June 29, 2010
After Sun Life Stadium in Miami, anything would do. Even Tropicana Field, Major League Baseball's last non-retractable domed stadium.
Tampa Bay. Actually: St. Petersburg, home of the Rays, where I felt at home.
Read all about my experience -- from Taxi Uncle, to my conversation with Cownose Rays, to "More Cowbell!" -- at GlobeSports.com.
And, remember, if you'd like to view pictures from my baseball road trip of a lifetime, you can do so here.
June 22, 2010
The Miami baseball experience: one enthusiastic thumb down. Sorry, Florida Marlins.
Read all about a night to forget at Sun Life Stadium, and why 2012 can't come soon enough for baseball fans in south Florida, at GlobeSports.com.
June 18, 2010
After stops in Florida, Colorado, and beautiful Southern California, the Toronto Blue Jays are back home. Thanks to the convenient and wildly popular G20 conference our fine city will soon be hosting, a nine-game homestand is now only six-games long.
While we're no longer being subjected to "OMG NO ONE IS GOING TO THE JAYS GAMES!!!1" stories, attendance remains low. After 31 games at the SkyDome, Toronto is averaging 17,596 fans a game, good for 28th in Major League Baseball. Only the Cleveland Indians and Florida Marlins average fewer.
There are no simple solutions. It's perplexing, considering the Blue Jays are only 5.5 games out of first place in the ultra-competitive American League East. It's easy to say: "Hey, get your ass down to the ballpark." But it's not that simple; life is never that simple. And I was reminded of that very fact while on my baseball road trip of a lifetime, thanks to an email from baseball stranger Jay. He sent me an email about life, baseball, family, and getting down to the ballpark for a game, and I'd like to take the opportunity to share it with you. I found it to be a fantastic read, and I think you will too.
I hope you don’t mind, but today is the day that I have decided to use part of your inbox, mostly to encourage you on your journey and to say thanks.
Perhaps it is the passing of Ernie [Harwell], or perhaps the secret pleasure I enjoyed yesterday of leaving the office to attend a business meeting and catching Lind’s ninth-inning homer on the radio while I drove (screaming like a kid), but these things when woven with your daily entries have compelled this baseball nut to sit down and pen a few thoughts.
I am no one to you - just a “baseball stranger” - yet here I write. And you may be at the other end wondering who is this quack and simply hit delete. And I will be ok with that, because for me this is kind of cathartic anyways. However I hope you care to read on so that I can help fill up a small part of your next long bus ride.
I want to let you know that you are doing both yourself and the baseball fans of Southern Ontario and great service. So, thanks for sharing. We all get to enjoy a piece of your trip and I suspect there are legions of bygone baseball fans who wish they could be along for the ride with you. See deep down, I think there is still plenty of baseball fandom in Ontario.
You are absolutely correct in what you say; it has become tiring to read about the low attendance numbers, etc. As we know, the Toronto sports fan (sans Leafs) is a fickle one. We must hope for Alex Anthopoulos’s master plan to come to fruition, for that will be the day that the casual fan returns to the Skydome to see just what all the fuss is about.
But oddly, those of us who count the game as a passion are often consumed by it in different ways which sometimes preclude attending games at the Skydome. (I’ve just realized that I am finding myself feeling apologetic. I have not been down to the concrete coffin at all this year. Not once. Yet.) Let me explain.
See, I have a perspective that is maybe not unique but perhaps indicative of part of the problem. As I near the mid-life crisis age of 40, life gets in the way a bit more. I have two sons, both of whom love the concept of baseball but are not quite ripened yet to the point where they truly love it for what it is. I’m working on that. I help coach my 11-year-old, and my 6-year-old will start to play next year (if he so chooses). I still play the game myself, desperately hanging on to whatever scraps I can of a once quite-capable baseball skill set. And since Dad can still play the game a bit, they come to the ballpark to watch. So as you see, baseball is very much alive and well in our house.
When spring arrives and we sit as a family to fill in the Milk calendar with all of the baseball games, practices, and tournaments dates (not to mention the soccer, flag football, family cottage weekends, and other commitments) we suddenly find ourselves booked solid (especially the weekends!), yet without any dates set aside to go see our beloved Jays.
And how can a family with two young ones travel downtown on a school night from Burlington to goto a Jays game that most assuredly will last 3 hours?
Trust me, we WANT to. But it is just not practical. Does this make me one the fickles? I pray not. Because I love baseball with my whole heart. And I sneak lots of TV time in the evenings after the kids are in bed. I am a true fan. But does it make me a bad person or a fairweather fan because I don’t goto the ballpark? How much of a hypocrite does it make me to state that I am passionate but won’t consider travelling the QEW on a weeknight?
Yet, I can tell you about similar life experiences of many of my baseball-playing suburb-living brethren. And thus my point: there are many of us who love the game so much, and our time devoted to it in so many different ways, that the priority of dropping everything for a day to go downtown becomes a monumental task. There are lots of us out here just like me. I play with or against them twice a week. They all know the game inside out just like me. They understand the fact that Cito should be pinch running for his backup catcher when behind by one in the late innings. They get it that lefties don’t hit lefties well - and not just because the stats say so, but because many of us have tried to do it and it is hard to do! And they too coach their sons’ teams and still play themselves a bit and try to keep the wife happy around the house and make their mortgage payments on time. And yet very few of the brothers tell of making trips downtown much anymore. Who has the time or the money?
I carry a certain burden of guilt for not making the trip more often, because they need our support. And my kids need to be there more often so that it becomes part of their fabric also. I want them to learn to love it just like me. I harken back to my formative years which were spent cutting class to get to opening day at the Ex, and waiting out long rain delays huddled under a blanket just so I could see my heroes play. Even one of my first dates (then with my now wife of almost 15 years) was mostly to go and see George Brett play live. Sometimes as kids our parents would take us on Saturdays and sit in the left field bleachers on Dominion Days. Staring at George Bell’s “purple butt.” Was there the day Junior Felix hit a home run on the first pitch of his career. Was there in ’87 (for every game) when we folded against the Tigers. Big Jim Clancy. Talking to pitchers in those crappy bullpens while they warmed up. All of it. It is my duty to ensure that my kids have these same memories in their vaults.
Is my perspective a “normal” one? I don’t know, but I think that the common theme might be time. Or lack of it in the lives of many people. Unfortunately, the bitter irony of that is that baseball has no clock. No two-minute warning. Not 140 characters at a time. Not guided by the next reminder popup on the BlackBerry.
The game is referred to as “America’s Pastime”. Yet nowadays, there is no need for common folk to “pass time;” time passes much too quickly as it is. And it seems that going to the baseball game just doesn’t align with the overloaded schedules of suburbia.
Anyways Navin, I find myself rambling on and should sign off now. But I feel better that I cleared my head a bit of the whole attendance question, because I think deep down I feel like I “own” a piece of the problem. No clear answers perhaps, but at least maybe some clarity and a renewed sense of need to push the day at the ballpark higher up on the honey-do list at the house. Hopefully your pilgrimage will continue to inspire and awaken baseball fans from their long naps and they too will recollect the memories that made them fall in love with the game.
Yours in Baseball,
June 14, 2010
Loonies! The game within the baseball game. Not enough people are playing it. At least I didn't see enough people playing it on #TBRTOAL.
Read all about the beautiful game and how it's played at GlobeSports.com. And remember: Know Your Limit. Play Within it.
June 11, 2010
It's 3:30 in the morning, the birds outside my window won't shut the fuck up, and here's what just crossed my mind: While Jim Joyce certainly manned up to his heinous error in Detroit, and much respect to him for that, I don't think he calls that runner safe if it's Roy Halladay on the mound, in place of Armando Galarraga. And I mean that on a purely baseball level.
This saddens me.
A perfect game, lost.
June 09, 2010
The bus ride from Cincinnati to Atlanta was definitely the most harrowing on #TBRTOAL. Perhaps it was the fact that I visited Turner Field on practically no sleep, but the stadium left me feeling underwhelmed. There's nothing wrong with it, but it certainly didn't wow me.
Read all about the tomahawk obsessed folks down in Atlanta, my bus ride, chicken and waffles, and why you always want to arrive at downtown ATL's Greyhound station before dark, at GlobeSports.com.
Oh, I almost forgot: cheers, Atlanta; to 1992!
June 08, 2010
It's not only a rallying cry; it's a way of life. And now you can wear it.
Check out men's and women's designs, in all their simplicity, at http://sportsandthecity.spreadshirt.com/. Pick one up today, and in two weeks you can be rocking your new t-shirt at the SkyDome and/or BMO Field. And, come October, at the Air Canada Centre. Or anywhere for that matter. That's the beauty of "Playoffs!!!1" It knows no borders.
A portion of each t-shirt will be going to the Canadian Red Cross's Haiti Earthquake Fund, and to an environmental agency (yet to be chosen) helping clean up British Petroleum's epic fail of an oil spill.
June 06, 2010
Thirty MLB ballparks. Fifty-five days. Done.
I'm headed back to Toronto; due back home Monday evening. My travels are done, but Stealing Home continues. Stay tuned for the rest of the series, and thanks for coming along with me on what was one incredible journey; one that I will never, ever forget.
I'll see you at the SkyDome.
June 04, 2010
The banks of the Ohio River is where you'll find Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park. Don't get too excited about the name, though; it's not what it seems.
Read all about my visit to the Nati -- where I met three baseball fans from the United Kingdom, saw a rejuvenated Scott Rolen man third base, and why, upon my return to Toronto, I'll be watching the 1975 World Series -- at GlobeSports.com.
The Atlanta experience is up next at Stealing Home, while I travel up the west coast to Seattle. I'll be home on Monday; you believe that? I certainly don't ...
June 02, 2010
That should have been Lyle Overbay smiling like a buffoon. And John Buck, or Jose Molina, embracing Roy Halladay with sheer delight.
Just when I thought I was over the Halladay trade, just when I thought I was okay with him no longer pitching for us in Toronto, Doc goes and tosses a perfect game for his new team, the Philadelphia Phillies. And I'll always remember where I was when I heard the news.
Read all about my conflicted emotions in the aftermath of Doc's momentous occasion, and how I'm no longer conflicted, at GlobeSports.com.
I read an interesting link yesterday, about Doc's perfection. One fact stuck with me, and it's one I won't soon forget: more men (24 to 20) have orbited the moon than pitched a perfect game.