Yesterday was opening day for Major League Baseball. Today is opening day for my beloved Toronto Blue Jays. I (of course) have other commitments this evening, and will miss it. My family as a unit is at a stage in our technological evolution has not yet gotten a PVR for our TV, but seem to be above having a VCR for recording things. Therefore I will not be watching the opener this evening. I usually don’t miss it.
For those readers of my blog that don’t know me personally, you may be unaware of the fact that I am a die-hard Toronto Blue Jays fan. I like to keep sports out of my blog, and just focus on rants and opinions, but trust when I say that I could easily write a ‘Blue Jay Blog’ every day (time permitting). I use approximately 85% of my brain to think about the Toronto Blue Jays, and allot only 15% for all other facets of my life, which makes me seem a lot dumber than I am. The truth is I’m smart as a whip about all things Toronto Blue Jay related.
The Blue Jays have been around since 1977. I’ve been around for slightly longer. I have witnessed either in person, on TV, or on the radio just about every meaningful moment in Blue Jays history. I’ve watched them when they sucked as an expansion team. I’ve watched them when they were a good young up and coming team. I’ve watched them when they were back to back World Series Champions. I’ve watched them when they were a bunch of has-beens, and most importantly I’ve watched them miss the playoffs 20 years in a row. My interest never waned. They have flirted with success since then, but mediocrity has been their steady girlfriend for many years.
Finally they had the ‘off-season of a life-time’, and acquired a whole bunch of really good players to augment what was already a bunch of good young players. Now they are finally looking like a team that could win a World Series. I’m so stoked that I can barely contain myself. I want this. I need this. I’m as faithful of a fan to this team as anybody to any team. Need proof? Here are some of my random Blue Jay memories.
I remember Jesse Barfield hitting a pinch hit Grand Slam home run in 1982 against the Red Sox. It was the first pinch hit Grand Slam in Blue Jay history. I was too young to know what that meant (it sounded like a way bigger deal than it was, but we were an expansion team, so not that much cool stuff had happened yet), but I spent the 80s loving Jesse Barfield. I’m pretty sure I cried when he got traded to the Yankees for Al Leiter in 1989. Al Leiter the pitching prospect who was better known for his blister problems than any major league success (although in fairness Al turned out to be a pretty good pitcher). That summer I was playing tennis with a friend at the neighborhood tennis courts, when we looked over and noticed that Tony Fernandez was playing on the court beside us. We both collected baseball cards at the time, and how awesome would it be if we could race home on our bikes, and find all of our Tony Fernandez cards, then ask for an autograph. We achieved speeds that would make Lance Armstrong consider doping (wait a minute….never mind). We got back just as they were finishing up, and I asked Tony Fernandez for an autograph. As he signed it, I asked him if he thought it sucked that they traded Jesse Barfield. He gave me one of those cliché ‘it’s tough to lose a friend’ type of answers, but if you read between the lines, he meant ‘yes!!!! it sucks!!!!!’ Later that summer Fred McGriff was signing autographs at a car dealership. I went with a friend, and we lined up. Even though they had said only one item per person, Fred signed all of my cards (3 or 4). While he was signing, I asked him to try to hit a home run for me that night (in hindsight, who does that??? It’s not like he was visiting me in a hospital), and he said he would try. He did in his first at bat. By the end of the following year, both he and Fernandez got traded for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar which is arguably the greatest roster move in the history of the Toronto Blue Jays, because those were the two key players in our back to back World Series teams. Not knowing that at the time, I was pretty pissed off that the only two players I’d met both got traded, so I stopped trying to meet players.
Other items to consider as I profess my love for the Toronto Blue Jays…..
My mother baked Garth Iorg cookies. In 1985 when the Jays won their first division title, one of the newspapers was doing a thing where they asked players for family recipes, and published them. Garth Iorg was a 3rd baseman who had a son that year born in Toronto who was Canada’s shortstop at the World Baseball Classic this spring. I’m sure they’d both be stunned to know that cookie recipe became a staple in my household growing up.
I remember the day that Dave Stieb (who was my favourite player ever!!!!) pitched a no-hitter. I was at work and my friend called me to try to tell me without actually telling me that Stieb was pitching a no-hitter. You see, it’s bad luck to talk about a no-hitter while it’s happening, so he would have made up some code language to alert me to what was happening without actually saying it. Then I had to phone home, and get my father to tape the rest of the game for me on the VCR (man… i could really use a VCR today).
– I have a Frank Thomas game worn Blue Jays jersey
– I was in the Skydome watching game 6 on the jumbotron when they won the 1992 World Series. We rushed the field after. It was awesome.
– My parents were in the Skydome watching game 5 live when they should have won the 1992 World Series. They lost and their car got towed. It was not awesome.
– I was at the last ever game at Exhibition Stadium and the first ever game at the Skydome.
– I drove to Chicago with friends in 1998 to see Dave Stieb in his 40s attempt a comeback, and it was his first start with the team in 7 years.
– I’ve been to a spring training game in Dunedin Florida, and a minor league game in Las Vegas.
– I’ve sat in the booth with the PA announcer during a game eating his peanuts.
– I’ve played bare-handed catch with Scott Rolen (long story).
– I have autographed baseballs signed by Dave Stieb and Paul Molitor (awesome)
– I have an autographed baseball signed by Greg Myers, and a game worn Jacob Brumfield jersey (huh??)
(A lot of the above wouldn’t have happened without the help of a good friend who had a lot of access)
All that and I’ve only ever been to one opening day that I can recall. Slash of Guns n’ Roses fame did the national anthems on his electric guitar. It’s the first time I’ve heard the Canadian national anthem actually sound better than the American national anthem (which just seems to be a better song). I found it on Youtube. Worth having a look if you can appreciate a good guitarist.
I could write about the Blue Jays, and how our lives have paralleled for hours, days, years…. I will stop here. I hope all of you enjoy the upcoming baseball season regardless who you cheer for.