Truck Day a sign of spring in chilly Toronto

Blue Jays employees pack up equipment before it heads to Florida

Truck Day a sign of spring in chilly Toronto

TORONTO -- Outside, it was a blistery minus-25 degrees Celsius with the wind chill on Thursday morning. But inside Rogers Centre, there was the first sign of spring, as the Blue Jays began packing for Spring Training.

The annual Truck Day had club employees loading up all of the gear that will be used during a six-week stay in Dunedin, Fla. The process began around 9:30 a.m. ET, with an early afternoon departure for the 21-hour drive to the Sunshine State.

Boxes were filled with everything from on-field equipment to office files in preparation for the opening of camp on Feb. 22. That's when pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report, with position players scheduled to arrive Feb. 26.

Players typically take a dozen or so bats with them at the end of the regular season, but everything else stays in Toronto during the winter months. The players will be reunited with the gear in the coming days, with all of the paperwork having been submitted for cross-border travel.

There were even some signs of players who are no longer with the organization. Bats that previously belonged to Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus and Adam Lind were loaded into the transport truck, and they will be handed out to some of the players attending the Minor League portion of Spring Training.

The trip south is made with all of the equipment in one industrial-sized truck. On the way back, the club typically hires a second truck and makes stops at several Minor League towns along the way to drop off gear. That will mark the start of the regular season, but for now, all of the attention is on the sunny conditions in Florida, where dreams of the postseason are renewed and every team starts on equal footing.

Toronto hopes this is finally the year the Blue Jays end a postseason drought that dates back to 1993. There was a time when it appeared 2014 would be the year, as Toronto held onto a playoff spot until early August, but a poor finish to the season led to a third-place finish in the American League East.

Lawrie, Rasmus, Lind and Casey Janssen are gone, but there has been an influx of talent over the past several months that will help form a new core. Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson headline the list of additions, which also includes Michael Saunders and Marco Estrada.

With president Paul Beeston set to retire at the end of the season, this could be the final shot at postseason glory for the current Blue Jays regime. There are question marks surrounding the bullpen and starting rotation, but general manager Alex Anthopoulos is confident that the offseason changes will lead to improved results on the field.

"We like the club. You always want to improve and want to get better," Anthopoulos said recently. "You're always worried about depth. That's always important. No matter how healthy you expect to be, it's important. But we like the club, we like the upside of the rotation. ... We certainly like the offense -- we've been a strong offensive club for years."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.