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.
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of all, HAPPY SEASON OPENER! Today, my dear friends, is the day you’ve all
been waiting for: the 2010 baseball season has officially begun!
Right now, the
Blue Jays are in Arlington, Texas where they took on the Rangers for the first of three
contests this season. After a tough 5-4 loss this afternoon, the Jays will play
their next two games giving the Rangers a run for their money. I can feel it and despite the
loss, it’s hard not to be optimistic at this point in the season. In other
news, you know what that means? Less than one week until the Jays bring it back
to Toronto to showcase the 2010 Roster in the Home Opener next Monday against
the Chi-Sox. For those of you who haven’t had a chance to catch up with what
the Jays have done in the off season, I wanted to give you a little bit of an idea
of who you’d be seeing for the next six months. So,
let’s begin with the Opening Day starting lineup, as there has been a lot of
chatter about these guys already this season:
1. Jose Bautista, RF – Easily one of the best offensive performances
in Spring Training came from the 29 year old, right-hander. Most recently I
caught a clip of Bautista hitting a double off of Doc Halladay in the first match-up between
the Phillies and the Jays this season, and that was pretty awesome. Bautista
made 57 plate appearances for the Jays and led the Spring Training team in runs
(16), hits (25), and doubles (9). Bautista, who made his MLB debut in 2004 with
Baltimore, has been known as a utility player until this
season, earning a spot in right field.
2. Aaron Hill, 2B – The second baseman is now in his sixth season with
the Blue Jays and has only improved since joining the team. He was recognized
as the AL Comeback Player of the Year in the 2009 Season and was selected for the Silver Slugger Award as leading second baseman in the AL. Hill, who’s 28 years old, was the AL leading second baseman
in home runs (36), RBIs (108), and total bases (340). Hill
will play a key role in the Jays offence if he plays consistently throughout
3. Adam Lind, DH –
Two days ago, the Designated Hitter and sometimes Left-Fielder
signed a 4-year $18-Million contract with the Jays, which locks the 26 year old up
until 2013. To put it into perspective, Adam Lind is on pace to hit 162 homers, 162 RBI, 324 runs
scored and 486 hits this season and in turn is earning $6 million per hit since
signing his new contract (http://mlbastion.mlblogs.com). Lind, a native
of Indiana, received the Edgar Martinez Award and was the
second Blue Jays Silver Slugger Award recipient for his performance as a
left-fielder in the AL for the 2009 Season. Last season, Lind led
left-fielders in the AL in home runs (35), RBI (114) and batted .305 for the
4. Vernon Wells, CF
– If you were watching the Opener in Texas this afternoon (I was, read below) you would have
caught some great action out of the gate from Vernon Wells, who recorded his
first home run of the season in the first inning. Wells, after under going wrist surgery in
the off-season, is ready to go and is looking good after Spring Training.
Despite other notable players in the Majors, Wells remains one of the highest paid
players in the league and will dress in a Jays Uniform until 2014 by contract.
In 630 plate appearances last season, Wells recorded 84 runs in 164 hits and 15
homers for the Jays. Not bad, but after the surgery was a success, expect Wells
to come out much stronger this season.
5. Lyle Overbay, 1B
– So, did anyone else catch the handle bar mustache? You know, as much as he
probably gets hounded for it, it makes him look a little meaner, so maybe
he’s trying to give himself an edge. A little background on Overbay: He made
his MLB debut in 2001 for the Diamondbacks, before playing a year with the
Brewers in ’04-’05 and finally signing with Toronto for the 2006 Season. His
middle name is Stefan, he is originally from Centralia, Washington, and he’s 33 years of age. Last season, Overbay led
the Jays in walks (74) and recorded 112 hits in 423 plate appearances.
6. John Buck, C – After five seasons with the KC Royals, Buck
signed with the Jays for the 2010 Season in December of 2009 on a one-year
contract. Buck, a 29 year old from Wyoming, has recorded 70 career home runs and is the father
to a set of twins, Cooper and Brody. Buck recorded 16 runs, 8 home runs, and 36
RBIs in 59 games last season for the Royals.
7. Edwin Encarnacion, 3B – In his second season with the Toronto
Blue Jays, the 27 year old from the Dominican Republic, was acquired by the Blue Jays last season in the
Scott Rolen trade in July 2009. Encarnacion made 293 plate appearances in 85
games and recorded 35 runs, 66 hits, and 39 RBIs. Now that he’s had some time
with the team, expect to see good things this season.
8. Alex Gonzalez, SS – The 33 year old short-stop, originally
from Venezuela joined the Blue Jays in the off season on a one-year
deal. [EDIT: After much confusion with dates and stats, there’s one thing to remember: this is the OTHER Alex Gonzalez.] After his performance
in Spring Training (3 H, 9 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI) let’s hope he’s using the Jays
forward momentum to kick start the 2010 Season.
9. Travis Snider, LF – At 22, Snider is the youngest member of the Blue
Jays Roster and took over in left-field after Alex Rios was traded to the White
Sox. Snider, a 6-foot, 235 pound southpaw from Washington, made his MLB debut with the Jays in August of 2008.
In 77 games last season, Snider made 241 plate appearances and recorded 34
runs, 29 RBIs, and 9 home runs and his middle name is James.
Pitching: Shaun Marcum –
If you caught the first bit of the game today, you’d realize what an asset Marcum
is the Blue Jays and how crucial he will be this season. After undergoing Tommy
John surgery in 2008, the right-handed pitcher missed the entire 2009 season
due to continued pain post-surgery, but is healthy and eager to get back at it with the Jays
this season. After pitching six innings in the Season Opener against the
Rangers this afternoon, Marcum’s pitching line was: 6 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 6 K, 0 BB. Not
bad at all for the first game of the 2010 season.
Last, and certainly not least,
not only is today Monday, the Season Opener for the Toronto Blue Jays, but it’s
also my very first day as an official employee of the Toronto Blue Jays! I set
up shop this morning at my desk and made myself a home where I’ll work for the
next six months. The faces I saw a couple weeks ago were re-introduced and I’ve
had the chance to meet quite a few new ones, who have been very welcoming and kind.
It was the perfect day for me to start too because the Season Opening Employee
Meeting was early this afternoon and I got to attend on my first day with the
Jays. So, picture this: When I was told there was going to be a meeting today I
assumed it would be in a board room or in some sort of theatre or auditorium; you
too, right? Well, we’re both wrong. I walked down with some of the other people
from the Marketing and Promotions department and low and behold, the meeting is
set up just inside Gate 9 in the 100’s Level Concourse. Secretly, I’m amazed
that it’s actually happening and of course, hide my excitement as I sit and
listen to the first meeting of the season, with introductions from none other
than Paul Beeston and various other members of the departments. The one thing
that resonated the most (in not so few words) is that the Blue Jays team is not
only what you see on the field but what goes into making the team on the field
happen, and for the 2010 Season, I’m a part of that! I was still trying to wrap
my head around it all and of course, there’s more! Lunch is served in the HSBC
VIP Club and just as I sit down the Video Board lights up and the sounds of
Sportsnet’s Buck Martinez’s voice is heard throughout the Club area. At 2:07pm, the very first pitch of the 2010 Toronto Blue Jays
Season was thrown and I watched it on the Video Board sitting in Rogers Centre.
Can you say awesome? I can.
As the day has progressed
I’ve been taken on a few tours around Rogers Centre (which I was told today
should never be referred to as “THE Rogers Centre” just “Rogers Centre”) I
realized just how big the stadium is and how much goes on in preparation for
the Home Opener next week. The photos below are a few phone photos from my
tour, but the best part about it was that the dome was OPEN and the place was
empty. I can’t tell you how amazing it is to be here and to be sharing this and
how excited I am for the season and for this opportunity. Now, off I go to find
some vegan edibles for supper tonight, but I’ll be posting regularly; this is way
too cool not to be sharing.