the Blue Jays, thereby leaving Team Canada with less coverage if they train almost 3,000 km away.
On the other side of the issue, there are added logistical hassles flying players back and forth between Arizona and Florida, and of course that adds to the costs of the tournament as well. And of course, there are plenty of Canadians who winter in Arizona as well, and the location may be more convenient for western Canadians to get to. But think about the possible positive effects a week-long Blue Jays-Canada joint training camp could provide for interest in baseball in the Great White North.
Paul Beeston is not very happy with this decision, hopefully he can throw his weight around and get the WBC organizers to change their plans and let the Canadians train in Dunedin. Having both teams there will definitely make me decide to go to Spring Training next year.
Well, readers, what do you think? Would it be better for baseball in Canada to have the national team training with the Blue Jays? Are there other good arguments against having Team Canada train in Dunedin that I haven't considered? Let me know in the comments below!