Tonight is a good night. Tonight, for the first time in 22 years, the Toronto Blue Jays are AL East champions. For the first time since I was nine years old, the Jays are going to the play-offs (and no, clinching a berth in the wildcard game a few days ago did not mean we were going to the play-offs).
I was born to be a Jays fan. My dad is from Toronto and he followed the team from the beginning. My parents took me to Exhibition Stadium when I was a baby, and my mom was horrified as I crawled around under the seats.
From the time I can remember—just before the first World Series—dad would take my brother, Adam, and me to a game every year (we live in Ottawa, so it’s about a five-hour trip). We would usually get tickets up in the 500s in the infield and bring dad’s big binoculars to enhance the viewing experience.
Kelly Gruber was my first favourite player. For my fifth birthday, I think, my dad stood in line for an hour or more at some store in Toronto to get him to sign a card for me.
On the evening of Friday, July 10, 1992, we were on our way to Toronto for an afternoon game the next day against Oakland. Mike Moore vs. Juan Guzman (OK, I didn’t remember that—I just looked it up). Anyway, we were about an hour outside Ottawa when the car broke down. Obviously, dad was pissed. But I was seven and Adam was five and we just wanted to have some fun while we sat on the side of the road and waited for the tow truck.
I don’t know exactly what we did, but I do remember my dad giving us several chances to stop and us not taking them. By the time we had the car towed back to Ottawa, he had made it clear we weren’t going to the game. Our friends even offered us their car the next day, but dad said no. Here’s the unused ticket (I think this might be the last season I didn’t see at least one game):
In 1997, I think, we went to a Friday night game with my grampa, who lived outside Peterborough at the time. I had a hockey practice at six or seven the next morning, but we stayed at the game until the 7th or 8th inning. I distinctly remember Jose Cruz, Jr. hitting a home run as we were walking to the exit. Dad then drove through the night, dropping grampa off and making it home in time for the practice (which I undoubtedly did not want to go to).
As Adam and I grew up, and before our Notre Dame football obsession took hold, the Blue Jays were the one sports team we both liked. It was the only time we could watch a game together and root for the same team.
When Adam went away to Brock University and I went to St-Jean and then Gagetown for army training, we used to call each other and watch the games together over the phone—especially in that great summer of 2008 where Cito Gaston returned and it looked like maybe, finally, the drought was going to end. Instead, despite finishing 10 games over .500, we were fourth in the AL East, 11 games out of first.
In more recent years, I’ve started tagging along on Adam’s annual home opener trip with his buddies from Brock, where we rent a room in the SkyDome hotel and rarely remember anything past the second inning.
Once, with the Red Sox visiting, Adam got into an argument with some Boston fans and ended up booted from the stadium because some lady complained that he swore, even though a section full of Sox fans had been swearing right back. When we asked why only Adam was tossed, the security guard said it was because there were so many Boston fans, so it was easier just to remove him. Talk about home field advantage!
But no more. Now the Dome is packed with Jays fans, louder than I’ve ever heard. Sure, half of them have only been fans since the Tulowitzki trade (you can easily pick them out because they are wearing Tulo jerseys), but we’re 53-28 at home and about to clinch home-field advantage throughout the play-offs.
The kids are excited, too. We took Ava to her first Jays game when she was just a year-and-a-half old. I caught a foul ball—my first and only one—and handed it to her. She threw it down the stairs. Good arm for a one-year-old, and luckily I got it back.
Mike and Ava both love Joey Bats and every time Mike sees a Yankees player, he automatically boos (it works for the Ottawa Senators, too).
Apart from that game where we left to get to my hockey practice, I think the only other time I have left a Jays game early was the last of a three-straight games we saw in August 2007. I had just graduated from university and was getting ready to leave for basic training. I wanted to buy Caitlin’s engagement ring while we were in Toronto, but something about the store’s hours meant the only time we could go was that Monday afternoon.
So Adam and I took off early and headed up to Bloor Street, while the other guys watched the end of the game. In the middle of the shopping trip, we heard David Beckham was at a store next door, so we dashed out. The sales lady was understanding, I think, and we did go back. I ended up picking up the ring a few weeks later, when Caitlin and I were back in T.O. (and yes, we saw a Jays game on that trip, too). A bit more than two years later, Ava was born.
When the Jays won the Series in 1992, I didn’t get to stay up until the end of Game 6 (remember, it went 11 innings), but my dad taped it and left a note for me on the kitchen table saying we had won. I’m looking forward to doing the same for Ava and Mike this year.