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Barfield returns to Knology Park

Barfield returns to Knology Park

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Not much has changed since the last time Josh Barfield was at Knology Park. Players' children can still be seen darting in and out of Toronto's clubhouse, or shagging fly balls with their dads in the outfield.

When the Cleveland second baseman was growing up, he was one of those kids, toting a glove around the only Spring Training site the Blue Jays have ever known. Wednesday marked the first time Barfield made a trip back to Dunedin, Fla., since the days when his father, Jesse, roamed the outfield for the Jays.

"I kind of had goosebumps when I looked at the schedule today and saw the Blue Jays," said Barfield, who led off for the Indians in his first game against his dad's former team. "I was a little kid when I was here the last time.

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"I spent a lot of spring breaks and Spring Trainings out here," he added. "It was play time whenever I was at the ballpark. It was a time to be around your friends and watch your dad play ball. It was awesome."

Jesse Barfield suited up for Toronto for parts of nine seasons, beginning in 1981 -- a year before Josh was born. The elder Barfield ranks fourth in club history with 179 home runs and he led the American League with 40 homers in 1986, which was his only season as an All-Star.

Josh Barfield's favorite memories of growing up around the Blue Jays are from his experiences at Exhibition Stadium. He always looked forward to playing with his dad in the "father-kids" games at the ballpark. Barfield still has a framed picture of himself and his dad from one of those games hanging in his room.

Barfield's eyes widened with surprise when he heard a Major League Soccer stadium now stands where the Jays' old park once existed.

"Really?" Barfield said. "I'll always remember just going to Exhibition Stadium every day and sitting up in the stands. We'd always go down to the family room and play after the games. I just have a lot of good memories from Toronto.

"Watching my dad play, all I ever wanted to do was be a big leaguer and be like him," he added. "Now, to get to play in the big leagues and get a chance to play against his old team, it's really special for me."

Last season, Barfield hit .280 with 13 homers and 58 RBIs as a rookie for San Diego. In November, the Padres dealt the 24-year-old to the Indians for infielder Kevin Kouzmanoff and pitcher Andrew Brown.

Now that Barfield is in the AL, though, he'll have multiple chances to play at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. The Blue Jays moved to the stadium -- formerly the SkyDome -- in June 1989, which was a little more than a month after Toronto traded Jesse Barfield to the Yankees for pitcher Al Leiter.

"I was there when they were building it," said Josh Barfield, referring to the Rogers Centre. "My dad didn't get a chance to play there as a Blue Jay, but we went back when he was a Yankee.

"It's going to be awesome [to play there]. My dad and my mom, they wouldn't miss that trip for the world. They'll be there."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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