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Dunedin Mayor Julie Bujalski.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Julie Ward Bujalski has only been Mayor of Dunedin since November, but she already knows not to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Her city of about 36,000 has been the spring training home to the Toronto Blue Jays for 39 years, and she understands the economic impact the Canadian baseball team makes when it visits once every year at this time for six weeks.

"It's extremely important," Ms. Bujalski said in an interview. "Our region, not just in Dunedin, gets $80-million of economic impact every year from spring training and the Blue Jays being here. It would be a big hole to fill [if they were to leave]."

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That's why the mayor supports building a new spring training facility for the Blue Jays in Dunedin, at a cost that some have estimated could run as high as $80-million (U.S.). It is an expensive ticket, but a necessary expenditure if the city wants to keep the Major League Baseball team from looking to play elsewhere in Florida.

"I feel really confident that we're going to work things out," she said.

The mayor was on hand on Tuesday when the Blue Jays began Grapefruit League play here at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. The former Little Leaguer threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game against the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates.

It was a delightful day for baseball, with the game-time temperature almost nudging 26 C. And the stadium was packed with about 5,500 people, many of them Canadians who come at this time every year to watch their team play baseball. And to escape the winter back home.

"Ice cold lemonade, flown right in from Canada," a stadium vendor barked during the second inning.

"Yeah, but it's frozen," came a fan's quick retort.

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