Click here to listen to my interview with Malcolm MacMillan. We discuss highlights to visiting various major and minor league ballparks, as well as the current pitching situation with the Toronto Blue Jays.
For many baseball fans it’s a dream. Some never realize it. Some chip away at it, year by year. Some accomplish it all in one big season. I’m talking of course about seeing a baseball game in each of the 30 major league ballparks. There’s something exciting and special about visiting a new (to you) stadium. After all, baseball is one of those rare sports where each venue is somewhat different. Different field dimensions allow teams to make a statement – to be unique. As an example, Yankee Stadium has the short porch in right field, a mere 314 feet away, heavily favourable to left-handed pull-hitters. The same right field in Fenway, “Pesky’s Pole” measures a mere 302 feet from home plate, and hitters in Chicago’s Wrigley Field have to muscle-up to hit a shot in right, a good 353 feet away. If you start examining various centre field designs, each features various quirks, such as Houston’s Minute Maid Park which has Tal’s Hill, a 30 degree incline (which reminds me of some of the local fields I play on) toward the wall, complete with a flag pole in play. Each stadium has various other attractions beyond field dimensions, too many worth noting here.
When one starts researching, possibly planning a road trip, there comes the “ah-ha” moment, realizing that there are way more minor league ball parks, many also worth visiting and each with their own unique attractions (plus tickets are always more affordable). In a recent interview, I caught up with Malcolm MacMillan, the owner of www.theballparkguide.com, who to date has visited 53 major and minor league parks, writing a review on each and making notes for fans on what not to miss. Listen to the interview here.
Back in 2008, I was fortunate to take a road trip to New York, and see one of the last games in old Yankee Stadium. Even more fortunate for me, was that it was a Jays-Yankees game in which the Jays won. It was hard not to feel nostalgic, thinking about how many legends had graced that field over so many years. I wasn’t the only one feeling emotional, I noted, as following the game more than several Yankee fans could be seen with tears streaming down their faces. While I wanted to believe it was due to the tough loss my Jays had just handed their home team, it was more likely as a result of the realization that a stadium where they had formed many wonderful memories over the years was soon to be reduced to dust. Sadly, this is the inevitable fate of most parks. Fenway has been around for over 100 years, and while traditionalists would like to think it will stand for 100 more, that is not likely. All good things must come to an end eventually. So why not plan a road trip this summer, and visit some of these beautiful structures while you still can? The parks may not last forever, but the memories will last a lifetime.
Torontonians in the winter months must brave everything from frigid temperatures to ice storms and loss of hydro. For many, summer sports such as baseball couldn’t be further from their minds (even though Spring Training is less than a mere 50 days away). But for a select few Blue Jays fans (45 to be exact), on January 9th, 2014 they donned their baseball gear and took to the field at Rogers Centre, having the rare opportunity to interact with baseball greats such as Pat Tabler, Jesse Barfield, Lloyd Moseby, and the most decorated Blue Jays player, Roberto Alomar. The special occasion? Another successful fundraising effort by the Jays Care Foundation, WINTER TRAINING DAY.
The official charitable arm of the Blue Jays was the 2012 recipient of the MLB Commissioner’s Award for Philanthropic Excellence, as well as the 2013 recipient of the Beyond Sport Sports Team of the Year Award. The mission of the organization is to focus energy and resources toward community-based endeavours that develop baseball programs and help children in need to excel academically, get active, and lead healthy lives. To date, Jays Care has invested over $8.2 million in Canadian children and communities. This Winter Training Day raised over $38,000!
Greeted by a young and cheerful staff, myself and my cameraman made our way down onto the field. The participants were being taken through warm-up drills. Safety first, of course. We spoke for several minutes with Pat Tabler, who would spend a good portion of the day at the soft-toss station, giving hitting tips. In speaking with Tabby about his success in pressure situations (hitting nearly .500 with the bases loaded over his career), he attributed it to “being mentally tough”.
We then connected with the Executive Director of the Jays Care Foundation, Danielle Bedasse for a short interview:
While sitting in the dugout, I had the opportunity to speak with several participants, one admittedly in awe at moments, especially of Alomar. For baseball fans – and Blue Jays fans, it’s hard not to be. One fan approached Alomar, shook his hand, and said “I was at the game where you hit back-to-back homeruns from opposite sides of the plate”. Alomar’s eyes lit up, and responded, “right, against Chicago”. Even Hall-of-Famers have their favourite moments. This was obviously one of them.
Alomar looked on while men and women took batting practice throws from Tabler and Moseby. After one participant fouled off a few pitches, Moseby could be heard from the mound saying, “I’ll stay here all day until you hit one hard, baby”. Everyone’s “baby” to Lloyd. Super-friendly with a large grin, Moseby threw pitch after pitch for what must have been half-an-hour. Before interviewing Moseby, we were warned that he had come straight from the airport, and had no sleep. “Could have fooled me”, I thought. His energy is infectious. We reminisced about Lloyd’s infamous base-running blunder, back in 1987 when he stole second base, then in a moment of confusion ran back to first (as the ball had sailed into centre field). The errant throw from the centre fielder by-passed the first baseman, thus allowing Moseby to steal second again! “I’m suing major league baseball for airing that footage” Moseby joked.
Attention to detail and terrific organization was apparent within the entire Winter Training Day event. Announcements over the PA system signaled the rotation of groups between stations (batting practice, soft-toss, hitting instruction, and shagging flies). I can only imagine (as participants experienced) what a thrill it would be to hear your name called over the sound system in Rogers Centre.
Walking beyond the left field wall that Joe Carter’s famous homerun sailed over, we headed down a ramp and into the Jays batting cages where participants would be taking hitting instruction from Jesse Barfield. Always good for a story, Jesse re-enacted a moment in a game where an opposing team’s fan relentlessly heckled him from the stands in right field. Barfield’s response to the fan? A monstrous homerun. The fan never spoke another word.
Upon quietly observing the event from the dugout, I noticed how much fun everyone was having – staff included. The Jays Care Foundation appears to be in great hands. The dedicated team had put together an event that everyone in attendance was bound to remember, for years to come. After all, at the end of a baseball game all you are left with are memories and experiences. It’s even better when they are special ones.
Full interviews from this reel can be found here:
Click here to listen to: Brock Picken interview Carlos Delgado, Roberto Alomar, Cito Gaston, Duane Ward, and many more.
Click here to listen to: Brock Picken interview Tim Raines, Shirley Cheek, Rob Ducey, & George Bell
Click here to listen to: Brock Picken interview Carlos Delgado, Roberto Alomar, Cito Gaston, Duane Ward, and many more.
Carlos Delgado was named to the Toronto Blue Jays Level of Excellence on Sunday, September 21st, 2013. So how did he celebrate? By hosting a training camp the following day at the Rogers Centre, in support of his Extra Bases Foundation, which strives to “improve the quality of life of people in need”. Joining Carlos, was a well-recognizable group of former Blue Jays greats.
Listen to the interviews that Brock Picken conducted with:
- Carlos Delgado
- Roberto Alomar
- Cito Gaston
- Shawn Green
- Duane Ward
- George Bell
- Juan Guzman
- Alex Gonzalez
- Candy Maldonado
- Lloyd Moseby
- Tony Fernandez
So the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays season is finally upon us.
The Jays played their first game of the season last night. And lost.
If you are one of the Blue Jays fans whining today about how disappointed you are, allow me to inform you of something important to recognize –
in a 162-game regular season, they’re going to lose games.
If we’re fortunate enough this year, the Jays will lose about 40% of their games (last year that would have been good enough to win the division).
A lot happened in last night’s game, both good and bad. I was lucky enough to be able to attend last night’s home opener, and I will break down both the positives and negatives.
- Rasmus looked uncomfortable at the plate. This is a season where he needs to get it together, or we’ll be seeing Gose sooner than expected. And I get it, it’s a long season and it takes some guys longer to get into a groove. But where some guys were making loud outs on hard-hit balls, Rasmus went down on strikes three times.
- Arencibia set a franchise record within the first two innings of the game. Unfortunately, it was for allowing three passed balls. This was then followed by ground balls that likely would have been double-plays. Arencibia looked good catching Dickey during the World Baseball Classic for team USA, so last night was likely an anomaly. However, don’t be surprised when by the end of the season Arencibia leads the majors in passed balls. If it’s tough to hit, it’s just as tough to catch.
- Dickey didn’t throw as many strikes as he usually can. His control was a bit off, and he admitted to not feeling as comfortable with his release point. He walked more in last night’s game than he did the entire Spring Training. He threw only 56% strikes, which needs to be higher. Having said that, with the potential fire-power in this Jays line-up, they typically should be able to recover from a 3 or 4 run deficit.
- Honda gave away a CRV last night to a fan. Then they took it away and gave it to another fan. To be honest, I’m still not sure what happened. The sound system was difficult to hear (at least in the 500 section), so I’m still a bit confused. The contest definitely could have been organized much better.
- And my final negative, on a more personal note, were the lousy Jays fans we happened to be sitting with in the 500 level. I don’t know why getting so drunk that you don’t even watch the game and throw things over the railing has become a thing, but it is these “fans” (in quotations because they are anything but true fans) that ruin the experience for the others, and make a bad name for Jays fans in general. So to you rotten people, I say please stay home next year. Oh, and this is my reaction to your disrespectful behaviour: (Click here to see what everyone thinks of you).
Ok, enough of the complaining. After all, as fans we have a lot to be excited about this year.
- The Jays hit the ball hard. Really hard. Unfortunately, it was right at guys wearing gloves. Cleveland fields a solid team and made some great plays. But most of the time, when you consistently hit the ball hard, good things happen.
- After serving up a HR, Dickey struck out the next two batters on straight strikes. It seemed that he was ticked at himself and was taking it out on the batters. I see this as a great channeling of anger. He has great control of his emotions, which is so important as a pitcher.
- Even though Santos gave up a big hit on his first pitch, he was able to work out of the jam without allowing any runs and looked strong. If he and Janssen can stay consistent throwing strong innings in the 8th and 9th, we may have our Ward-Henke combo we’ve been waiting so long for.
- Cecil looked terrific on the mound, and was hitting 93-94 mph on the radar gun (where the heck did that come from?!). When Brett Lawrie comes off the DL and it’s between Cecil and Jeffress to go back down, they may have a tougher decision with Cecil now throwing at an increased velocity. These tough decisions are good problems to have!
- From a design standpoint, the new 200 level concourse looks fantastic! It feels like the stadium has been opened up more, and it’s nice to have that large area functional again, and open to anyone who has a ticket (unless it’s rented out for a private function which it was last night).
Finally, I will close with how the evening began. Tom Cheek was honoured for winning the Ford C. Frick award. The largest Canadian flag I’ve ever seen draped the entire outfield for the National anthem, and Geddy Lee of Rush threw out the ceremonial first pitch (oh how Canadian!). Our season is full of hopes and dreams. And in baseball, anything can happen.