Monday, September 28, 2015

An Introduction to Baseball

My little buddy keeping a close
eye on the little girl on the GO Train
wearing a BoSox shirt and Hat.
I didn't trust her either buddy. 
Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a Blue Jays game at the now ‘Rogers Centre’ versus the Boston Red Sox. For the first time since  1993 the Jays are playing meaningful games in September. At that time they had  strong hopes of making it into the playoffs and now possibly even a  Division Championship. That in itself makes for a great atmosphere and  reason to attend a game. What made this even more special was the  opportunity to expose 2 new ‘fans’ to live baseball.  Also in  attendance for the game was my father and little second cousin who is 2 years old. For both of these budding super fans it was their first  experience in watching a Major League game live.  It is a much easier  sell to a toddler… make it sound like it is a treat and the most fun  thing since Thomas the Train or TruckTown. Before the game when watching highlights from the day before he would see the ballgame on TV and tell everyone in the room that he was going to the baseball game! He said it with such pride you would have to be made of stone not to get jacked up yourself. I figured that it would be next to impossible to get my dad to go but to my surprise he was very  enthusiastic about this adventure to Toronto, riding the train and  hanging out with 48,000 new friends! To attend with two newbies was great and added to the gameday experience.

I was as shocked as anyone that he sat on my knee for
as long as he did. I guess we can add Cheese Puffs to
 'Take me out to the Ballgame'
I remember the first time that I went to a Blue Jays baseball game. In  fact  it was the first Major League game that I had ever attended. It was at the SkyDome back on June 23, 1990 (531 R19 Seat 10 and was a 1:35 start). The Blue Jays were  taking on the hated New York Yankees. They had been bad for much of  the 80s so they were far less hated then they have become.

I remember taking the trip to my aunt and uncles in Mississauga for  the weekend to take in the game. I was so excited! At that time I would have been 10 so I had played and followed  baseball for a little while and had a pretty good grasp of the game  and the players on the team. We were going to the Saturday game. I recall hoping that they would  sit both Fred McGriff and Kelly Gruber the Friday night before the  game we were going to. Those were my two favorite players on the team  at the time so I wanted to assured they would be in the lineup when I was there. Fred McGriff because he was the “Crime Dog” and had that  cool looking extended bow of a  follow through after his swing. The first  pack of O-Pee-Chee baseball cards that I bought (yep the ones with the  rock hard and sharp piece of pink gum in them) had a Kelly Gruber card  in it. My first pack, and it had a Blue Jay in it! Not only that but  that Blue Jay was sporting one sweet flowing blond mullet. How can  anyone compete with that, it was everything a young Blue Jays/baseball  fan could ask for!

I remember We were on the third base line, just about even with the  bag I believe and up in the 500 Level. Since none of us knew any  better these were great seats! You could see everything. The game was  exciting as I recall but as a kid at his first ball game it was going  to be exciting no matter what. There were 2 distinct events that  happened that game that I recall very well. Glenallen Hill leaping up  over the fence to try to bring back a home run that was traveling over  the wall for a home run and his glove falling off over the fence. The other was hearing the music play when  the closer, Tom Henke, was entering the game.

This time around I was the more veteran ballgame go-er, even if it was  only by a few games but I had the privilege of helping introduce live  baseball to an older non-sports fan and at the same time hopefully help  expose a new youngster to the fun and enjoyment of attending live sports events, even though the little  guy that I was with was probably too young to retain much from the game itself, how it was played or what the rules are.

Boston BP prior to the game

We got to the game during the Red Sox batting practice so this was a good time to venture around the concourse and see some sights and take in the overall baseball experience. As one might imagine with a toddler nap time is key so before the game started and a couple of innings into the ballgame my little buddy enjoyed a quick power nap. The 4:07pm first pitch  was both good and bad. It gave plenty of time to get to the stadium and see some things but it also meant that the game would not end until after 7:30pm. As anyone who has been around children for any amount of time ever, they tend to be up pretty early and that makes for a long day for everyone involved.

Me and my second favorite management person at Rogers Centre next to Alex Anthopoulos.
Great for a friend to take a minute to stop by and say hi
Jamie Campbell and a very subdued suit that Greg Zaun  was sporting on Blue Jays Central before the game. 
The only regret I have from the game was my lack of the traditional 'Ballpark Food' exploration. I like to try different ballpark goodies when I am at games. Each stadium has some sort of signature food that they are known for. I was just so caught up in everything that I didn't get a chance to explore the options. I know my buddy who runs would not be pleased at this over site but rest assured I will make up for it next time! I regret to say that I also dropped the ball after the game when we stopped at the HWY 55 Burgers Shakes and Fries. It is a new franchise in Oakville and appears to be the only one in Canada at the moment as it is not even listed as a location yet on the website. They offered a Shrimp Po' Boy and I did not order it...rookie mistake. I opted for a regular shrimp burger but I feel I should have splurged and gone Po' Boy style. Guess I will have to schedule another trip soon and make up for this miscue.

Not the same as the
old style tickets you used
to get at sporting events
 Not only was it a Red Sox day but also it  was a Jr. Jays day. A welcome distraction for a youngster who may get restless just sitting and watching a baseball game. Heck, a lot of adults have trouble sitting through a full game. He got to participate in some of the kids games and  activities they had and came away with some cool souvenirs from the game. He got a neat Blue Jays  airbrushed "tattoo" , a few Jays stickers and a Jays lunch bag. He was also spoiled with a swirled soft serve ice cream in a Blue Jays batting helmet. I was jealous of this and figured I needed to treat myself to one as well. What can I say I am a sucker for hats at baseball games.  He also left with a snazzy Blue Jays stitched toddler’s jersey that was purchased to commemorate his first game. Maybe it will end up on the wall in his room someday.

Because of his age there was a bit of an issue with the volume in the stadium. Music and sound effects may have been a bit overwhelming at times. There was also the semi-unexpected presence of Toronto fans actually cheering a home team and actually being engaged with that team. Success is not something that a lot of Toronto sports fans are familiar with so to be in a stadium that was so engaged was a bit foreign. Other then that there were no major problems.

These were our seats for the game...Just at the edge of the "B" in
the Budweiser sign out in Left Center. No view of the video board
but had 2 TV screens to view the game on.
Perhaps next season, after a little more 'seasoning' we can try for another game or two. I would love to attend another jays game with him but maybe we can fit in an Independent League game in Ottawa (The Ottawa Champions). I think exposing a potential new and young fan to a high level of baseball at a stadium that is not packed to the brim and offers a chance to be outside and get right up close to the action can only build on future interest and an understanding of the game.

Despite her best efforts to gain entry, just because your last name is Holder does not
mean you can gain access to the stadium through the Season Holders entrance.

Hopefully he is able to take away the excitement from the fans in the  stands, the music that was played throughout the game and just the overall atmosphere of being with a group of people gathered together with one common goal…To ROOT ROOT ROOT for the home team! Because as  we all know, if they don’t win it’s a shame!