It needs to be said:
I grew up with the Blue Jays. As in, we grew up together. I grew up running up and down the bleachers in the nosebleeds at Exhibition Stadium. When the seats were $1 and as long as it wasn’t pouring rain, sleeting, or the middle of a blizzard, it was the easiest way to kill an afternoon and entertain your hyperactive child.
My mother will tell you many embarrassing stories of me standing on the bleachers, belting out “Take Me Out to The Ballgame”.
Just ask her.
Or, when I was too young to really understand what was going on, cheering very loudly for the opposing team’s successes and being stared at by every Jays fan in the venue.
I remember the excitement while we were waiting for the SkyDome (“The Dome”) to be built and how incredibly exciting it was when we got to go to our first game in the big, bright, shiny new stadium. The first time rain didn’t mean stopping the game. The long (LONG) walk to the 500 section. The huge (at the time) JumboTron in all of the bright, shiny, full-colour glory.
And, of course, the season opener where I was sitting in season tickets along the third base line that my father’s colleague had given us (and would continue to share with us for a few years) and spilled my chocolate milkshake all over the guy in the season ticket seats next to us. Not exactly an auspicious start to a friendship.
I remember the entire Cito Gaston era. I can still recite to you the entire line-up from 1990 through 1995.
I remember “Winfield Wants Noise” and his game-winning double to clinch the World Series in ’92. I remember feeling heartbroken when he left. I remember being so excited for Pat Borders when he won MVP. My aunt still makes a dish named after him (involving sweet potatoes and pecans) at major family functions. I remember Roberto Alomar in his prime, and John Olerud and his batting helmet while playing first and Joe Carter’s walk-off homer to win the ’93 World Series. I had a World Series championship jersey that I wore so much it finally fell apart in the wash and I definitely remember the whole school shutting down during both World Series visits so we could watch the game.
There were a lot of things (other than leaving the country) that led me away from baseball and from the Jays, most of which are a bit too complicated to go into. As are the reasons why my heart is firmly with the ChiSox these days.
But, for all the reasons I’ve listed above (as well as countless more). I still keep my ear to the ground and one eye on the Dome (which I will start calling “The Rogers Centre” on approximately the 12th of Never) for the Jays. And why, as long as they’re not playing Chicago, I still want them to pull it out and have a soft spot for them a mile wide.
They are the reason I got into baseball. The reason why I have a huge American League bias and why my view of MLB is shamefully AL-centric. (Though, I am currently taking applications for a National League team to support, so if anyone wants to pimp their NL team, I’m open to suggestions.) They are the reason why I love the DH and why, even to this day, pitchers still look out of place to me at home plate.
And, even though I will be wearing my ChiSox logo with pride when I take my brother to the Dome in May (still a die-hard Jays fan, bless his heart), the Jays were my childhood team and, lest anyone think I’m merely hopping on the bandwagon if they pull out a miracle this year, they will always have a little piece of my heart.