On a cold, damp day in March, while pining for summer sunshine, I received a phone call from Bernie Fishbein. He explained that he had always wanted to go see the Blue Jays at their spring training in Dunedin, Florida; however, the right combination of timing and opportunity had never presented itself. Rather than wait on fate, would I like to go with him to help him cross this off his Bucket List?

After retiring nearly five years ago, Bernie is a shining example of a guy who is making the most out of retirement. He actively pursues his passions—from taking photography and history courses, to hiking trails both near and far. Within the community, he has roles on the boards for the local ratepayers’ association as well as Habitat for Humanity. He has been a good friend for over twenty years, so I jumped at the opportunity to join him on his journey. Of course, the lure of warm sunshine and crossing off an item from my own Bucket List did not hurt.

On March 23, we were on our way to the airport in the middle of a snowstorm and three hours later walked into the 28°C Tampa Bay sunshine.

Our first night in Florida, we explored the Dunedin area and baseball park to get our bearings. We had been told that if we went to the park early, we could see the players practicing. Admittedly, I had an ulterior motive – I was determined to make this a memorable experience for Bernie.

Once we arrived at the park, I left Bernie in the car and went into the media center. It was there that I met Mal Romanin, Baseball Information Communications Manager for the Toronto Blue Jays. He listened to the story of Bernie’s pursuit of his Bucket List dreams and invited us to return in half an hour.

Half an hour later, we returned to the media center. Mal had arranged for two guest passes for Bernie and I and proceeded to escort us onto the field. Now, I enjoy baseball, but Bernie loves the sport. Setting foot onto the field, Bernie’s grin stretched ear-to-ear as he took it all in…not only was he at Blue Jays spring training, but he was right in the thick of it all. Hearing that first crack of the bat suddenly indicated to me that summer is on its way. That sound was sweet!

Over the next thirty minutes, we explored and took photographs. Bernie even had a chance to go into the Jays’ dugout. He was like a little kid in a candy store. We watched as the Blue Jays caught shag flies; the camaraderie of this group of players was amazing. They were laughing and obviously having a good time. As we left the field area, Mal gave Bernie an autographed baseball. After the field exploration, we took in the Jays versus Braves game.

Bernie was so elated at our good fortune that he would’ve considered the trip a success if we’d gone home right after our first day. But there was more to come. As if the trip had a life of its own, each day had something special about it.

We met some amazing people, had great conversations, and developed a whole new appreciation for Florida and its many must-see places.

Before returning to the wintery north, we took in the new Salvador Dali museum and the Holocaust museum in St. Petersburg. We went on an eco-tour of Tampa Bay and its Aquarium. Afterwards we headed to the Port Charlotte area and the Lettuce Lake Resort where we visited friends. On the way back we took photography expeditions to the Mary Selby Gardens and Fort de Soto National Park. At the end of our trip, we were both able to knock • attend Blue Jays spring training off our Bucket Lists. Thank you, Toronto Blue Jays, Mal Romanin, and most of all, Bernie, for prompting the opportunity.

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