New York Yankees
Toronto Blue Jays
L: P. Hughes
W: R. Dickey
S: C. Janssen
The day started drearily with rain clouds forming overhead. When I arrived at the Rogers Centre those same clouds opened up as water fell from the sky. I stood in line anxiously hoping that the retractable roof would somehow remain open, but with every drop it seemed less and less likely.
Outside of the stadium there is a statue of Ted Rogers who serves as the namesake for the Toronto Blue Jays home park. I looked around to see if there were any other statues honoring players or managers from Jays past, but I could not find any. When I entered the ballpark, I continued to search in vain as I could not find any reference to the Blue Jays anywhere. I understand that this stadium is shared with the local CFL team, the Toronto Argonauts, but to ignore the legacy of the '92 and '93 teams is depressing. Yes there are a series of banners hanging high atop the stadium, but I did not see one mention of Joe Carter anywhere. The people of Canada deserve better.
Despite the lack of baseball history on the walls of the stadium, there is one installation that is completely unique to the Rogers Centre. There is a hotel inside the stadium with rooms that look directly onto the playing field. I asked some of the locals and found out that the price for a room with a stadium view ranges from $200-500 depending on if there is a game or not. I was honestly expecting to hear a much higher number. Those prices, while clearly not in my budget for this tour, are not much worse than a typical night in a metropolitan area like Toronto. If it were not for the lovely folks that I am staying with, I would be spending at least two to three hundred dollars a night to stay in the city. I may have to come back one day soon and book a room during a game day.
I walked around the concourse a bit and came across the standing room only section that used to be the home of the Windows Restaurant. For years, this restaurant sat just beyond the center field fence and was a magnet for home run balls to interrupt your mid-game meal. Now it serves as an open area for fans to get a great view of the action on the field.
Before I made my way to grab something to eat, I took a quick bathroom break. I mention this only to say that by the time I walked out of the bathroom, I noticed a little breeze running through the stadium. I rushed over to my seat and looked up and saw the blue sky above my head. The roof was opening!!! After all of my complaining this summer about the disdain I have for the retractable roof in baseball, the baseball Gods listened and gave me a gorgeous night to enjoy a ball game. It is amazing how quickly my mood changed. To quote my notes for the game “The roof is opened!!!! Yay!!!!” I will admit that I was a bit grumpy when I thought I would be watching one of my final games without feeling any fresh air on my face. The moment I saw the base of the CN Tower just outside the stadium, a smile came across my face that did not leave until the final out was recorded.
My routine for finding the right pregame meal has been to ask the locals what represents their stadium and their city. I have been talking to fans, ushers and the people at guest services. I asked ten different people what to eat at the Rogers Centre, and every single one of them told me that I had to try the top sirloin sandwich from King Club. The reason that I mentioned the number of people I asked, is that I was sure I was going to eat some poutine. Not one person recommended that I try the Canadian delicacy of french fries covered in gravy and cheese curds. I listened to the people and I ordered a steak sandwich from King Club. The people were correct.
The first thing that stood out to me about watching a game on foreign soil, is how the entire crowd sings along to “O Canada”. There are some singalong traditions in the states – yelling “Oh” in Baltimore, home of the “Braves” in Atlanta etc. - but there is nothing like hearing 35,000 plus people sing their National Anthem in unison. I did notice Jays charismatic utility infielder Munenori Kawasaki leading a couple of his teammates in a dance during the anthem, but it was all in good fun.
For the fifth time on my tour, one of the teams on the field was the New York Yankees. I was lucky enough to be in attendance for Alex Rodriguez's first game back in Chicago and today I was in the stands for Derek Jeter to make his triumphant return. Apparently I am good luck for injured Yankees. I am however not good luck for the Bronx Bombers win/loss record. Coming into today, the Yanks were 0-4 in games on my tour. R.A. Dickey and the Blue Jays made sure that the losing streak continued as they took the win in a fun and quick game. It was not all bad news for the Yankees however, as Rodriguez absolutely crushed his 650th career home run in the fifth inning.
During the game, I chatted with several of my seatmates about what it is like to have one team represent an entire country. Before my official 30-stadium tour began, I spent ten days in Tampa, Florida visiting ten different Grapefruit League stadiums. One of the stadiums I caught a game at was Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, Spring Training home of the Toronto Blue Jays. I spoke to the people sitting next to me at that game and found out that people will drive eight plus hours to watch live baseball in Canada. After losing the Montreal Expos in 2004, the Jays became the only game in town. After meeting such passionate people in Dunedin, I met a young couple in Toronto who were having a completely different experience. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to hear my interview with two people attending their first ever baseball game. It was an interesting look into what the baseball experience looks like to a complete outsider. Normally, like when I brought my brother-in-law to his first game earlier this season, there is at least one baseball fan who initiates bringing the non-fan to a game. This time it was two equally uninterested parties coming to a game they received free tickets to. The conversations we had throughout the game were fascinating.
Here comes the part of the posting that you already know is coming. We get Canadians, you are nice and welcoming to everyone. At every game that I have gone to this season, I have had wonderful interactions with my fellow seatmates. There are times when the folks in the surrounding rows jump in and out of the conversation, while other times it is just the person sitting directly next to me who wants to open up. At the Rogers Centre, every single person within earshot was warm, open and ready to chat. There were also several people who joined me in happily teaching the two rookie kids about what goes on at a baseball game. So congratulations Canada, for reinforcing your politeness stereotype. I am sure that it is all just an elaborate ruse that your country has concocted to lull the rest of us into a false sense of security; but I appreciate your national commitment to the bit.
What started as a dark and rainy day that made me more than a little grumpy, ended beautifully with the home team winning with the sky overhead. I have only two complaints about the Rogers Centre:
1. Please get rid of the AstroTurf.
2. If you can't put up a statue of the guy, how about just a painting of Joe Carter somewhere in the concourse.
Honoring your baseball past will not disrespect the Argonauts or anyone else who may use the same field. You are Canada's only baseball team, give them something more to be proud of.
Next up: Fenway Park
Game Time Temp: 72
First Pitch Time: 7:07 PM
First Pitch: David Clarkson
National Anthems: Kevin Dennis
Seventh Inning Stretch: OK Blue Jays
Total Pitches Thrown: 250
Total Hits: 14
Total Singles: 11
Total Doubles: 2
Total Triples: 0
Total Home Runs: 1
Total Walks: 7
Total Strike Outs: 19
Total Errors: 2
Game Time: 2:33
Attendance: 35,241 (71.5% full)
Home Plate Umpire: Jim Reynolds
Miles Traveled: 0 miles
Time in Car: 0 hours
Sleep Time: 8 hours 10 minutes
Bottles of Water: 5
Food Eaten: Grapes
Ballpark Food: Top Sirloin sandwich, ice cream helmet
Scoreboard Cap Game: Under Cap #2
Money spent on parking: $0
Money spent on ticket: $62.25
Cost of Program: $4.50
Money spent on food: $21.25
Total money spent on Merchandise: $23.48
Total Money spent at stadium: $106.98
Total Money spent today $106.98