How I Became A Baseball Fan.
A Brit in Canada.
I moved to Toronto from the UK in 2007, after meeting and marrying a beautiful Canadian. Coming to live and work in North America was like a big adventure for me, but becoming a baseball fan never entered my head. Little did I know that within two years I would be a die-hard Blue Jays fan
Canada has just one baseball team and they're in Toronto. The Blue Jays claim to fame is they won the world series back-to-back in '92 and '93. Hearing people talk about their memories of the jays being World Champions piqued my interest, so I began watching the game on TV.
But it was all very confusing. I had no idea what the commentators were talking about or what I was seeing during the plays. Then providence intervened; I started sharing an office with a little league coach.
Each night I'd watch the game on TV, each morning I'd have a list of questions for my work colleague. Once baseball started to make sense, my interest grew. When an opportunity came to see a live game I was ready.
The Yankees were in town and the "Doc" was pitching.
The New York Yankees visit Toronto.
At the time of going to my first game, Roy "the Doc" Halladay was the Jays #1 starting pitcher with a fearsome reputation. If the Doc was pitching, the Jays had a pretty good chance of winning. Nevertheless, on our way down to the Rogers Centre, I couldn't help but think this was going to be a "David and Goliath" type confrontation.
I was just hoping that my newly found enthusiasm for the game of baseball wasn't going to be snuffed out.
Baseball at the Rogers Centre.
Situated next to the CN Tower and a stone's throw from the shore of Lake Ontario, the Rogers Centre (formerly the Sky Dome) is home to two Toronto teams, the Argonauts (CFL) and the Blue Jays (MLB). The stadium seats around 50,000.
For my first baseball game we had seats in the 5th Level, parallel with the first base line. It didn't take long for me to realise that the live game is far, far different from watching on TV. Being at the game gives a unique perspective on the speed and distance involved in the game of baseball.
As the "Doc" began to pitch, I knew that coming too see this game had been a good decision.
The double play.
In my opinion, the pitching and fielding skills developed in Major League Baseball are not far short of miraculous. As a boy I played cricket and went to watch a few professional games one summer. It would be interesting to see how players from baseball and cricket might transition into each others sports. My thinking is that baseball players have developed an awareness of the game that enables them to "predict" exactly what to do at any given moment in a game, A great example of what i'm talking about here can be seen in the double play.
It was seeing my first double play unfold that converted me to become a baseball fan. Up to that point I had a keen interest shall we say, but after that first double play I developed a deep admiration for the game of baseball and the skills of the players that make the game what it is.
At heart I'm an engineer. I have also been educated and trained to look at work-related human behaviour from both a theoretical and practical point of view. When I consider what's involved in a double play it's getting very close to the flight of the bumble bee, that is, theoretically impossible.
It's 90 feet between the bases. The runner going from 1st to 2nd has a head start. Both runners are no slouches. Many MLB players are capable of running 30 feet per second at full steam.
So after the ball is hit into play, the fielders have about 4 seconds to field the ball, throw it to second base and then first base. This can be seen in the video clip.
How often do you go to MLB games?
Spreading the word.
After seeing my first Blue Jays game (which they won!) I've never looked back. Through the good and bad, and with Toronto there's quite a bit of bad, my commitment to following the Jays has grown stronger. I have the cap and a shirt to prove it.
Just this year we've had two family members from the UK and two from Holland come stay with us for a short holiday. There are now four more people in the earth who've been to see a live baseball game.
While the beer and the hot dogs might be a bit of a rip-off, the game of baseball never fails to deliver; the crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, the swing and the miss the sound of the horn for a home run.
And we should not forget the psychological warfare aspect of the game either. When the home team come on to bat the MC gives his very best MC voice to announce the player, like when they announce a heavyweight boxer entering the ring.
But when an away team player comes up to bat, all he gets is his name read out in a very dull, dry, monotone voice that the MC should never be paid to use.
You belong at the game.
One of the Jays ad campaigns a couple of years back was based on the teams star players. But one thing I learned was not to pin hopes for the Jays on certain players. The nature of the business of baseball for teams like Toronto is that players come and players go. The "trading" part of the game is something I still don't understand. Perhaps I'll need to find a job where I can share an office with a team owner.
Until then, here's one of my favourite ads for Blue Jays baseball. There's no doubt in my mind, we baseball fans belong at the game.