My Son’s First F-Bomb

It was going to happen sooner or later. I think I’ve taken to the parenting thing a lot better than I originally expected I would. I change diapers like an absolute champion. I cook more, and better. Most importantly, I’ve never absent mindedly left my kid anywhere which I think was a concern among immediate family for various reasons. The one thing that was never going to go well was the swearing thing. I swear. A lot. The more comfortable I am, the more I do it. If I’m around you and it seems like I’m swearing a lot, take it as a compliment. It means I’m being myself. As it pertains to pro-creation, it makes sense that I’m ultimately responsible for a lot of things surrounding my kid’s development, and speech is definitely included. The thing is, I’m pretty comfortable around my kid, so you see the problem. The odds are stacked heavily in favour of him eventually being exposed to a healthy dose of colourful language. What kid isn’t, right? Yeah, most kids aren’t…. not like this….. and don’t leave comments saying that you swear a lot too. Thanks, but you don’t. Not like me. I’m not proud of this, but I’m not really as ashamed as I should be either. Lets just say that if my son ends up being half the potty mouth that I am, I just hope I’m not the reason. But I will be.

I’ve slipped up around him. Quite a bit. I slip up around everyone. That’s just me. I almost can’t even keep swearing out of my blog. Think about that. Even if I swear impulsively in my blog, I could always delete and re-word. I don’t even do that. I’m only slightly embarrassed that my mom and her friends read this, but not enough. So with that in mind my son is being set up to fail (or succeed as an awesome swearer). He’s 3 years old and change. I’m honestly surprised that it took this long for as many times as I’ve used foul language in front of him, but F-bombs are not for everyone, and perhaps it took him time to gravitate towards the sheer power of its emotional expression, and how a well placed one can just free your soul for a split second (OK I’m over selling it, I’ll just get to the story).

I’m into Balsamic Vinegar big time. There’s a great place that sells all these different flavours of it as well as Olive Oil. It’s fresh, and they let you sample them out of the (casks??? I don’t know what the container is called) dispensers. I could spend all day in there until my insides cried for mercy. They pour it, and cork it. I spent more money on it that day than a human at my income level should, but I knew my next salad was going to be like a leafy chompy heaven, and was looking quite forward to this. Had to get a traditional Balsamic, as well as a flavoured one. I chose Espresso flavour. It tastes like Balsamic Vinegar, but the aftertaste is like you just ate a Coffee Crisp.

When it’s finally time to prepare this salad, I’m only too excited to pour this liquid euphoria onto my salad. As I try to take the cork out (it’s a cork with a plastic lid on top, so you can open it with your hands as opposed to cork that would be in a wine bottle that you would use a corkscrew for…… just in case you had trouble picturing it……because if you can’t picture it, it fucks up the story……. oh there I go again), and the plastic top breaks off, leaving me with no easy way to open the bottle. Also leaving me with an unusable lid for my bottle. Now that really sucked, and I was frustrated, but I had another bottle, so I figured, let’s try that one? This is still good. Then I tried to open that one, and the exact same thing happened to the other cork, and that left me with no re-course but to have an immature temper tantrum in the kitchen, during which, I exclaimed loudly/angrily “YOU GOTTA BE FUCKING KIDDING ME!” That, my friends, is par for the course, but what happened after isn’t. My son who was playing with toy trains in his bedroom with my wife, stood up and looked her in the eye, balled up an angry little fist, and screamed as clear as day “YOU GOTTA BE FUCKING KIDDING ME!!!!!!!!!”

So it starts.


David Bowie Sadness

I found out this morning that David Bowie passed away. It’s been bothering me all day. I’m not even sure why. Celebrities die all the time, and I should be used to it by now. In a workplace full of people half my age, nobody seemed particularly devastated. A couple of people seemed suitably bummed, but not to the level I was looking for. So I did what anybody would do in this situation and logged into Twitter. This was better. People falling all over themselves to pay respects to David Bowie. One tribute more eloquent than the next. Re-tweets of celebrities and die-hard fans pouring out their hearts. I’m neither, but I felt like I would like to be one of the people who said something beautiful about David Bowie. It would probably get read by 3 or 4 people, and get heaped onto the magical invisible ‘I don’t give a shit’ pile in their minds, only to be soon erased. So I came home and went through my typical evening routine, cooking some dinner, and getting the boy to bed before probably falling asleep on the couch. Maybe I drink one of those kick ass Belgium beers in the fridge. The last of an epic sampler pack, but can I stay awake to drink it? Then I remember that I have a David Bowie concert DVD. I don’t even think I’ve ever watched it before. When it comes to music, sometimes I just buy stuff just to have it. The price was probably right, and I’d heard he was a hell of a live performer. Tonight would be the perfect night for a cold beer, warm sweater, and some David Bowie sadness.

Just as I start to relax a bit, I find myself totally captivated by this concert. I LOVE music, but I only LIKE David Bowie. I want to say I love David Bowie because he’s super cool to me, and he aged so incredibly well, and he’s such an innovative ground breaking artist, and I’ve never heard anybody say anything bad about him. If I said I loved David Bowie, then you would demand to know how many of his albums I have, and I’d have to answer none. Just the 2 disc greatest hits collection, and a 45 single of ‘Modern Love’ on vinyl from back in the day. That’s better than nothing, but it’s not love. He was good. I’ve talked to very knowledgeable music people who say he’s the best ever. At some point in the future I would probably go through a David Bowie phase and listen or purchase all of his music, but I haven’t yet. My connection with David Bowie doesn’t have to do with me being his biggest fan, but more to do with him being my first!

When I was 7 years old I found my way into current pop music. Before that what do we listen to? Whatever our parents have around the house? Kid music? Who knows? None of that matters. What matters is that when I became first aware, and then quickly lifelong obsessed with music, David Bowie had a song (and an album) called ‘Let’s Dance’. You only had to see this dude in his white outfit playing a guitar in a Mexican restaurant to know he was the guy. Or just to look at him on the album cover, shirtless with his 1920’s boxing gloves on. He was my first favourite singer. I wanted his album. Birthday present? Christmas? I think my parents probably shied away from that, possibly because they were aware of such freaky things as Ziggy Stardust, and I wasn’t. Yet they were totally cool with Boy George which was odd to me. David Bowie in 1982 was as clean-cut as they came, and I thought that would be totally suitable for a kid to own that album. They must have relented in time for me to get the ‘Modern Love’ single.

That was kind of it for David Bowie for me for a while. I didn’t know at the time that there was a lot more substance to David Bowie’s music that would allow me to partially rediscover it as I got older. As I sit here and watch his concert DVD, it almost feels like I’ve come full circle. Am I sad because a legend has passed away? Yes, but he did leave us with 25 albums, and I’m sure I’ll spend the next several years discovering a lot of his music for the first time. Am I sad because I’m closer to the age in which he passed away (69) than I am to the age in which I discovered David Bowie for the first time? Certainly. I will say this though. While watching the concert I felt like there were times where his music was reaching into my body and touching my soul. Not all musicians have that power, but I’m grateful that David Bowie did, because it’s one of my favourite parts of the human experience.

Thus concludes my odd little story about David Bowie sadness. Turn and face the strange!


Talk About The Death Star Not Being Fully Operational

I watched Star Wars the other night. You know, the first one. No, not Episode 1. The first one which was Episode 4. The one from 1977 that got this whole thing started. It was called ‘A New Hope’, which I swear I only found out recently. We always just called it Star Wars. My wife bought be the DVDs for my birthday because it’s been a lot of years since I’ve seen those ones, and with the new one coming out now, I want to have the plot lines fresh in my mind when I check it out. I figure I’ve got a couple of months still because I don’t have the patience for crowds. I’m sure the movie won’t spoil in the meantime. I can ignore civilization until then.

I have a connection to that movie in that if I’m not mistaken, it was the first movie I ever saw in the movie theater. It’s also the only movie I ever went to see with just my dad. Meaning there might have been some family outings when I was young, but the two of us only went to the movies once. That sounds sad as I’m typing it, but it’s not. We did lots of things together, just not the movie theater. Sporting events was our thing. We watched a lot of movies together at home. RENTING movies……I know what we have now is way better, but can I just say I miss renting movies???? So my dad and I watched the first Star Wars movie, then known as ‘Star Wars’, now known as ‘A New Hope’. Why? I think we were in Niagara Falls or Buffalo, and I’m pretty sure my mom didn’t want us in her shit while she was at the shopping mall, so she must have given the orders for him to take me to a movie. Or maybe it was his idea, but she definitely gave the orders for him to take me away from her shopping situation. I’m guessing the movie had been out for a long time, or possibly re-released by the time I saw it because in 1977 I would have been too young to remember it. Whenever it was, it was really one of my earliest memories.

I had a few thoughts when I was watching ‘A New Hope’. Overall, I have to say that I still enjoyed it. I’ve never been too picky with special effects, so it didn’t bother me that those particular ones are outdated. I know they were really something at the time. A couple of things bothered me…..

– Why were Luke and Leia so pissy and bitchy with Han Solo?? Yeah, he was meant to be seen as a selfish character, but neither of them knew the guy for 5 minutes before they started in with their odd little snarky judgemental comments. I’d have been tempted to slap the both of them. Especially Luke. So whiny. That didn’t bother me when I was 5 years old, but it does now. It didn’t take Luke long after looking at his aunt and uncle’s charred bodies to just fly off with Obi-Wan Kenobi who he’d only met that afternoon. Spent the whole movie crying about “I wish Ben was here”. What about Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru???? They fuckin raised you!! Burnt to a crisp, and you act like you don’t give a shit? Then you have the nerve to get on Han Solo’s case because you think he’s selfish??? Where do you get off? (OK, this went off the rails…. calm down Ryan)

– I know there was some talk about the Death Star not being fully operational, but what’s with all the hallways that end in drops into the infinite abyss?? And the control panels with maybe a one foot platform to stand on around them. What electrician is going to be able to do work on these control panels?? It’s totally unsafe. Sure, we’re so concerned about the main characters who are trying to escape the Death Star, but what about its thousands of employees? It’s the employer’s responsibility to create a safe working environment for its employees. Humans, Droids, or otherwise. With the technology they have available, there’s got to be a better way to build this thing. I guess they all got blown up anyways. Nobody cares about that. So sad about Alderaan, but what about the innocent lives that were lost when the Death Star blew up? Not everyone in there was evil. Most of them were just like you and me. Working for some evil organization, trying to put food on the table. It’s a shame about the Death Star. Should’ve been better built though.


My Toronto Blue Jays Stories Volume 5

The Summer I Met Two Legendary Soon To Be Ex-Jays

I know I promised 10 of these. 6-10 are coming next year during baseball season. This blog is shutting down all baseball operations for 2015. Before that I will tell you a story from my childhood chock-full of encounters with famous people, and baseball nerdery. To be honest, I can’t remember for sure which summer this was, but according to my research, it was probably 1989. Before this I don’t recall ever meeting a major league baseball player, and if I had, I will hopefully remember that by the time I’m finished writing this post, and then I’ll just scroll up and delete this sentence. So if you just read that last sentence, that means I didn’t delete it, which means these were in fact the first 2 Blue Jays I ever met.

I collected baseball cards from the time I was a small boy until it got to be a crappy hobby thanks to unruly collectors, and market saturation. I used to memorize baseball statistics on the back of the cards as a kid. I have knowledge of baseball history that can only be described as unnecessary. I kept the cards organized by teams, then by year, then by batting average and so on and so on. You couldn’t buy me toys as a kid, but if you bought me records or cards, I was good to go (records is what we used to call music….for the young readers). My cards started out in piles with rubber bands around them. Then one day it occurred to me that these cards were actually worth money. Everyone always told the story of what a Mickey Mantle card would go for, and a generation of baseball nerds figured if we took care of our cards, that someday they might be worth something. If they weren’t in mint condition, they weren’t worth anything, so I started putting my good cards in the sleeves of binders and protective cases where they sit to this day. I had sad moments realizing that my Cal Ripken Jr rookie card and other notable gems had devalued while being shuffled around through different filing systems.

Everything I learned about collecting came from frequent visits to a local sports card store that had opened up around this time. Family owned by people who seemed to be the inspiration for every comic book store owning cliché I’ve ever seen on TV or in film. They had a tough time hiding just how annoying it was dealing with 12 year olds all day, but when they were in the mood for it, we got along great. After all, we were regular customers and spent big money (only by our meager standards of course) in there. We were there constantly. It was a bike ride away. I loved picking up the monthly price guides and finding out how certain cards in my collection had increased or decreased in value over the last month, and trying to predict those trends. It led me to have a pretty vast collection. It was through the employees of this store that I became aware that Blue Jays first baseman Fred McGriff would be signing autographs at a Honda dealership one summer morning.

My buddy and I got dropped off at the dealership. We weren’t even old enough to drive yet. I’m sure Honda was hoping that some of the Jay fans that would descend on their dealership that morning were at least potential car buyers. There was a rule about just how many autographs you could hit Mr. McGriff up for. I’m gonna say 1 or 2 items were the max. While in line I saw that greedy bugger from the card store. His eyes were popping out of his head, and when he saw us in line, he giddily informed us that Fred signed EVERYTHING. They had brought like 12 items. All of these items would now be for sale at his store for double the original value. I wondered if Fred knew or cared. Maybe this guy just pretended to be a huge fan so Fred wouldn’t know the difference. I think we had brought an extra baseball card over the limit just in case, but we certainly didn’t have 12 items. When I got to the front of the line I was pleased to find out that Fred McGriff was a super nice guy that was very generous with his time. He engaged in small talk while signing my cards, and gave me the confidence to say what I really wanted to say to him. As casually as I could, I asked him to hit a home run for me that night. I don’t know why. It’s not like he was signing my cast in a hospital or something. Sounds dumb to me now, but if I could somehow gather a list of everything I ever said as a kid or a teenager, I’m confident that 80% of it would absolutely sound dumb to me now, and such is life. He grinned at me and said…. something, I don’t remember what he said, but he basically agreed to hit a home run that night. Now I don’t think I was ever naive enough to think that he didn’t try to hit a home run every single time he went to the plate, and if anyone was prodigiously powerful enough to be able to confidently call a shot, it was him. You know I can’t end the story with a hitless night at the plate. Of course he homered in his first plate appearance that night. I called everyone I knew and took full credit for it. After all it was my suggestion.

Later that summer, I was playing tennis with the same friend. This is in Mississauga, which is where I grew up, and just outside of Toronto for my readers that aren’t from around here. Man, I wish I still played Tennis. Those were fun times. It was in the evening during baseball season which seems impossible now that I think about it. For a lot of reasons it seems impossible, but this was the 80s man, and ANYTHING was possible back then. My buddy and I just playing tennis, and I look over to the other court, and there was only one other court. I see a guy that looks so much like then Blue Jay shortstop Tony Fernandez, that I had to call my buddy up to the net for a little chat. I explained my suspicion, and without drawing too much attention to ourselves, we needed to be sure that this was in fact Tony Fernandez. We started rallying again, hitting the ball just slow enough so we weren’t even playing tennis, but watching Tony Fernandez play tennis. This was dumb, so we approached the net again. Do we make a break for it with our bikes, and try to get our Tony Fernandez cards, and a pen, and come back before he’s done playing? I used the word impossible before. In this day and age, a guy like him would be getting paid $15 million dollars a year, and would have an entourage, and wouldn’t come out to the suburbs to play tennis on an outdoor public court. It was summer too. They have games like every day. Are you telling me that this rich Dominican ballplayer was in town, and spent an off-day in Mississauga, and played tennis in the evening? Maybe. I mean definitely, it happened, but I still can’t believe it. Maybe he had a buddy that lived in the neighborhood. Who knows? So my buddy and I are caught between the prospects of awkwardly watching Tony Fernandez playing tennis, or stopping their game to try to talk to him, or more interestingly risking the whole encounter by leaving to try to get something to autograph, and trying to rush back before he leaves. I should mention that both of us lived about a 3-5 minute bike ride from the court. So we risked it. Even crazier is that there was nobody waiting for our court either. We used to have to wait for that court all the time, and the night Tony Fernandez is there, there’s nobody around? Crazy! We drove our bikes home like we were shot out of a cannon, grabbed whatever Tony Fernandez baseball cards we had available, and were back in 6 minutes tops. Then we had to hurry up and wait. We asked if we could get an autograph, and his buddy who was speaking on his behalf said that if we waited until their game was over, he would sign our autographs. Fair enough. We stayed behind the fence and watched Tony Fernandez play tennis for a bit on the same tennis court that we played all of our tennis on. Eventually he came off and signed our cards one at a time. During casual chat time, I tried to bait him into talking about the Jesse Barfield for Al Leiter trade which pissed me off so much at the time, although historically, it turned out ok. He just said that Jesse was a good guy, but was fairly diplomatic otherwise. Once we had our autographs, we left them alone, and probably went home to brag to our other friends who weren’t there. It was a nice surprise.

Blue Jay fans know too well what ties these 2 players together in team history more than any other detail. Unfortunately it’s not what they did for us on the field, because they were both exceptional baseball players, and their names are up there with other choice few names as the best players in Blue Jay history. Soon after these chance encounters, they were both traded to the San Diego Padres for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar, and it seems ridiculous to say that the trade was lopsided from a talent perspective, but Carter and Alomar were the 2 key pieces that lead the Blue Jays to back to back World Series champions in 1992 and 1993. Does that mean they couldn’t have won with McGriff and Fernandez? Nobody will ever know. All I know is meeting me seemed to be their bad luck charm that summer, but it’s a fun Blue Jays memory for me nevertheless.


My Toronto Blue Jays Stories Volume 4

5 Jay Games in Vegas

Did I pledge to write 10 of these Blue Jay blogs??? Yeah that must have been when they were still in it. I’ve spent the last few days picking my broken heart up off the floor, and am back to try to fulfill that ridiculous promise. Man, I must have thought they playoffs would last forever. 10 blogs???

Today I will do a little bit of cross promotion. I do have another blog. It’s a Las Vegas travel blog actually. Some of you have read it, and judging from the stats, most of you haven’t. That’s cool. I understand how weird it must be to be a Las Vegas enthusiast. If you were to click over to http://www.paymevegas.com you will probably notice that I don’t get to write in that one nearly as often. The reason? I just can’t justify going to Vegas as often as I’d like to go, but I do go to Vegas a fair bit by most people’s standards. In fact, I just returned from a week-long journey, so Pay Me Vegas will have some new content shortly.

As happy as I am to watch the Toronto Blue Jays in the playoffs, even I would have to admit that they did everything in their power to hijack our Vegas itinerary. I remember when the playoff schedule came out and I mentioned to my wife that they might have some games that I absolutely MUST watch while we’re there. Maybe just one. There did exist a scenario where there would be five in total. Guess which scenario played itself out? This required a lot of patience and understanding from my wife. Not that she doesn’t love the Jays too. It’s just that I have a 3-year old (who was still 2 at the time) who really doesn’t give a shit about baseball unless it’s an excuse to have me pick him up from his crib well past his bed time….. oh yeah, under those circumstances, he’s fan #1. The boy needs to be monitored/entertained during all waking hours. This made things awkward, because if I need 3 or more hours of focus and attention towards a ballgame, then my wife gets stuck on kid duty for that length of time 5 out of the 7 days we’re there. Possibly making matters worse is the time change. These playoff games were played at 4pm EST most of the time, which is 1pm Vegas time. That’s right smack in the middle of the day. This is the story of how I managed to watch all 5 games.

Oct 11/2015 Game 3 of the ALDS

We were down 2-0 in a best of 5 series against the Rangers. The Sunday game was at 8pm EST which was 5pm in Vegas. This was huge for me because I flew in that day, and would have been crushed if the Blue Jays played an elimination game while I was in an airplane, or getting fucked by Thrifty Car Rental (that story another time). We had time to get to the hotel, have dinner, get settled, well before the game started. While I wanted to have cool/obnoxious stories to tell to my friends about where I watched the game (Hey man, where are you? On your couch?? Cool! I’m sitting on a patio overlooking the strip in Vegas in a t-shirt, is it cold there? etc……….), I was perfectly happy to watch the first game in the hotel. Our room had a good-sized TV, a bunch of channels on digital cable, and a comfortable couch to sit on (we were at a time-share, so we had a condo unit, which was perfect for still being able to watch the game after the boy went to sleep). 5pm rolls around, and I grab the remote, and start flipping through the channels. There were like 50 or more channels. I didn’t see the game anywhere. It must have been on commercial. I flipped through again. Nothing. Again. Nothing. They’re gonna throw the first pitch in a minute. I think it’s on FS1. I don’t know these channels, what channel is that? I’m looking at a chart with the channels, and it’s saying FS1 is channel 5-1, but when I flip past with the remote, it skips over. I’m in full freak out mode. There’s an elimination game being played and I can’t get the goddamned channel? It’s a playoff game. Isn’t baseball America’s pastime? I’m in America! I won’t stand for this. So my wife manages to get the game on the radio on her iPad while I call the front desk asking what the trick is for getting FS1 on the TV. They even sent a guy who came and flipped through the channels just like I had 3 times already, only to tell me that they don’t get that channel, and sometime during that my wife goes to the store to get some supplies. So there I am with my son watching cartoons with the Blue Jay game on the radio, losing my mind with every pitch. This was not sustainable. I was going to have to go to the bar. My wife came back and it was the 3rd inning. I texted one of my buddies and asked him to message me a play by-play while I walked to the nearest bar. Even though I was staying off the strip, I was located pretty close to the new Linq Promenade. I found a bar as soon as I walked in. A huge one called Yard House, which I was familiar with, and hoping to go to because of its vast beer selection, but I could see all the TVs had Sunday night football on. Yes, early season NFL games between 2 non-playoff teams trumps playoff baseball in the United States. Can’t believe it. The next place was called the Tilted Kilt, and I saw it had the game on, but was packed (it was the Sunday before Memorial Day, so a long weekend in the States meant busy bars). I walked up close to the window to at least see the score and inning. As I got close, I saw someone get up from their seat at the bar. I ran inside, sat down and ordered a Sam Adams. Phew! Disaster averted. I was there about 30 minutes before Troy Tulowitzki hit his 3-run homer to give us a commanding lead in the game. I could tell who the Canadians were when the table in the far corner went ape-shit after it happened. Jays win. If Jays lose, series over, and probably a better vacation.

Oct 12/2015 Game 4 of the ALDS

Down 2-1 in the series, we had another elimination game. This time it’s a 1pm start in Vegas which is right in the middle of the day. Our plan was to go to the Planet Hollywood Hotel after our lunch at Bobby Flay’s burger restaurant. The boy usually takes a nap at that time, and my wife figured she could push him around the Miracle Mile Shops and shop while he slept. I could then go to the lounge in the Planet Hollywood Casino, where at 1pm on a Monday, it wasn’t too busy. Now if the boy slept for 3.5 hours, we totally could have pulled this off. Luckily the game was a bit of a laugher, with the Jays scoring a bunch of runs early, and getting good pitching as well. When he did wake up, we went to Garrett’s Popcorn, and got what I maintain is the best popcorn in the entire universe. We were able to sit outside a bar (which is outside the concert venue where there is a Brittany Spears concert just about every night for those that find that appealing), and watch the end of the game. Jays win.

Oct 14/2015 Game 5 of the ALDS

The series is tied 2-2, and back in Toronto after 2 games in Texas. This game decides who advances and who goes home. We decide to go to Mandalay Bay on this day. The Shark Reef Aquarium was something kid friendly on our agenda, and maybe something that my wife and son could check out while I obsess about the fate of my Toronto Blue Jays. We decided to have lunch there. I saw an Irish Pub called Ri Ra in the shopping area. We ascertained that the game was on TV, and went in for lunch. It was Wednesday and I was already ordering salads. Everytime I go to Vegas, we just keep having epic meal after epic meal, and sometimes my body just stops wanting food. It’s those times that I know if I see a good-looking salad on the menu, order it and live to fight another day. I had a Guinness IPA for all you beer fans. Apparently this was a limited edition, but it was crazy. It had that smooth texture, but totally tasted like an IPA. So weird, but good. I’m sure they’ll have them everywhere soon. This game was kind of nerve-wracking. My son doesn’t have the attention span to sit in a restaurant for too long, so we watched a few innings, and then I needed to do a location change. What would happen in between the Irish Pub, and my final destination? Would some legendary baseball play happen that Jay fans would remember for all of eternity, and I would miss it? We were boogeying down to the Mandalay Bay Sportsbook, where I would finish watching on TV while my wife and son went to the aquarium. I walked past a hobby store and saw Pete Rose in there signing autographs. I wanted to just go in there and tell him that I think he’s awesome even though he’s been treated like a steaming pile of shit over the last 25 years or so, but I didn’t have time to stop. I went to the washroom and came out. Texas had scored the go-ahead run on a Russell Martin throwing error that was one of the most bizarre plays in MLB playoff history. Luckily they replayed it 5,219 times or I would have really missed out. Then a few minutes later it happened. Easily a top 5 moment in Toronto Blue Jay history, when Jose Bautista hit a home run that gave us the lead in the game and series for good. It was weird because I was in public, but not with anyone, and I started jumping up and down like a 5-year-old. I guess it was one of those ‘dance like nobody’s watching’ moments. I didn’t give a shit what anyone thought of me. I was just having a full on celebration by myself in a room full of people who were probably a little indifferent to the outcome of this game unless they bet on it. One guy came up to me and hugged me though. He must have been in the same situation as I was. It was a pretty joyous moment. I wished my wife was there with me, but she was looking after my son so I could enjoy that moment, and I’m forever grateful.

Oct 16/2015 Game 1 of the ALCS

The Jays were in Kansas City. In an effort to accommodate my son, we decided to go to Circus Circus. Our friend had flown in to join us for a couple of days, so we had an extra adult with us who was also a Jay fan. Again, my wife and son are off playing games, or doing whatever you do there. Our friend and I were in the Circus Circus Sportsbook suffering from second-hand smoke and mediocre beer. When my wife ran out of patience, we were happy to change locations. I hadn’t been to Circus Circus in years. There’s a reason for that, but I don’t like to be judgemental. It’s a good place for a certain crowd I suppose. Had the ventilation been better, I might not have minded it so much. Courtesy of our friend, we now had a rental car, so we drove back toward ‘home’ again, listening on the radio as we drove. We decided to go back to Linq Promenade, and gave the Yard House another try, which worked out great, since I love beer and they have fantastic food. The Jays didn’t fare so well. Royals win.

Oct 17/2015 Game 2 of the ALCS

Back to the Miracle Mile inside of Planet Hollywood. We went right back to that bar inside the mall near Brittany Spears. I drank a Pina Colada while my wife pushed my son around in the stroller. When he fell asleep, she brought him over. This bar was basically just a circle inside the mall. At the entrance there was a line where you couldn’t cross unless you were 21. I sat right beside it, and parked the stroller on the other side with my son fast asleep. This allowed my wife to go to the casino to do some gambling, which she hadn’t done much of up to that point. I was happy that I was able to watch the game and my son at the same time, so she could go have fun for a bit. This was looking like an awesome game. David Price was pitching a gem until the 7th inning when everything fell apart. Royals win.

All told, 5 games in Vegas was bittersweet. We won the first 3 and moved on to the ALCS. We lost the next 2 and would go on to lose the ALCS. I felt bad for the amount of time we spent working around those games, but at the same time, I think we did a lot of the things we wanted to do. I think I might owe my wife some additional consideration on our next trip. My son has already forgotten all about it I’m sure.


My Toronto Blue Jays Stories Volume 3

Me, My Dad, and The Toronto Blue Jays

We’re a couple of days past the 3 year anniversary of my dad’s passing. I try to honour him with a blog each year, and I’m a couple of days late this year. I was in Vegas, and while I don’t mind using my wife’s iPad for certain things, typing isn’t one of them. I need that old school desktop computer when I write. It’s just how I get down. I had pledged to write a series of Toronto Blue Jays related posts, celebrating their first post season appearance in 22 years, and while my tradition of writing about my dad takes precedence, they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. The truth is, I’m a Blue Jay fan first and foremost because of my dad. He was the first one to put me on to the Jays. Boy did they suck at the time. My dad was a loyal fan though. While the Montreal Expos were the far more interesting Canadian team at the time of my initial baseball awareness, it didn’t take long for me to cross over to the Blue Jays and their mighty moustached All-Star pitcher Dave Stieb. This was close to 35 years ago. I’ve never looked back. To celebrate, here are a random selection of thoughts and memories regarding my father as a baseball guy.

– From the time I was a baby, he would sit me on his knee and watch sports with me on TV. Watching a sporting event with my father was awesome if you enjoy watching someone go through an emotional rollercoaster. I’ve always been an enthusiast of colourful language. My dad hurled obscenities at the television set on a regular basis. It was a stark contrast from his actual personality. Fairly laid back, and extremely friendly to anyone that had the pleasure of knowing him. Didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, wasn’t violent. How does a guy like this blow off steam? He yells at a TV set. “You f*ckin donkeys!!!” “Get your arm out of your ass and throw the f*ckin ball!!!” You know….. stuff like that. My mom would get embarrassed if there were other people in the house. He’d try to tone it down a bit by replacing ‘f*ckin’ with ‘friggin’, or my favourite and an original I believe which was ‘frinken’. After a while she’d give him shit, and he’d start pleading with her. “But dear, if they would just………” I have friends that can do great impressions of him based on what little outbursts they may have been lucky enough to see. I’m honoured to have had this man introduce me to the game.

– He was a reluctant but well-loved baseball coach. I started playing little league baseball when I was 6. He took me to the majority of my games and practices. I gotta send a shout out to my mom, who will read this and remember all the times that she had to drive. Let’s say that between the two of them, they always got me there. My dad coached me a few times. I’m not sure it was ever by design, but once he’d done it once or twice, they’d keep asking him. He’d usually step in if someone else fell through. We had a strange dynamic as coach/coach’s son. He had a pet peeve about little league sports. It always drove him nuts when a guy would coach a team, and let his son play all the ‘cool/fun/challenging’ positions on defence, and hit clean up, particularly if the coach’s son wasn’t that good of a player (which happened all the time). He felt like the coach’s son should be treated like just another player. That’s not to say I didn’t get a chance to play cool positions. I did, but I was a fairly capable player. I never took the spot of someone who deserved it more. My dad took things even a step further. When the team needed to get yelled at, I basically got yelled at. He was too nice to yell at another parent’s kid, but if he felt like the team needed to be more focused, he’d generally give me shit for something. I actually loved him for that. He set it up so that my teammates never resented me for being the coaches son, but liked me because I probably took some of the abuse that they might have otherwise gotten. We had our battles, but never stayed mad. Overall, we had some great times competing together, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

– He took me to my first Blue Jay game. We played the Minnesota Twins. I think it was a school night, because I remember some debate about whether he should take me or not. It was a crappy game as I recall. We played the Twins and lost either 7-0 or 7-1. We were sitting down the right field line at old Exhibition Stadium in a section that actually had metal benches with numbers on them as seats. The accommodations were no better than they would be at a high school or little league game, yet this was a major league ball park. Brutal. The only thing I remember about the game was that Leon Roberts hit a double for us, and that was maybe the only exciting moment in the game. That’s a pretty obscure name. Upon further research, he only played for us in 1982, so I was 7 years old at the time. Interesting Jay fact…. He was later traded for a young prospect named Cecil Fielder. Wikipedia rules! We would go to many more games over the years. Most more exciting than that one.

– He taught me the difference between a regular season 3-game series, and the World Series which was the only series I’d heard of at that point. I remember being in the bathroom while my dad was shaving. ‘Guess what son? The Jays swept the series against the Mariners.’ ‘Does that mean they’re going to the playoffs?’ ‘No son….they’re in last place’

– He taught me that while at a game, you need to keep your eye on the ball, and if a screaming line drive is hit towards you, don’t touch the ball unless you’re sure you can catch it, because it will hurt like a sonofabitch. I watched him learn that the hard way. Then when it was my turn to get a foul ball years later, I just waited for it to bounce out of a group of fans that went after it, and when it rolled down the stairs I just leaned over and picked it up. Thank you aisle seats. Thank you Rance Mulliniks.

– My dad got to go to a fair number of conferences in the States for work. Every time he went to a different city, he would always get me a t-shirt for that city’s baseball team. When it was all said and done, I had lots of them, but never really wore a Jays shirt.

– I alluded to his temper while watching games. I feel bad that I talked about it so much, in what was supposed to be ‘nicer’ piece, but if you know me, then you know I love the funny stories the most. This is the quick story about where my Dad was when Robbie Alomar hit the legendary home run off Dennis Eckersley in the 1992 ALCS which changed the fortune of the entire franchise, and in my mind is the most important home run in Blue Jay history (which I’ve hotly debated this week, especially after Bautista’s homer last week which is 3rd, and Carter’s walk off in 93 WS 2nd). I remember this game was one of those annoying afternoon games where you have to rush home from school to watch it. I must have skipped a class or something, because I was at home in front of the TV. My dad got home at some point and started watching. In hindsight, I don’t even remember that much about the game before the home run. I just remember that it looked like once again we would come up short against Oakland, and not go to a World Series, and Dennis Eckersley was at the time the most un-hittable relief pitcher in baseball, so this game seemed to be on ice. My dad had gotten so frustrated with the Jays earlier in the game (maybe the 5 run third inning) that no amount of swearing at the TV was going to fix this situation. If we weren’t there, he would have just changed the channel, but we were watching intently, so he left the room, so appalled with them that he convinced himself he didn’t care what happened. We were down 6-1 in the 8th inning when the Jays started their comeback. They scored 3 runs in the 8th to make it a 6-4 game. I went into the other room to tell my dad what happened, and convince him that he should come in and watch the 9th. Oh no, he wasn’t coming in to watch those useless assholes. He was still huffing and puffing over the 5-run third inning, and wasn’t about to forgive them for it. I gave up and went in to watch the 9th. Alomar ends up hitting a 2-run homer to tie the game, and send it into extra innings. Never a more dramatic moment in Blue Jay history, and my stubborn dad sat in the living room pretending not to care. I laugh my ass off every time I think about it. They would go on to win their first World Series that year. He came around in time for the next game.

As happy as I am that the Jays have gone on such an incredible run this year, I really wish my dad was around to see it.

I miss you dad!


My Toronto Blue Jays Stories Volume 2

The Time I Played Catch With Scott Rolen

One of my best friends Tim used to work for the Jays. He started on the Grounds Crew, and by the time he left the organization, he had been the Manager of Game Entertainment. That’s not to say that you should all go apply for Grounds Crew jobs in hopes of rocketing up the organization. He had the appropriate Sports Marketing background to make this happen. If you’re wondering what a person in that position might be responsible for, I don’t have his job description, but it included fun things such as who sings the national anthem, and what to show on the Jumbotron. The greatest part about Tim having this position for a while, was that he’s as big a baseball fan as I am. It wasn’t just a job, it was a dream job working for the team that you grew up watching. Way better than the job going to someone who didn’t give a shit.

Being close friends with Tim during this time occasionally provided me with a strange amount of access to certain things Blue Jay related. While I was able to enjoy some of this access periodically, I tried not to overstep my limits. Once in a while I was provided with interesting little insights that the average fan would have no idea about, and every so often I found myself in a situation that the average fan would never find themselves in. As a result, you are going to find that a good chunk of my Blue Jay stories wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for Tim. Now, if he wanted to tell you HIS Blue Jay stories, I’m certain it would be worthy of a book. A great read for any true Jays fan. I’ve heard all of these stories, and re-told them periodically when he wasn’t around. Some of them are fascinating. Like ‘holy-shit-I-can’t-believe-that-happened’ fascinating. My stories fall into the ‘not-that-crazy-but-still-kinda-cool’ category.

I had always wanted to go to Spring Training. Tim went to Florida for 3 weeks every year. It was some of the most important work they would do all year. They would do interviews with all of the players, so they would have footage to use on the Jumbotron at the home games throughout the year. The 162 game schedule is so hectic, that it was really hard to get the players to do these interviews or promotional work during the season, so this was typically done in the pre-season. This seemed like a glamorous work trip to me, but I know it was really hard work. One year my wife and I decided to vacation in Orlando while Spring Training was on, and do a little side trip to that magical place called Dunedin, which I’d only ever heard about. The Spring Training games hadn’t started yet, but the practices had, and guess who got us into the practice facility?

That year Tim wasn’t actually working for the Blue Jays, but was working for a consulting firm that was hired to do his job, and they hired him to do it. Oh, the business world! The only reason I bring this up is because that firm also picked up the contract to do the Tampa Bay Rays game entertainment at the same time. So Tim, who was old hat at running the Blue Jays game entertainment was stationed in Tampa for most of that season, remotely running the Jays as well. That ended up being the season where the Rays went to the World Series (with current Jays David Price and Dioner Navarro), only to lose in 5 games to the Philadelphia Phillies. Tim got an American League Championship ring for his troubles.

When we arrived there, the players were taking some batting practice, but looked like they were just finishing up. Random things that I remember seeing included Jerry Howarth, who is the radio play-by-play voice of the Blue Jays was saying some hellos to the players and coaches. It appeared as if he had just arrived in Florida, and watching him walk around and catch up with people after not seeing them all winter, wasn’t unlike the first day of school, and seeing all your friends at the end of summer break. I remember watching John McDonald taking ground ball after ground ball, while everyone else was standing around like practice was pretty much over, but this guy was putting in all this extra work. He had a reputation for being a phenomenal defender, and just having a peak at his work ethic confirmed how he got there. Hall of Famer Frank Thomas walked past us on the way to the locker room with his bag of bats, and other equipment. He gave us a nice smile and polite wave, which I thought was cool considering we might have been the only people standing around that nobody knew. That was because Tim was really busy. He’d gotten our passes and let us come in and have a look around, but then he had to do a couple of things. My wife and I just walked around and watched the players take turns hitting. We could totally hear all of their conversations. It was pretty fascinating. After a while, Tim came out and got us, and brought us into this room.

His boss, and a cameraman they liked to use were in a room shooting promos with ball players. They would be loosely scheduled to come in after a practice, and spend maybe 30 minutes answering some questions on camera, and perhaps shooting something for one of their sponsors. Tim had to head out because most of his day’s work was to take place at the Rays practice facility, but he introduced us to his co-workers, and asked them to take care of us, and we would meet up later for dinner. So we sat in this room and waited for a few minutes. Tim’s co-workers chatted with us and explained what they did, and we waited for a ballplayer to show up. Every day they would do this, and for the most part the guys dreaded coming in for these interviews. After practicing for several hours, most of them wanted to take naps, or play golf, or who knows what. In walks Scott Rolen.

Scott Rolen was a former All-Star 3rd basemen, who’s best days were behind him, but he was still quite a good player. He was in a crusty mood, so it got real for us right away. Our job was to sit in the background like flies on the wall. The ball players didn’t know who we were. They must have assumed that we worked with them. We’d shake hands as introductions were made. Scott Rolen made it fairly clear that he didn’t want to be there, and he had a long drive back to where he was staying and all sorts of other piss and vinegar. Deb, who was running the shoot wasn’t really one to back down, and showed a little sass when she got her chance. I think Scott liked that, and kind of backed down a bit. It was interesting to see him changeover from spoiled ballplayer to reasonable family man as he sort of realized he hadn’t been too gracious when he walked in. He tried to explain his behaviour, and told us he hadn’t eaten yet, and he has young kids at home that he really wanted to go see, and knowing that there was work here to be done, he decided to ‘play ball’. His interview answers proved him to be a fairly humble guy who didn’t like talking about himself. He was sort of uncomfortable through the entire process. Once that was done, he had to do a couple of ‘action shots’. Like slowly swinging a bat, or making a throw. When they needed him to throw a baseball, they ran into a technical issue. Where was he going to throw this ball? He made the motion of throwing, and hung on to the ball, but it didn’t look good. He needed to actually let go of the ball for the shot to work. If he threw it at the wall, it would make a loud sound, and possibly ricochet off some expensive camera equipment. If someone had a glove, they could catch it, but the only person that had a glove was Scott Rolen. He offered his glove, but the shot would look ridiculous if he wasn’t wearing it. So I finally (meekly) asked Deb if she would like me to stand in front of the wall, and catch the ball? She asked if I would be able to do that without a glove. Scott also seemed concerned. I’d played some baseball growing up. I certainly didn’t feel comfortable talking about that in front of a Major League Baseball Player, but I assured them that if he didn’t whip it hard, that there’s a good chance I would be able to catch it. So after a couple of warm up tosses, we shot that sequence, and it went off perfectly. I didn’t drop the ball, which made me feel useful, and not so bad about basically showing up at someone’s workplace and watching them work. Soon enough, the segment was over, and Scott Rolen left the building a far nicer seeming man, then when he arrived.

“Alex Rios is coming, do you want to stay for another one?” I looked at my wife thinking, man its past lunchtime, and if I’m hungry (with a much bigger reservoir to store food), then she’s gotta be starving, but she probably was recognizing that we were in an extremely unique position at the moment, and said she’d like to stay. This was becoming the most interesting day of my Blue Jay fandom. Periodically people like Pat Hentgen would peek their heads in the door to see if there was time for them. There was a schedule, but a lot of guys just showed up when they felt like it, making for really long, or really short days depending on the shoot. When Alex Rios came in, there couldn’t have been a more stark contrast between personalities. Rios at the time was probably 24. He was a good-looking, happy-go-lucky, extremely talented baseball player who seemed perpetually happy, and was totally easy to deal with. A young female Jays staffer came in before we got started, and wanted to catch up with him about how his winter was. It was a flirty ordeal. I’m not sure what her job was, but she was clearly smitten. Some of us rolled our eyes a few times. Once it got going, it was interrupted again. Vernon Wells came in because he and Alex were supposed to do a quick promo shot together for one of the sponsors. Vernon would not shut up about his tee time, but otherwise was in good spirits. My main memory of their shoot together was that Alex was at least 5 inches taller, and they made Vernon stand on a box. They had fun with it, but you’d never know that if you weren’t there. Once Vernon was gone, Alex had to get into his interview portion. He struggled with it a bit. He is Puerto Rican, and I think he felt a little insecure about his accent. He messed up the line “My name is Alex Rios” so many times it got kind of awkward. Then to make light of it, and maybe to get his frustrations out a bit, he lit us up with “I am ALEX MUTHERFUCKIN RIOS!!!!!!!!!!” We died. He wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but seemed like a super nice guy. Several years later, my wife and I are always quick with an Alex Rios impression. The joke is totally lost on anyone who wasn’t there.

As much fun as we were having, we had to leave finally. We were so hungry. It was almost 3 and we hadn’t eaten lunch. The story should end here, but I have one more thing to add, which isn’t about the Jays as much as it’s about me being a loser. We went to a restaurant called Carrabba’s which I now know to be a chain, but it was the first one I’d ever seen. I’m reading the menu, and see a dish called the Chicken Bryan which is like a chicken breast with a lemon butter wine sauce topped with goat cheese. Being Canadian, and having learned some French, I try to pronounce things properly when possible. I don’t speak Spanish, but I can pronounce the dishes in a Mexican restaurant. This was an upscale-ish Italian restaurant, so when I ordered it, I took a shot that it was pronounced Bree-yun, and I said that to the waitress, she gave me the blankest of stares, proceeded to take a few open mouthed chews of her gum (like only a waitress in a diner should be allowed to do), and said in a perfect Florida accent, “Yah mean Chicken Bryan??? (pronounced Brian)”. I was like “Yeah…. that”.


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