Results tagged ‘ Blue Jays ’

TP10: 10 Questions With…

…Holly Purdon, Manager of Player Relations & Fan Loyalty

Off the field, the majority of the Toronto Blue Jays have just as hectic a schedule as they do while preparing and playing the better part of 162 games during the regular season. From the time Spring Training begins in March, players focus on their game and training to make sure their performance is at the level they’re capable of, so when appearances and events are added to the mix, you can only imagine how much busier the players become. That’s where Holly Purdon, Manager of Player Relations and Fan Loyalty comes in. Having been around the Jays since 2003 Holly has spent a considerable amount of time getting to know every player and their families, as she coordinates their schedules, ensuring they’re at the right place at the right time. In addition to the players, Holly plays an key role in the lives of committed and true Blue Jays fans as the Manager of Fan Loyalty. I had the chance to chat with Holly after the first homestand of the season to discuss her role with the club and her day-to-day life during the season.

Below: Holly Purdon and Intern, Chris Traynor
Holly.JPG


Megan Robinson: How long have you been the Manager of Player Relations and Fan Loyalty?

Holly Purdon: I actually just assumed the role last Fall (November 2009). Prior to this role, I had been the Manager, Community Relations for a few years, Coordinator Community Relations prior to that and began with the Club as the Community Relations Intern right out of University in April 2003.

MR: Wow, so you’ve been around the Jays Organization a long time. What is your main objective as the Manager of Player Relations?

HP: The Player Relations component of my job is really threefold as I also assist in facilitating programs and requests for our Blue Jays Alumni and our Player’s Family Programming… so for example: Alumni Weekend, the Lady Jays Food Drive, etc. I would say that my main objective is to uphold respect for all parties involved (whether it be their schedule, requirements, etc.) while facilitating and creating opportunities that provide a clear line of communication between our Players and Alumni with the Organization, our Staff, our Partners, our Fans and our Community.

MR: They definitely keep you busy. Have there ever been any crazy, Diva-like requests from Players or Wives (without naming names)?
 
HP: HA. You would think so, but I can’t say that I’ve actually had any requests that would be considered ‘diva-like’. There have definitely been some interesting requests but I think that is more a reflection of the interests and personalities of our players who represent such an array of regions from, primarily, across North America – but by no means anything we couldn’t handle. I think one of the cutest requests I received this year was when I was down at Spring Training and asked some of the player’s children what kind of snacks they would like for their lounge here at Rogers Centre. Their response: “Canadian” Iced Tea.

MR: Okay, so aside from taking their requests, you’ve probably witnessed a lot of players give back to the community and to fans. Can you recall the nicest or most notable thing you’ve ever witnessed a Blue Jay player do off the field?

HP: That is a tough one. We have so many amazing players that take the time to go out of their way for others once off the playing field. It is very difficult to hear our players being ridiculed at times for their lack of emotion or community involvement when I’m aware of some of the great work that they do. With the marathon of what is the Major League baseball schedule it obviously does not permit for a lot of ‘free’ time between games, workouts, travel and time with their own families – but just because it may not be headline news, doesn’t mean our players are not out when they can be and making a difference. Many of them prefer to do so out of the lights of the camera. To name just a couple of the things that some of our players are doing that has even further raised the amount of respect that I have for them, here’s two examples off the top of my head. John McDonald – What can I say? He’s one of the most popular Blue Jays for a reason. One of the nicest men I’ve ever met, John repeatedly goes out of his way to ensure that he can help put a smile on someone else’s face. John has met so many children here at the ballpark through the various Wish Granting organizations in the city – but there are many that he continues to communicate with outside of the game. He emails and calls to check-up on them, invites them back to the ballpark as his guests and he has even taken the time to drive his family North of Toronto to see one such child participate in his own baseball game. Vernon Wells – For all of the struggles he has had the previous couple of seasons – and this year seem to be gone; knock on wood – Vernon has been doing some amazing work in the community both here and back home in Texas through his new charitable organization, the Vernon Wells Perfect 10 Foundation. Just a couple of weeks ago the Foundation broke ground on their first major project which will be two buildings that will house underprivileged families, specifically, to help single mothers in need. Throughout his tenure as a Blue Jay, Wells has also served as the Honourary Commissioner of the Jays Care Foundation Rookie League Program which is funded by a portion of Wells’ $1M donation to the Foundation.

MR: Explain your role as the Manager of Fan Loyalty.

HP: The Fan Loyalty component of my role is actually quite complex and I’m looking forward to this new role and the challenge that it presents. Essentially, I need to understand exactly ‘who’ is a Blue Jays fan. Their interests, likes and dislikes, what makes them happy, sad – maybe mad;  their depth of knowledge of the game of baseball and if it extends to our active roster or right through the players in our minor league system, and so much more. It’s about educating our fans and community about the game of baseball and the Blue Jays and understanding how our fans and the community need and want these messages relayed to them. All of this information is important to building what is otherwise known as our “Fan Club” and “Jr. Jays Club”. Finding ways to create new Blue Jays fans is one thing but ensuring that we keep these fans engaged, is another.

MR: I heard the Fan Club has changed this year. What’s different from previous years?

HP: The two most notables changes for this year’s Fan Club is the re-vamped Baseball 101 Sessions and the addition of the Fan Club Road Trip! On June 24th and August 26th we are going to be hosting Post-Game Baseball 101 Sessions in the HSBC ClubVIP here at the Stadium and invite Fan Club Members who can ask questions and  mingle with select Members from the Blue Jays team. The biggest addition to the line-up of Fan Club events is the Road Trip to Detroit at the end of July (July 24th – July 25th). It is at an additional cost but is an exclusive offer to official Fan Club Members only. We have a luxury coach bus that is scheduled to leave Rogers Centre early on the Saturday morning, with various pick-up locations on the Westbound 401 en route to Detroit, and then participants will get tickets to the game on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at Comerica Park to see the Jays play the Tigers. They will have one night accommodation and full breakfast Sunday m
orning and an opportunity to attend a Meet & Greet with a Blue Jays player while they’re in Detroit!

MR: That sounds like it would be a great weekend. Can anyone become a Fan Club Member and why should someone join?

HP: Definitely! Although, for fans that are 14 and under we do have our Jr. Jays Club which is catered a bit more to their needs and those of Mom & Dad’s. The Fan Club is there to provide our Fans with exclusive opportunities to get up close and personal with our players and, where the schedule permits, our alumni as well. Fan Club Members will have the opportunity to attend two autograph sessions with Blue Jays players, two pre-game Batting Practice visits, two Baseball 101 Sessions and the chance to participate in the Detroit Road Trip at the end of July. They will receive vouchers and discounts for concessions and merchandise here at Rogers Centre. They will also receive the new Fan Club E-Newsletter with up-to-date information on the team and the opportunity to submit questions that you have for some of your favourite players. Question is, if you’re a Blue Jays fan, why wouldn’t you join!?

MR: Managing Fan Loyalty, you’ve no doubt come across some passionate Jays fans. What has been the most memorable of them all?
 
HP: For sure – there are some very big supporters of the Blue Jays out there. If I had to name one though – I think the most memorable Jays fan that I had the pleasure of meeting was Amersia Thompson. She had such a kind soul and everyday was here at the ballpark to wave to the players as they arrived and then again as they left following the game. She had such a love for the game and this team. Haha… I smile when thinking about her and how much she inherently adopted aspects of my role as she would explain the players schedules and when they would be available/unavailable to other fans that surrounded her. Sadly, Amersia passed away in January 2008. To this day, friends and fans ensure that there are flowers always atop of the ramp to the parking garage where Amersia would stand to wave welcome and bid farewell to her beloved Blue Jays.

MR:  Describe a typical day during a home stand.

HP: In a nutshell, it starts early and ends late! A typical homestand day is definitely a long day but they are by far the most exciting; they’re what you spend the entire year working and preparing for. When I arrive in the morning – around 8-9am – I check my messages, look at the to-do lists for the day and spend the day planning out a variety of items related to our Fan Club and Jr. Jays Club programs. I ensure that my Intern Chris Traynor is equipped with resources he needs for the day. Chris has been a machine, keeping up to date with the Fan Club and Jr. Jays Club inquiries and I couldn’t do this without him! I double-check with co-workers in other Departments as to what upcoming ‘player needs’ they have so I know which player to speak with and about what. Mid-afternoon I head downstairs to deliver any memos or reminders to the players for upcoming appearances and meet with them about these requests until they are ready to go start their pre-game ‘BP’ [batting practice] at roughly 4:30pm. Following BP I bring players to and from autograph sessions and appearances that sometimes go until around 6:15pm. After that, it’s back down to the field to assist our Game Entertainment Crew in ensuring that we have the right players in the right places for any pre-game presentations, first pitches, etc. Once the game starts at 7pm our player’s families are usually in the building so I’m with them checking-in, answering any questions or updating them on any of the upcoming events that they are assisting with. Actually, you can watch for our Lady Jays assisting with the Jays Care Foundation Broadcast Auction this Monday, April 26th! Typically around 8pm I’m back at my desk trying to get caught up on some of the emails and calls I’ve missed since being away from my desk. I’m usually in my car on the way home about half an hour after the game ends, unless there is more player appearances or autograph sessions to take the players to post-game!

MR: Again, wow. That’s a really long day. Final question: what is your favourite Blue Jays moment?

HP: Growing up in Kingston, Ontario I never really was here at the ballpark in Toronto to witness some of the amazing moments in Blue Jays history. I will never forget my first year with the organization in 2003 and being at the game on September 27th when Roy Halladay recorded his 22 Win of the season; the atmosphere in the crowd was amazing. We just knew that he had to win the CY that year, and we all know now what happened.

The next time you consider the job of the Blue Jays remember the one person who coordinates the appearance and event schedules and day-to-day requests of all of the players. She works day in and day out to ensure all players are where they have to be and most importantly, that they are keeping up with appearances. Along with so many other people in the Jays organization, Holly Purdon plays a key role in the daily lives of most people involved in the club. Not only does she work year round to coordinate the season but she is especially dedicated for six months of the year, 162 regular season games, and 15 hours days during homestands but the most noticeable thing about her is that she does it all with a smile on her face. 

TP09: There’s no ‘I’ in Team

To be part of a team is to be a part of a group of people with one goal, one mind frame, or one task at hand. The age old (read: Aristotle-old) idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, stands true. Baseball, like most team sports, follows this thought and allows for every member of the team to contribute with their best efforts and come together. Recently, for those of you who have been following the start of the season as I have, you’ve witnessed a team that’s working to build a roster that can endure a season and compete in the Eastern Division while building for a successful future. Naturally the Jays remain a team, regardless of players sent down or called up from Triple-A, new additions to the active roster, deactivations due to injury, or poor game attendance due to the unfamiliarity fans have with such a young and new roster.

I’ve watched for the past two weeks as first baseman Lyle Overbay has struggled at the plate. People at games, on Twitter, and in person, commented and shared their opinions on how they believed it would just be easier to sit him until he could perform. Despite his streak (something he’s struggled with since the start of the regular season) the team and Cito Gaston, have supported Overbay and want to see him improve – for the team and for himself. Last week, Gaston mentioned that sitting Overbay was not an option and that he would remain in the lineup. Overbay commented the same day about feeling good in warm up and in the batting cage but simply couldn’t figure out what the issue was when it came time to perform during the game. He made no excuses for his slump and lack of performance at the plate and simply remarked that he was working daily at getting out of it, which I can imagine, is easier said than done.

Sunday, after the Jays were swept by the Angels and Overbay’s slump remained, five members of the Jays roster sat down to an autograph signing for Season Ticket holders, sporting Overbay jerseys backwards with his name and number on their chests. Shawn Marcum, Scott Downs, Ricky Romero, Vernon Wells, and Casey Janssen all proved that they believe in their teammate with the gesture. How many times have you seen teammates stick together like that? It goes to show what kind of team the Toronto Blue Jays really are and that they support their teammate – no doubt someone some players now call a friend – no matter what opinions other people (read: fans and journalists) have about his play. When I saw that, I recalled what it was like to be a part of a team myself in every sport that I’ve ever played. Win or lose, those people – your teammates – should support their one another, as every action affects every member of the team, for good or bad.

I was watching the game Monday night and simultaneously reading the comments and replies on Twitter (something that has become part of my newest game viewing routine). When Overbay stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the 2nd inning, the comments on Twitter from Jays fans were almost too predictable, some using sarcastic tones and others commenting on his recent slump. Well, low and behold, Overbay stepped up to the plate for the 0-1 pitch and smacked a double to left-field. The comments, though some remained sarcastic, flooded my Twitter home page with the news and as stated on the bluejays.com game recap, “Struggling first baseman Lyle Overbay showed signs of life by finishing 2-for-2 with two walks,” which was enough to alter the minds of tough critics, at least for the evening.

Now obviously being part of a team is not only supporting the struggling members of the roster, but with the Blue Jays, it’s a good example that has created a current buzz amongst fans and media. Though the Blue Jays are a professional team and a part of this city, fans often feel as though they are directly affected as part of the team as well. The commitment and emotion that coincides with sincere fandom is often times overbearing, however, if there’s one thing it is – it’s honest and I think that is what makes a true fan. When the team loses, the city loses, the fans lose, and the people feel it; we – this city, this nation – are a team and should support one another though thick and thin. Heck, we have the only (read: ONLY!!) Professional Baseball team in this country, so unless you don’t like baseball, why wouldn’t you?

The Jays are now 9-7 to start the season and have just ended their first homestand. Something I’ve thought about a lot recently is what it was like to experience Rogers Centre nearly full during the Home Opener. To see that many people out to support the team (who for the most part, is still unfamiliar to fans during this building stage) followed by nine games that poor attendance made headlines over the team’s performance was disheartening to say the least. Attendance and criticisms aside, the Jays will keep on playing and the organization will continue to grow. Being a part of a team is often not chosen – like a family – and maintains an unshakable faith and support system for one another. Despite their unfamiliarity to this city and to fans, the 2010 Toronto Blue Jays are a true team with a lot of character and personality; it’s only April and they’ve made that quite clear. 

TP08: Chatter Box – First Edition

I’ve come to the conclusion that the two most important
things in life are good friends and a good bullpen.  ~Bob Lemon, 1981

Since Jackie Robinson Day Thursday and a tough weekend against the Angels, quite a bit has happened in and around the Blue Jays club. A new edition to the team and trends setting in early on in the season, a response from Blue Jays President Paul Beeston to an article published in Chicago about baseball in Toronto, and the first Jr. Jays Saturday (a chance for young fans to take part in game day activities). Since it’s Monday, let me catch you up to speed.

Let’s Talk About Fred Lewis

The Outfielder made his MLB debut in 2006 in San Francisco and played in 326 games for the Giants. In his three seasons in San Francisco he made 931 plate appearances holding a batting average of .277 with 53 doubles, 16 triples, 16 home runs and recorded 34 stolen bases. Lewis was placed on the Disabled List earlier in the month for a strained oblique muscle and rehabilitated in the Pacific Coast League. Upon reactivation last Thursday April 15th he was traded to Toronto in return for Future Considerations to the Giants. The trade was made official late Thursday night by the Toronto Blue Jays.

According to Lewis, he’s looking forward to playing in Toronto despite the initial trouble he had crossing the boarder. Canadian Customs Officials did not believe the 29-year-old that he was in fact a professional baseball player who had just been traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. “It took me almost an hour [to clear customs],” said Lewis to a reporter quoted in an article on bluejays.com. “I had to find a website that had something to do with me in it and had to show them that. I had my passport there but that wasn’t enough. It was kind of a long day.”

After a day of traveling back to Mississippi before flying to Toronto Friday, Manager Cito Gaston chose to leave Lewis out of the lineup Friday. Saturday, Lewis did make a plate appearance at the bottom of the ninth, pinch-hitting for Catcher Jose Molina. Unfortunately he was unsuccessful; Lewis struck out swinging against Angels RHP Fernando Rodney in his plate debut for the Jays, Saturday.

However, Lewis started in left-field and batted first Sunday in the final game of the three-game series against the Angels. Lewis rectified first impressions when he doubled in the 3rd and promptly stole third base, marking the 35th time in his career he has successfully stolen a base. Though no run was scored and his other three at-bats were not as victorious for the Jays, the 3rd inning was a glimpse of Lewis’ potential.

No doubt it’s tough to up and move but he’s excited to go to bat for the Jays as often as possible. After the Jays were swept by the Angels over the weekend, despite a notable appearance from Ricky Romero on the mound Sunday, the Jays are looking to come back against the Royals who are in Toronto for a three-game series beginning tonight. Obviously, the signing of Fred Lewis will not be a key factor in the turnaround, but rather it will be a team effort and could aid the momentum to break the offensive trends that have been surfacing early on in the season.

Jays in Toronto: Here to stay for good, as confirmed by Jays President Paul Beeston

Twitter had never seen such an outcry from angry Blue Jay fans over the past weekend, after an article was published in a Chicago newspaper stating that due to a multitude of factors (according to this particular writer) including poor attendance after the Home Opener in Toronto, that the MLB did not belong in Toronto or in Canada for that matter. Game attendance decreases naturally after the Home Opener which makes sense, but this writer had a lot more than just attendance to comment about. Confused fans on Twitter took to their updates to express their feelings on the aforementioned article though the fire died down after about a day of responses and angry comments on the article, which by then, Toronto papers had picked up on and summarized for the city to see.

Blue Jays President Paul Beeston commented on the article and the thoughts of the writer Saturday, which promptly halted the discussion, “The Blue Jays will be in Toronto longer than the writer will work for his paper.” That was the end of that. If you haven’t been out to a game yet, you should really go – there’s nothing quite like live baseball on a Saturday afternoon and here’s a fun fact: The roof on Rogers Centre was open last Thursday night (April 15th, 2010), which set a new record for the earliest date the roof has ever been open. The previous date was April 16th, 2002. You know what that means? Spring is in the air, the Jays are 13 games into their season, and summer baseball is soon to be thriving.

The First Jr. Jays Saturday of the 2010 Season

I tried to recall what it was like going to baseball games as a kid and only vaguely remembered a few visits to Rogers Centre (then SkyDome). This past Saturday marked the first Saturday in which kids had the opportunity to participate in aspects of the game including the starting lineup and the in-game announcer. If I could tell you how many times I said “Awww” in regards to one of the kids – that would be remarkable – because unfortunately it happened so often that I quickly lost count. Kids aged five to ten were selected randomly prior to the game Saturday and given a spot in the starting lineup, where they had the chance to run on the field alongside a Jays player in the starting lineup.

I don’t think I’ve ever met smarter kids who told me about why they didn’t like certain players no longer with the team and how they got traded, how many home runs Vernon Wells has hit or when Aaron Hill will be back. It’s remarkable to speak to kids who are so knowledgeable because I often forget how much information they can retain, like I did at their age. I quickly made friends with Jarrett, 6, and Crystal, 5, who were both jumping up and down with excitement over the chance to simply run on the field. It doesn’t seem like a big deal to some, but to them, it was huge. I captured some of the best moments of the afternoon, so take a peek at the pictures below but watch the video of the starting lineup [click here]. I promise, it will make you smile.

jr. JaysSix-year-old Jarrett is greeted by Members of JForce
Thumbnail image for jarrett.jpgAll 10 Jr. Jays for April 17th, 2010 – Watch the video for introductions
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Ten-year-old Stephen poses with ACE before the lineups are announced
DSC02114.JPGDuring the Anthem, Alex Gonzalez stands with ACE and the Jr. Jays
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TP07: The Number Forty-Two

The way I figured it, I was even with baseball and

baseball with me. The game had done much for me, and I had done much for
it.
– Jackie Robinson

Baseball fans alike associate specific numbers with players, records,
and history within the game. Today marks an especially significant
anniversary in baseball history and is being recognized league wide. 63
years ago today, Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson made his Major League
Baseball debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers breaking the colour barrier as a
player in the league wearing the number 42. Between 1945 and 1966
Robinson made baseball history recording a total of 14 firsts, as he
continued to break colour barriers throughout his career.

Blue Jays Manager Cito Gaston was the first African American Manager to
win a World Series when the Toronto Blue Jays won in 1992 and the first
to win back-to-back Championships when the Blue Jays won the World
Series in 1993. Gaston returned to the Jays in 2008 is
currently managing for his last season with Toronto. Members of the 2010
Jays roster were asked what Jackie Robinson Day meant to each of them
as a player this season. As Gaston also holds a first in baseball history, he made note in his response, to the role which the accomplishments and achievements of
Jackie Robinson played in his career in the league. 

“Mr. Robinson is a great man as far as I’m concerned. He gave minorities
a chance to excel and also move up in the organization as far as being
managers, coaches, and general managers,” said Gaston, in a video on
bluejays.com. “We owe him a lot as we’ll be pleased to celebrate that
day in Toronto.”

As today marks such a milestone in league history, MLB has mandated that
all players, coaches, and umpires wear the #42 in all games played across the league today to celebrate and honour Jackie Robinson for all of his
achievements that began 63 years ago. The Toronto
Blue Jays host the Chicago White Sox in the final game of a four-game
series at Rogers Centre tonight at 7:07. Both teams will wear
#42 on their jerseys, in recognition of the Hall of Famer.
For more about Jackie Robinson Day and what it means to the Toronto Blue
Jays players click
here
.

TP06: Home Opener in Review

You owe it to yourself to be the best you can possibly be – in baseball
and in life.
Pete Rose

After all is said and done, the first experience of a Home Opener while working for a Major League team will no doubt surpass the majority of my baseball game memories. There was so much that happened throughout the day that recalling everything would be a daunting task, making me grateful for the photo log I kept, capturing all of the best moments. Words are problematic at times; often, the more you try to convey your thoughts and reactions using an elaborate description, you fall short of doing the lone task you set out to do: allowing an audience to tap into your exact feelings and emotions by revisiting a specific moment in time. So, forgive me if it’s difficult to sum up the entirety of the day; so many words are appropriate but none provide adequate justice.

For a week prior to the Home Opener, I observed and assisted (where required) as the field was constructed, the office staff planned and organized the pre-game ceremonies, Rogers Centre was set-up and prepared for the next six months and the Toronto Blue Jays were on a five-game winning streak. The pitching mound that had been in its preliminary stages my first day on the job, had been worked on and shaped by grounds crew to meet league regulations. Olympians and Paralympians were confirmed, jerseys were ordered, media coverage highlighted Spring Training and forecasted 2010, ACE cleaned up for the beginning of another new season, JForce rehearsed and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. With everything that goes into the first home game of a season, fans only witness a tiny glimpse of the preparations for a few hours during the night, but it’s everything that ensued prior to gate opening, that allows the night to go accordingly as its seen and televised nationally.

You could tell it was the Home Opener for a multitude of reasons but most noticeably because Rogers Centre was energetic from the first moments of the day. Contagious smiles, a buzz about the building and employees wishing one another a “Happy Home Opener.” I overheard a co-worker proclaiming to another in the office, “there are only three reasons why I dress up; my birthday, New Years and the Home Opener.” The suits, shined shoes and fresh haircuts exhibited that point and everyone was around the building was eager for game time. The Home Opener is an annual chance on a municipal, provincial, and national stage to showcase the franchise and their efforts to fans at the commencement of the new season. It also inadvertently acts as proof that this city – the only major league baseball city north of the US boarder – is adamant about baseball in this country.

The digital narrative I posted acts as a photographic play-by-play of the Home Opener encompassing the 48-hour span in which the day was set-up, rehearsed, and executed. The entire day is a blur but what exists in my memories a couple days after the big night, are fragments of reactions and thoughts that I endured throughout that time frame. A few moments in particular are vivid in my mind and it’s as though I can put myself back in that precise moment every time I recall that memory, reliving every step.

The minute I stepped out of the car Monday morning, I began the day with so much energy and excitement for what was approaching. That reaction to the Home Opener remained and grew throughout the day. I had the opportunity to chat with fans and members of the media as well as Olympic and Paralympic athletes, who for the most part, had never seen a game of baseball, but the best moment by far, was towards the end of the pre-game ceremonies almost immediately before the first pitch. The drum line and JForce lined centre field with the armed forces on either side holding flags representative of Canada and the US; thirteen Canadian Olympic and Paralympic medalists stood tall behind the pitching mound, wearing their medals with pride in a new place full of passion and pride and both teams, stood on the field for the national anthems after the team introductions. It was that moment, right before the field cleared for the commencement of the game, that time stood still, even if it’s only in my memories. In a split second, that moment had passed, the field had cleared and the first pitch was thrown. Needless to say, I can begin to describe it, but words don’t do it nearly enough justice.

I’m positive that all 46,321 fans in attendance would agree that if there’s anything you should experience in Toronto, it’s a Home Opener. There’s expectation and determination with the hope of success riding on this season and if the Home Opener was any indication of the support that the Jays have behind them, this team will no doubt prove what they’re capable of in the upcoming months.

TP05: 2010 Home Opener – A Digital Narrative

Ladies and Gentlemen, today is the day. It’s what baseball in this city
lives for: it’s that moment; a new season with new hope. It’s the hustle
and heart that the Toronto Blue Jays bring to a national stage. They’re
not only the team of Toronto but the team of the entire country. Home
Opener isn’t about one day though, it’s about the process which it takes
to arrive at that day. For months and weeks leading up to tonight’s
first pitch, the Toronto Blue Jays staff work off the field to make sure
everything it set to start the season off in the best way possible.

In
order for you to be begin to comprehend the daunting task of creating a
Home Opener, I’ll be taking photos throughout rehearsal and during the day. I’ll be updating as
frequently as possible with photos as they happen, so stay tuned. [EDITORS NOTE: Click on photos to enlarge]

EDIT 1: Rehearsal: April 11th, 2010 6:00pm

View from Rogers Centre Pressbox
View from the Rogers Centre Press Box Tom Farrell’s Grounds Crew making last minute changes to the mound
Grounds Crew Hard at Work on the MoundImagine looking up at 50,000 Fans from Centre Field? Vernon Wells will tonight.View from Centre Field

JForce rehearsing their entrance with the St. Michael’s Drum Line

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JForce needed a substitute member, so guess who filled in?

Fill In

View from the 500 Level, otherwise known as Party Central
From 500sEven after a long day, I’m just so happy to be there.
Long Day...9:56pm – 24 hours from now, it won’t be nearly as calm…
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Edit 2: Morning of the Home Opener: April 12th, 2010 11:10am

It’s a beautiful day for baseball in TorontoDSC01974.JPGEdit 3: Home Opener Midday Photo Op: April 12th, 2010 12:20pm

Can you tell we’re excited around here? These aren’t vegan, for the record.
Thumbnail image for Even the cookies are excitedMarking the most exciting week in baseball in Toronto behind the plate
Fresh Paint

Fresh paint for a fresh season; lines and bases go on the field

Wet Paint

Jays training staff take a test run around the bases
Training Staff TestingTaking things in before the madness begins
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Visitors Dugout

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Last minute maintenance and a view from behind home plate

From behind home plate

The home of Lyle Overbay: 1st base

The home of Lyle Overbay

EDIT 4: Home Opener Batting Practice: April 12th, 2010 3:50pm

The White Sox are in the building
soxBatting Practice set up on the field
bp set upBaseball Media starting to arrive in the press box
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Blue Jays Intern Army suited up for Home Opener
DSC02005.JPG…and again, looking like like a Happy [Jays] Family
intern army
EDIT 5: Post Home-Opener and Final Update: April 12th, 2010 10:55pm

Blue Jays testing out the new turf before BP
DSC02011.JPGChatting with Mr. Jamie Campbell in the Jays DugoutDSC02018.JPG

Fans taking in Jays Batting Practice

DSC02020.JPGThirteen Olympians made their way to the field for media
Thumbnail image for DSC02022.JPGLine-ups beginning outside at 5:30 for hot dogs
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Fans getting into the spirit of the pre-game festivities
Thumbnail image for DSC02041.JPGAlex Bilodeau and his Olympic Gold Medal with Jamie Campbell
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Alex Bilodeau posing for photos with young fans.

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Alex Bilodeau, right before we tossed a ball around
DSC02048.JPGCentre Field: 6:35pm
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Recognizing thirteen Olympic Medalists – the fans were on their feetDSC02054.JPG
 Daughter of Olympian Lyndon Rush, singing the Canadian Anthem from the Sox dugout

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Teams line up for the ceremonial first pitch

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ACE of course, loves gold.
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5th Inning

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 Caught the 8th and 9th in the stands. There’s nothing like a full house

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And so, 13 Olympians, T-Shirts, Interviews, and 11 Innings later: Happy Home Opener.

TP04: 10 Questions With…

…Tom Farrell, Rogers Centre Head Grounds Keeper

If
you’ve
ever wondered about how the field at Rogers Centre is maintained
throughout the
lengthy season and 81 home games, you’re not alone. I had the
opportunity to
sit down and chat with Tom Farrell, the Head Grounds Keeper at Rogers
Centre
the day before the 2010 Home Opener. In the off-season the Rogers Centre
installed a new turf system for the season and with that change, a lot
of areas
have been effected. Based on ten questions, I discovered more about
Tom’s
position and what the daily tasks and objectives of the Grounds Crew are
to
ensure the best kept infield for the Blue Jays from April to September.

Tom Farrell

 

Megan Robinson: How long have you held this
position with the Blue Jays and Rogers Centre?

Tom Farrell: I’ve been supervising since 1994
when I took over for the then, Head Grounds Keeper, who unfortunately
passed
away from cancer at a very young age. I was asked to take over interim
until
they could find a replacement. My career goal was to attend the Ontario
College
of Art but when I was asked if I would take over temporarily, I did that
for a
few years. I applied and was accepted to
OCA (now OCAE) and was about to submit
payment for my first classes when I was offered the job full-time. It
was a job
I loved and a very rare opportunity to be a Head Grounds Keeper so I
took it
and haven’t looked back since.


MR:

As Head Grounds Keeper, what is the
main objective for the dirt and baseball operations ground crew staff?

TF:
Our main objective is to make sure
the playing field is to Major League Baseball specifications. On a daily
basis
we’ll come in and maintain all the dirt areas which include the bases,
home
plate, pitching mound and the bullpens along with our other
responsibilities of
setting up and tearing down all batting practices. So, pretty much
anything
that goes on the field that’s baseball is what we’re responsible for.
There are
two crews that work on the field – there’s a conversion crew that does
the turf
and then there’s the grounds crew, which are my guys. We just
concentrate on
the dirt areas and bullpens.

MR:
Currently we’re 25 hours and
counting away from the 2010 Home Opener – How have you been preparing
for that?

TF:
Well, right now we are making
corrections based on the fact that we have a new turf system. The
previous turf
that we had was a palate system, so the turf was on trays. The thickness
of the
tray system was greater than it is with the [new] roll system. With the
new
roll system, the turf is rolled out almost like you would lay down
carpet in
large rolls and therefore it’s thinner. As a result, we’ve had to lower
our
pitching rubber and our home plate. So, this close to opening day and
we’re
currently just getting all of our levels to the right height.

MR:
Once Home Opener has passed, what
is a typical game day like for you?

TF:
On a typical game day, we would
start at
11am and the first thing we
would do is break into groups. The
first group would go and work on the dirt areas, where each guy has a
specific
area which they’re responsible for and the other group would work on
setting up
all the batting practice equipment. What people don’t realize is the
number of
hours we spend grooming and maintaining the dirt areas, repairing holes
from
the night before, watering, raking, and leveling. So, we’ll work from
11am till 2pm when the visiting team
will come
out for extra hitting. If the visiting team doesn’t come out at
2pm, we’ll continue our work
until
3pm which is approximately
when the
home team comes out for extra batting.

 

MR:
You mentioned a little bit about
the pitching mound, but explain the technology behind the mound.

TF:
The pitching mound is quite
remarkable; it’s a simple technology but what it does is outstanding.
Basically, the mound is made up of clay which is similar to most
baseball parks
in the Major League. What’s different is that the clay is built on a
fibreglass
dish that was manufactured by a local yacht company. This fibreglass
dish is
essentially a boat – for lack of a better term – and below the pitching
mound
is a deep well, so what happens when we want to bring the mound up for
baseball, this well is filled with water. As the mound floats up to the
surface, there are five locking pins that lock into place. Then the
water drains
out and the mound rests on those locking lugs. We fill in the remainder
of the
perimeter of the mound with steel channel plates and we cover those
plates up
with clay. When we’re done, it looks like that mound is always there and
to
take it out, it’s just the reverse. It’s really a remarkable system and
it’s
been here since ’89 and I’ve been here we’ve never seen any problems
with it.

 

MR:
With all the rules and regulations
that the league mandates, how to you go about ensuring all of those
rules are met
here at Rogers Centre?

TF: There
are
multiple rules that we have to follow that are set out in the official
rulebook
which they send me every year. Also, MLB will let me know right away if
there
are any updates. For example, the distance that the mound has to be from
home
plate is 60-feet-six-inches, which is the same for every team in the
league.

 

MR:
With all the rules and regulations
and constant maintenance to the field, a lot of work must be done. How
many
people makeup the grounds crew?

TF:
Currently we have 15 part-time
grounds keepers and as of now I’m the only full-time grounds keeper. The
rest
of the crew works mostly in the summer time with the exception of my
assistant,
who works all year round with me. We’ll have a couple extra grounds
keepers on
to help out over the winter but for the most part they’re all part-time
and
they work over the summer.  

 

MR:
The grounds keepers who are part of
the 5th inning cleanup are boasted as the “Quickest in the
Majors” –
is there any specific training or necessary preparations that they do to
prepare for that?

TF:
No. When our grounds keepers are
interviewed they’re asked if there is anything that would prevent them
from
running the distances; they need to run, they have to do it every day
and it’s
approximately 60-seconds to clean up. So they’ll run out from the
left-field
corner, come out to the base areas, do their jobs – switching out the
base with
a new one, sweeping loose dirt back onto the dirt area from the turf,
and
leveling out the dirt which they do with a toothless rake – we almost
always do
it in under a minute.

 

MR:
Walk me through the duties of the
grounds crew post-game.

TF:
Well, post-game we’ll come out and
start closing out the field. What that involves is raking the dirt
areas, sweeping
the base area, removing the top dressing off the mound and the same
thing with
home plate- not all parks do that but we find we can water it and work
on it
better when we remove all the loose dirt. It’s mostly just closing the
field
off and getting it prepared to do all the filling of the holes the next
day.

MR:
Finally, what’s your favourite Blue
Jays memory?

TF:
My favourite Blue Jays memory would
have to be the ’93 World Series Joe Carter home run. Back then I was a
part-time grounds keeper and I was sitting on the field waiting for the
game to
end. Every one of us had an objective: by the end of
the game
we had to secure a piece of equipment, for fear that if fans ran on the
field
they would remove some of the stuff. My personal objective was to
remove
third base and make sure it was kept safe. So I was sitting on the warning track
down
the left-field side of the field and Joe Carter hit that home run. I ran
out to
grab the base and I almost took it before he rounded third. Sometimes on
the
highlights you can see a glimpse of a person standing in the background
as Joe
Carter rounds third, and that’s me – almost taking third base before Joe
Carter
rounded it.

Rogers Centre Field in Numbers

42
– The record time in seconds it took for the 5th
inning clean-up at a game in 1991

9
The number of crew used during the 5th
inning clean-up

106
– The approximate number of turf
rolls used to cover the field

170
– The length in feet, of the
longest roll of turf used which is placed at centre field

16
– The number of hours it takes to build the pitching
mound

2,700 – The amount of dirt in pounds,
used to cover all three bases

60.6 – The set distance, in feet, from
the pitching mound to home plate as per MLB

 “10 Questions with…” will appear as
an additional weekly feature to the Triple Play blog.

TP01: Spring Training Report & Home Opener Countdown

“People
ask me what I do in the winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I
do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” – Rogers
Hornsby

The Toronto Blue Jays will be making their way to Texas in
six days from today to start to the 2010 Season against the Rangers. As you
should know, the Home Opener is also approaching and is an exciting thirteen
days or 312 hours away. Are you ready for baseball season? I definitely am. So
far this season there hasn’t been a lot of buzz surrounding the Spring
Training Team. Quite a few people I’ve spoken to don’t have a clue about the
team that they’ll be watching for the next six months. After Roy Halladay
departed for Philly, there hasn’t been any blockbuster trades in the news, but
the key to this season, is that the Jays are working with the talent they have
to grow and continue building the franchise. There are a
couple notable mentions and new faces to the roster this season that you may
or may not have heard about, so let me briefly catch you up to speed.

As of today, March 30th, 2010 the Blue Jays (10-11) are only 6.0 games
behind the top team in the Grapefruit League, the Tampa Bay Rays (18-7).
Spring Training is a chance to forecast the rest of the season, not over-doing
it but making sure the right choices are made early on in the year. In what
will be Cito Gaston’s last year as Manager for the team, there is a current
focus to secure the final pitching rotation, but that takes time. With
injuries and various possibilities, choosing the best starters will foreshadow
the success of the team on the mound this season.

Let’s chat about
Dana Eveland. Eveland is a left-handed pitcher, acquired by the Blue Jays back
in early February of this year from the Oakland Athletics. Eveland, who’s
recorded 198 career strikeouts since his debut in 2005, has made six
appearances in Spring Training for the Jays, pitching 22 innings,
in hopes to have a regular spot in the pitching rotation (or at least the Jays
Bullpen). If chosen as a starter, Eveland would join 6-foot, 210 pound
left-handed pitcher Ricky Romero and right-handed pitcher, Shaun Marcum who
missed the entire 2009 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2008.
According to reports,
Marcum and Romero are
the only definitive selections for the starting rotation and the remaining
three spots will be filled by any combination of RHP Brandon Morrow, LHP Marc
Rzepczynski (ZEP-CHIN-SKI), LHP Brian Tallet, LHP Brett Cecil, or LHP Dana
Eveland.

In order for the Jays to be successful offensively in 2010,
they’ll require continued and consistent effort from second baseman Aaron Hill
and Left-Fielder/Designated-Hitter Adam Lind. In 2009, Hill was ranked first
among second-basemen in the league and recorded 36 home runs. Hill was also
awarded the Silver Slugger Award and was named the American League Comeback
Player of the Year. Lind, who made 587 plate appearances last season, recorded
97 runs and 35 home runs for the Jays. Center-Fielder Vernon Wells, who will
most likely remain with the Jays until 2014 (by contract), is back and ready
to go after a successful wrist surgery in the off-season. Though he suffered a
lot of pain last season, Wells made 630 plate appearances for the Jays and
recorded 84 runs.

It all seems to come down to expectation at this
point in the season with the hope and drive to surpass the training reports on
the team. In order to do so, these three players, along with the other members
of the active roster, will need to step-up to instill confidence within the
young members of the roster with the support and reliability from players who
have been around the league longer. In one of the videos on the team website,
a narrator makes the goal for the season very clear, in true Toronto form:


“This season, it’s about the name on the front of the jersey, not the
back.”

All this talk about the starting rotation is getting me really
excited to see the team in action. T-Minus 13 Days until the 2010 Jays Roster
makes their first appearance on the turf at the Rogers Center. Do you have
your tickets? No? Hm. You call yourself a fan? Do you want tickets? Not just
any tickets though..no, no, no. How would you like to treat a friend to the
Home Opener against the White Sox in style? I’m talking comfortable seats,
snacks and drinks and two hosts that will surely keep you entertained while
you wear your new Jays Hat and speak to Jays General Manager Alex Anthopolous
in a private box. Ahem. Excuse me, while I brush the dirt off your shoulders.

Well lucky for you Fancypants, you could have your friends fighting
for your attention and showering you with bribes and all you have to do is
enter to win. I also hope you have an opinion about the Jays, because the FAN
590’s Don Landry and Gord Stellick sure do. They’ll be the hosts of the box
while you and your buddy take in the first glimpse of a revitalized Jays team.

I interned at the FAN 590 for just over a year and a half and eight
months of that time was spent as an intern on the Morning show with Landry and
Stellick. Every morning, Monday to Friday last year, I started my work day at
5:00am assisting the producers on the show. Weekly I got to call (Read: wake
up from a deep slumber) Cito Gaston, take calls, do research and compile
information on the latest triumphs in sports for the guys. If you ever listen
to the show, you’ll hear two guys that really love what they do and have
various opinions on the sports teams in Toronto.

So, what are you
waiting for? Get a move on right now (click here)

Finally, last week was a big week and so is the upcoming one. You
should know already, after my brief introduction, that baseball has had a huge
impact on my life. I wish you could have seen the smile on my face when I
walked into Gate 3 of the Rogers Center to have my photo I.D. taken and given
a tour of the office I’d call home for the upcoming months. That day was a
blur and for someone who usually has an excellent memory (read: I don’t forget
much at all) I haven’t a clue who I met or what they do, only that I smiled a
lot and was so excited to meet everyone. It hit me the moment I left to go
back to school: I get to go to work every day at the Rogers Center and be
around the game I love all of the time. I really couldn’t imagine a better way
to spend my summer. For the first time, I would get my own space with my own
desk not to mention, for the only professional club in Canada. Cool, huh? I
bought myself a cookie (a vegan one) that day, because I was so excited. My
family has been adding to my Jays memorabilia collection this week, to
personalize my desk at the office. I’ve got a plaque with the 1992
Championship team on it and two autographed Blue Jays Hockey Sticks that were
given away to fans in the late 70s-early 80s at exhibition stadium. So you
know what that means? I’m now the proud caretaker of some family heirlooms.

I
officially start on opening day, so I’ll be posting regularly then and for
crying out loud, go get your Home Opener tickets, I don’t like excuses.

The First: An Introduction

When you think about the Blue Jays, what’s the first thought that comes to mind? My Toronto roots bring me back to summer afternoons in the mid-90’s sitting with my Papa listening to the games on his old radio outside or sitting on his lap watching them on T.V. He wore a denim Jays jacket and yelled at the TV set in his thick Scottish accent, which always made me laugh. The Jays to me are a part of this city, of my childhood, and a reflection of the way sports culture effects our lives every day. So the next time you think about the Jays, think about why you’re a fan or what it is that you love about the team, through the years and in the present.

With that, let me introduce myself! My name is Megan Robinson and I’m a baseball fan. It’s nice to meet you. I’m a Radio and Television Arts student at Ryerson University and will graduate next spring. I have interned around Toronto for the past five years in various media outlets having a chance to write, report, blog, interview, and really get a grasp on media and sports in Toronto. I grew up playing baseball and to this day, playing catch is one of my all-time favourite ways to pass the time. I started playing baseball when I was three years old at Corvette Park in Scarborough, Ontario. My uncle sponsored a team which his two sons, my two eldest cousins, played on. They needed a couple girls on the team to be co-ed and I was lucky enough one of them, using my black Rawlings glove with neon green stitching. I loved the in-field and played third base but at the age of three, got tired quickly and chose to sit on the base during the game. Little did I know, that would be my introduction to one of my favourite games. Since then, I’ve played in all kinds of leagues and on school teams and have quite a few memories to remember it all. I have watched and listened to baseball in a few other cities and there’s nothing quite like it. The sport itself has so much history behind it and brings people together for so many great reasons.

It’s simple: I love baseball.

I associate seasons with different aspects of the game: Spring is of course Spring Training – the hope and passion that enlivens the upcoming season is invaluable. It’s a fresh start and a chance once more to display talent and endure the season eager for October baseball; Summer reminds me of social butterflies – How many times have you caught up with an old friend at a baseball game, catching a glimpse of a few plays or doing the seventh-inning stretch all the while enjoying each others’ company with the ambient noises of baseball? Summer is fantastic for that, when the Rogers Centre is open and the city is illuminated at night or on a Sunday afternoon as the sun shines brightly over the first-base line; And of course, there’s Fall – October baseball is what the whole season comes down to. Most players start the beginning of the season with a clear vision of playoffs in mind. After all, they play to win and to win, most importantly, in the post-season. By late October when the leaves have fallen and the air becomes cooler, baseball is the last chance at summer before the snow falls in Canada but to all baseball players, October baseball is what they live for.

If you’re like me and see baseball as anything but a bore and look forward to the six month season then you’d understand why I want to be a baseball writer and work for a professional ball club. Mid-way through my first year at University my dreams of becoming solely a sports reporter shifted when I realized that the people who knew the game the best were the writers who spent their days at the field, getting to know the players and coaches and living every day looking for a fresh angle to say something about the team or a player. I decided a couple years ago that I wanted to learn professional sports inside and out and that every aspect of a club would be an asset to my writing and in turn my career in baseball or sports in general, so you can imagine my excitement when I got hired as an intern with the Blue Jays for the summer!

Getting hired was nerve wracking but I was excited throughout the process. I was initially selected for a phone interview which happened to be while I was on a family vacation in Mexico. After being given the green light, I had arranged that I would call Toronto from Mexico as I didn’t know how I would be accessible while out of the country. You’d think making a phone call to Canada from Mexico wouldn’t be hard, right? Wrong. After three days of looking for a phone that would accept my calling cards, I resorted to using reverse collect calling and after a few test calls finally managed to have the brief interview from my room. I had met my superiors while working at the FAN590 as an intern on the Morning Show last summer, so it was neat that they already had some idea of who I was and what I was about. I was contacted for a in-office interview the following week once I had returned from my seaside vacation and asked to prepare some ideas on contesting and promotions for the upcoming home opener (it’s a MONDAY, so the promotional concepts weren’t exactly limitless). Walking to the Rogers Centre for me is like putting my game face on. Every time I go there, as a fan or a reporter, I always travel the same way – through the Skywalk from Union station and slowly down the path, past the CN Tower. I wasn’t nervous going into the interview, I was eager to meet them and to answer their questions. It went well and I went off to leave the short-list in their hands to determine the successful candidate (read: the wait and see game is excruciating when you’re excited).
 
That was a Thursday so when a missed call and a voice mail from ‘BLUE JAYS’ appeared on my phone the following Tuesday, two days before I had expected to hear anything at all, I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I got it. I would be (officially) the Promotions Intern for the 2010 Season for the Toronto Blue Jays. A Pro ball club! The opportunity to learn this side of the business is going to be an amazing way to spend my summer and soak in as much as possible from the people around me on a daily basis.

When they asked me to blog I thought a lot about what I would want to say, every day for six months. How many people do you know that work for a professional team? I realized that the insight I would gain from the start to the end of the season was reason enough for a blog. Every day tasks and game day duties are all things that will be a part of my job this season and I’m excited to be able to share that with you! Since the blog is entitled Triple Play I will be sharing three major points of interest – Jays news, stories from around the league, or something that happened in my day. As well, weekly features and updates on the Jays Triple A team the Las Vegas 51s, interviews and videos as well as contests and current Jays Promotions will be part of Triple Play. Make sure you check in as often as you can because I’ll be posting daily entries and videos about my daily encounters and notable mentions.

 Stay tuned for my next post including my thoughts on the Grapefruit league and the Jays in Spring Training!