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A Times Editorial

Once again, Dunedin bows to Jays' antics

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 9, 2003

Ya gotta hand it to the Toronto Blue Jays. When it comes to being obnoxious, they know how to hit a home run.

Taxpayers, in partnership with the Blue Jays, spent millions of dollars to improve the city's baseball facilities so the club would have a better-equipped place to train and play in Dunedin. There was a lot of battling over the project, with the Blue Jays demanding amenities that the city didn't think it could afford. But the team and the city seemed pleased with the results of the $14-million project that substantially upgraded Dunedin Stadium and the Cecil P. Englebert baseball complex, both city owned.

Last month, the Blue Jays came to the city with a request. The team wanted to rename the building at the Englebert complex for 87-year-old Blue Jays vice president Bobby Mattick. The city has a formal policy that guides the naming of city facilities. A public facility can be named for someone only if that person meets certain criteria -- is local, has made a substantial contribution to the city or has donated a significant sum of money to the facility.

Cecil Englebert, a former city commissioner, mayor and all-round baseball nut, meets those standards, and the entire complex has long carried his name. But Mattick didn't meet any of the criteria. So at its Feb. 20 meeting, the Dunedin City Commission unanimously rejected the Blue Jays' request to rename the building for Mattick.

The Blue Jays got mad. So they renamed the building anyway.

Did they quietly sneak a little plaque on the door declaring the new name? No, they flaunted their defiance of the city's decision. They had a big ceremony attended by Blue Jays players and team brass. They brought Mattick down for the big event. They invited local and out-of-state media to write about it. And they started calling the building the "Mattick Training Center."

This is a team that apparently does not believe in playing by the rules.

When Paul Godfrey, president and CEO of the Blue Jays, was questioned about the renaming, he said a rather amazing thing: "We lease the site, we pay for the site and we can call it whatever we want."

Perhaps the Blue Jays have gotten their way so often in Dunedin that they are under the influence of some Oz-like spell and think that the person behind the curtain pulling the levers and pushing the switches wears a Blue Jays uniform.

Let's be clear: Though the team contributed substantial sums to the renovations, the Englebert complex is owned by the taxpayers. The Blue Jays rent the place.

That doesn't put them in charge.

Residents of Dunedin, many of whom have been disenchanted about the Blue Jays for other transgressions over the past couple of years, ought to be really offended by the Jays' presumptuous renaming and haughty attitude. So should the City Commission. That's why the commissioners' behavior at Thursday's City Commission meeting was so peculiar.

City Commissioner Bob Hackworth was offended when he learned about the renaming by reading about it in the newspaper. Hackworth has nothing against Mattick, but he had a big problem with the Blue Jays defying a unanimous commission vote. He wrote a memo to the other commissioners informing them that the Blue Jays "paid homage to their longtime employee Bobby Mattick at a private ceremony held at the city's new $8-million, 34,000-square-foot spring training facility at the Englebert Complex. The facility was officially renamed the Bobby Mattick Training Center at Englebert Complex."

Hackworth asked for discussion at Thursday's commission meeting and authored a proposed resolution that scolded the Blue Jays, asked for an apology and demanded that the new name be rescinded. But Hackworth couldn't get the support of his colleagues to discuss the resolution, much less vote on it, at either Thursday's meeting or the next meeting in two weeks.

In refusing to address the issue, the four other commissioners gave tacit approval not only to the name change, but to the city being pushed around by the Blue Jays -- again. Thanks to the commission, the score in this game was Blue Jays 1, residents 0.

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