I fell in love with the Toronto Blue Jays and the game of baseball during the summer of 1998 as a six-year-old child. I was sitting in front of the TV, flipping channels, and came across a Blue Jays game. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Imagine that. A six-year-old who could watch anything he wanted, and he chose baseball. The sport that is supposed to be slow and boring. The sport that young people don’t like. The sport that is hard to watch on TV. Baseball.
Initially, I didn’t know what was going on. The thought never crossed my mind to call over one of my parents and ask what was happening. It was just me and the Blue Jays with two commentators and a bunch of numbers on the screen.
Watching their games became a daily ritual. Just like eating three meals a day, watching the Blue Jays every night was something I had to do. And so I did.
I sat in front of the TV by myself and taught myself the rules of the game. I figured out what a strike was. I figured out what a ball was. I figured out three strikes was an out and four balls was a walk. From there, I figured out the numbers on the screen – which one was tallying balls, strikes, and outs.
I could go on and tell you how I figured out every rule, but we’d be here all day.
All of a sudden I was memorizing the names of players. I was memorizing their positions and what number they wore on their back. I was so captivated by all the little details that I never even thought about wins or losses, let alone playoffs or championships.
To me, it was just a game. It wasn’t a business. It wasn’t a playoff race. It wasn’t a rebuilding team. In it’s purest form, it was just a game.
My first Blue Jays game, in person, didn’t last very long. It was a night game. I ate McDonald’s, stood for the national anthems, and promptly fell asleep on my Dad. I didn’t even make it to first pitch!
Back then, everything was about the Blue Jays. My birthday cakes, birthday cards, t-shirts, hats; I even wanted a pair of flip down sunglasses because that’s what the players were wearing. I was obsessed.
I got older and started to play baseball. I would go out in the backyard and emulate the players I saw on TV. I was Carlos Delgado. He hit from the left side of the plate; I hit from the left side of the plate. Therefore, I was Carlos Delgado. No questions asked.
I asked my Mom to get books at the library about baseball. Before I knew it, there was a stack of books in front me. I took them outside and read them while I threw the ball against the house and deck.
What kid does any of this?
The years went on and the game remained pure. I didn’t question why the Blue Jays never made the playoffs. I just thought it was something they didn’t participate in. As if they said, “No thanks, we’ll pass.”
One year, it was the final day of the season – a Sunday – and I had homework to do. I assumed the game started at 4PM, but never checked my little pocket schedule. So in my mind I thought, I’ll do homework until 4PM and then I’ll watch baseball.
That’s how I operated throughout my entire school career. As soon as the game started, Paul stopped doing homework.
So I go downstairs at 4PM all ready to watch the final game of the season only to find out they’re already in the ninth inning. The game started at 1PM. Oh man, I was devastated. I cried uncontrollably into a pillow.
I wasn’t as upset that I missed the game as I was that it was the final game of the season, which meant I had to wait until the following summer to watch another game. Hey, if you’re going to cry, you better know why you’re crying.
Speaking of being upset, when I was in Grade 2 we had Blue Jays Day at school. Some players from the team came in to talk to students in the gym. I was so excited! Then I found out it was only for kids in Grade 4 and up. I can’t even put into words how crushed I was.
To this day, I’m still mad I missed out on that.
And all this time, I felt like I was a fan on my own. I watched games by myself. No one at school talked about baseball. There was so much knowledge in my head and no one to share it with.
Fast forward a bit over a decade to my late teenage years. I’m at University in a sports specific program, surrounded by people who eat, sleep, and breathe sports. Finally, I could talk about baseball to people who were as obsessed as I was.
During my Second Year, the Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos came in as a guest speaker. I skipped the first hour of a two hour lecture just to go listen to him speak. I never skipped class for anything, except this.
By this point, my love for the Blue Jays was still as high as it was when I was a kid. The only difference was I understood everything that happened outside of the nine innings played on the field.
The Blue Jays have not made the playoffs since 1993 – not by choice, like I once thought.
They have won two World Series Championships in my lifetime (1992 & 1993). Of course, I don’t remember anything about them. Therefore, it feels like they haven’t won at all in my lifetime.
As a fan of Toronto sports teams, losing is the norm. We don’t get long playoff runs. We get a lot of pre-season hype, mid-season let downs, and end-of-season joy because the tour through hell is finally over. That’s what we get.
However, this season feels different.
And it doesn’t feel different just because they’re winning a bunch of games and currently sit in first place.
It’s different because for the first time in my life I’m watching a team that is oozing with confidence. I’m watching a team that is having a lot of fun, while not getting complacent.
This team is playing like they want to make the playoffs. Previous teams didn’t have that desire.
They’re flying high at the moment, but this ride could end at any moment. Injuries can happen. Losing streaks can happen. Anything can happen. It’s sports. There are no guarantees.
At the same time, the bandwagon is overflowing with people who have adopted baseball as their new favourite sport and the Blue Jays as their new favourite team.
On one hand, I’m glad. The stadium is full. Support has never been greater. And there is nothing like the sound of a loud stadium. A winning sports team brings people together and puts smiles on faces.
But on the other hand, I can’t help but be a little bothered by the bandwagon fans. Many of them don’t know what’s going on. They’re just fans because the team is winning. Do they even like baseball? Do they know what a sacrifice fly is? Do they know every player on the team?
As someone who loved the Blue Jays through losing season after losing season, it annoys me that people just come out of nowhere to support a winning team and will disappear when times get tough.
Though, I don’t know what I expected. All I ever wanted was for people to care about Blue Jays Baseball. I wanted people in school to talk about baseball. I wanted people to be fans. I wanted them to care.
And now I have that, sort of. I have a Facebook news feed busting at the seams with friends posting statuses about the Blue Jays. Friends I have never heard say one word about baseball up until the last 4 weeks.
I finally got what I always wanted. It just feels different than I expected it would.
But I guess all fan support is good fan support. I can’t be too bitter about people wanting to be part of a winning atmosphere in this city. We all deserve something to cheer about. So I might as well be happy that everyone wants to support this team and not be a party pooper about it.
Deep down I just want people to care about this team as much as I do, no matter how unrealistic that may be.
Rest assured, if the Blue Jays season ends with a championship parade, my six-year-old self won’t be able to contain himself.
Let’s Go Blue Jays!