Results tagged ‘ Toronto ’

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
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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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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.