On Wednesday, April 9, 2008, as the Toronto Blue Jays took on the Oakland Athletics, attendance was a meager 16,102 at Rogers Center. I was on a first date with a cute girl, a serious baseball fan from Japan. It was her first time going to a Major League Baseball game, and it was my last time watching Dustin McGowan pitch. Normally a 500 level dweller, but looking to impress, I purchased tickets in the 100 level. Our seats were in row 13, aisle 115, right by Mr. Overbay and within decent sight range of McGowan’s new lamb chops.
The brilliance of Harry Leroy Halladay and the hype surrounding Allan James Burnett had pushed the emergence of Shaun Marcum, Dustin McGowan and underdog Jesse Litsch somewhat to the background in 2007. But with each young starter having established himself as part of the rotation that season, the future looked bright, indeed. And so it still was on that crisp Spring evening.
He started strong and struggled a little in the 4th and 5th innings.
“He’s young, but has a lot of talent,” I assured my seatmate.
Not quite a quality start, but a respectable one, walking three and striking out seven, allowing just two runs over five innings in a no-decision. The Jays would ultimately lose 6-3. But despite the loss and some less than culturally sensitive words thrown by hecklers in the direction of the Athletics Hawaiian (and Japanese-American) catcher Kurt Suzuki:
“You’re not even Japanese, Suzuki,”
the game, like every trip to the ballpark, was enjoyable in its own way.
While McGowan didn’t get the win, I did get the girl, with whom I would return to the Rogers Centre when the Jays took on superstar and occasional comedian Ichiro Suzuki and the Seattle Mariners.
She especially enjoyed that game, from where we sat in right field to be closer to the “Hercules” of Japanese baseball.
I likewise would have soaked up every one of 101 pitches thrown by Dustin McGowan that April 9, had I the slightest inkling that it might be the last time I would see him pitch live. All that power, along with his considerable arsenal of pitches, were analysed in poignant fashion at Baseball Analysts.
What hope Jays fans had for McGowan would be somewhat dashed three months later when it was announced he would have season-ending surgery on a frayed labrum in his shoulder. His career, and the hopes it roused, were further threatened when in July, 2009, another surgery was announced, this time on his knee to repair cartilage damage.
The bright lights that once shone upon the right-hander all but burnt out, when, in June of 2010, news broke that McGowan would undergo season ending surgery to fix a torn rotator cuff. In the realm of the ridiculous, the McGowan situation and the possible role the now 29-year-old might play, if he does make a return to the Jays roster this year, is entertainingly measured at Getting Blanked
In terms of his roster status with the Jays, as May 27 bleacher report article indicates, a decision must be made within 30 days of the end of extended spring training, June 8. He would have to clear waivers, in order to qualify himself with a Jays minor league outfit OR……… re-join the Blue Jays and its active 25-man roster in Toronto for the first time in about 1000 days.
The most improved Blue Jay of 2007 was once thought to have possessed the 4th best fastball in Major League Baseball.
His cutter was recently clocked at 95 mph. Not bad for a guy who’s looked deep into the abyss of a baseball-less future.
Kyle Drabek is a reasonably likely piece of the puzzle, but the article goes too far. It is a flight of logic to presume that because Kyle Drabek is a highly-touted prospect, the son of a Cy Young winner, and was involved in the Halladay trade that he is now Doc’s heir apparent. As far as I`m concerned, he cannot be spoken of in this way, until he shows signs of life at the MLB level in the way Marcum, Romero, and Cecil have. Does anyone remember the full page spread the National Post did on our dear Mar-Leaf Jeremy Williams a couple of years ago? Anyone remember him? I think the Toronto Star would do itself, Drabek, and Jays fans, a favour to knock down a few notches the expectations of untested prospects.
Griffin reveals an anti-Cito bias. What an unbalanced take on another great Jays comeback victory. Instead of focusing on perceived managerial mistakes, why not reflect on how strong the starting pitching has been, or the Jays resolve in battling back to the final out? Of course, it is okay to criticize any manager, but the focus of a Jays comeback victory in the 9th need not be on perceived errors made by Cito, passed off as fact.
One begins to wonder whether Richard Griffin and BJ Ryan are related. He former “manages” to gloss over just how poorly the latter started this season and finished last season: an 85 m.p.h. hour fast ball and circus-like unpredictability, even when he does get out of an inning. Ryan has deserved little trust under Cito. In hindsight, and that’s all it is, Brian Wolfe was not the right choice to try and save the game Thursday. But hey, he was reliable last season and had been on the mark until his meltdown. And by the way, Wolfe doesn’t have any career saves because he has almost never had save opportunities unlike Ryan, who has blown so many in recent memory. Let’s call up Jeremy Accardo again from Las Vegas.
TORONTO ─ Despite the Toronto Blue Jays leading the American League East division in the early part of this season, destination Rogers Centre may not offer the best value for local baseball fans.
Christie Pits Park, at Bloor Street West and Christie Street, is home field to the eight-time champion Toronto Maple Leafs Baseball Club of the Intercounty Baseball League. “I find it’s more entertaining, and the price is right,” said 45-year-old baseball fan Peter Hamiwka referring to the fact that Leafs’ games are free to watch. Nearby competitors Mississauga Twins and Barrie Baycats charge spectators $8 and $5, respectively, to see their home games.
Jays’ tickets, always available on game day, range from $10 to $200. “Ticket prices are pretty good,” said Ian Gray 31 and a loyal Jays fan. “If you don’t want to spend money, you don’t have to.”
A hot dog and cone from the Dairy Belle ice cream truck overlooking Christie Pits will cost about $6. The $4.75 peanuts, $5 hot dog and $10.50 domestic draft at Rogers Centre are less reasonable.
The baseball Leafs attracted about 400 fans to its bleachers and grassy hills last Sunday. While Rogers Centre, through 22 home games, has averaged 22,142 fans per game, which ranks 22nd among the 30 Major League Baseball teams. Finding seats poses no problem at either venue.
Significant talent, including former Blue Jays Rob Butler and Paul Spoljaric, have played for the Leafs. The team’s shortstop, Dan Fernandez, son of Jays’ great Tony Fernandez, and top pitcher and Jays’ draft pick, Drew Taylor, lead the first-place Leafs.
However, having hosted the World Series, World Baseball Classic and Major League Baseball All-Star Game, Rogers Centre has presented the greatest talent in the game. Jays’ ace Roy (Doc) Halladay contends for the Cy Young award for best pitcher every year.
Peter Hamiwka, a Leafs fan the past six years, believes that Intercounty players have a “real love of the game” since they play for almost nothing, unlike major leaguers who earn millions but sometimes lose passion.
On May 18, belligerent Jays fans hazed the visiting Chicago White Sox players with one-liners including “You’re a nerd NERD.” The dome remained closed for the game, which blocked out a main ballpark draw: sunshine. But the seventh-inning anthem Take Me out to the Ball Game and “the wave” of 20,000 roaring fans conjured ballpark magic.
Such an atmosphere can bring out the best and worst in fans. When New Yorkers descend on the Rogers Centre in July, battle chants of “Blue Jays suck, Blue Jays suck” versus “Yankees suck, Yankees suck” will reverberate throughout the stadium and onto the street.
This type of abrasive rivalry between fans of the two teams may have its place in professional sports, but doesn’t belong at Christie Pits. Fans are content enjoying sunshine, spirited baseball and time with family. Dogs also welcome. What’s more, the Christie Pits field is so intimate, you may hear super fans talking strategy with players on the bench.
Oshawa Dodgers pitcher Nick DaSilva got rocked by the Leafs, but not mocked by their fans on May 17. “Baseball games are a lot of fun, especially when it’s sunny,” said his mother, Penny Tsampiras, as she held a T-shirt she won after spending $5 for three raffle tickets.
Both venues give away freebies such as bobble heads at Rogers Centre or T-shirts, hats and calendars at Christie Pits. Since Sunday Jays games start at 1:07 p.m. and Leafs games at 2 p.m., catch the end of the Leafs game after the Jays’ game.