Last Friday, my sister, brother-in-law, and I decided to go to Toronto to watch a couple of Blue Jays playoff games. We’d chatted a bit about it at the beginning of October, but for some reason Friday it was a bit more serious. We may have still been delirious from the ridiculous 7th inning of game 5 of the ALDS, but that’s another story.
I’ve only ever been to one other major league game in Houston in 1988. I didn’t know much about the Astros; they were out of contention; the crowd was sparse; and we were sitting way back in the outfield section, but: I loved the atmosphere and the experience. While I can’t remember who was playing or what the outcome of the game was, there’s something about that memory that makes me smile to this day.
I’ve been a Blue Jays fan since I was a kid, through the hay days of the late 80’s and early 90’s. I fell off the bandwagon for a while, but I’ve been climbing back on over the past few years. By the 11 game win streak in June, I was back onboard; the trade deadline only made watching that much more fun. Things are different watching now. Back then, hi-lights were a flash on the morning radio or the evening news. Box scores were in the weekend paper. To follow the game, you had to watch the game. Now, a Google search or a couple of apps will give as in depth analysis as you could want.
Since the playoffs started and the commentators have switched from the familiar Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler to the generic US based broadcasters, I have to say I’ve found Twitter to be a helpful addition to my game experience. By following the Sportsnet team of reporters, I get a more focussed and informed discussion from a Blue Jays standpoint than from Harold Reynolds and company.
Anyway, 2 days ago we boarded a 6 am flight to watch an 8 pm game two provinces and one time zone away. We wandered around the downtown and ended up at the Jays Shop at Rogers Centre. I felt like a little kid with my nose pushed against the glass peering in at the field.
The two games passed in a blur. We were there just after the gates opened for Monday’s game. We had lunch at the Arriba restaurant at Rogers Centre before Tuesday’s game and watching batting practice from our table.
I met a friend who happened to be at Monday’s game up in the 500 section and marvelled at how high it seemed, but how much you could see.
I wandered around, inside and out and managed to not get lost (nothing short of miraculous with my lack of sense of direction)
I saw Buck Martinez doing a standup on the field.
And Jamie Campbell, Gregg Zaun, and Pat Tabler on the set of Baseball Central on the 100 level.
We got our picture on the Jumbotron, but didn’t manage to get a picture of that so great was our excitement.
And we watched baseball: the good, the bad, and the bizarre. There was a little of everything: a win and a loss; good pitching and not-so-good pitching; lots of offence and then quiet bats. There were amazing catches, overturned plays, stolen bases, ejections, and a utility infielder pitching in the ninth inning. The games lasted forever but were over too quick; it was that bizarre feeling of having no idea how long you’d been there but being perfectly content to still being sitting in that plastic chair. (Except for the obnoxious drunks: FYI – if you don’t know anything about baseball, people at a playoff game probably aren’t going to be impressed with your commentary being bellowed in their ear).
It was that magical feeling from the game in Houston 27 years ago, but magnified exponentially. I worried that it would be one of those experiences that the reality wouldn’t live up to the anticipation. I shouldn’t have worried.
I know at its core baseball is a business and as such it’s about winning. And really, watching a winning team is more fun than watching one that isn’t. The game 4 trouncing of the Jays has certainly sparked a great deal of analysis by people who know much more about the game than I do (and some who don’t; see above). For me, and I think for the many stayed stayed til the end of the ninth, we were having fun with the experience of being at a game.
Whatever happens for the rest of the season, I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to be there for a small part of it.