After our day of exploring downtown Toronto, we returned to the hotel to change into our Cubby blue and took the subway to the ballpark at Rogers Centre. Chicago’s el hasn’t used subway tokens for years now, so we all experienced a touch of nostalgia as we purchased a handful of tokens for our trips to and from the ballpark. The Toronto subway was clean and easy to navigate for this public transportation savvy crowd.
The weather report called for thunderstorms to roll through, so for Friday’s game I experienced my first baseball game under a dome. Entering the concrete stadium, with its artificial light and booming sound system, felt less like game day excitement and more like attending an arena rock concert. Worse yet, when the trailers for Get Smart and The Love Guru began playing on the JumboTron (amidst the team promos, the silly animated games, and the Nicorette advertisements) it felt more like the days when I attended video industry conventions, with the echoing cacophony of film trailers blaring at top volume.
My running commentary of impressions from the Toronto Blue Jays home game follows:
The dome is closed and man is it bright in here ~~~ Twenty minutes before game time, the JumboTron is already flashing images and the music is pounding ~~~ At least the home team fans are wearing Blue Jays’ colors, shirts and jerseys (unlike the Pittsburgh Pirate fans who favored hockey team regalia when I was at a Pirates home game last year) ~~~ No surprise, the visiting team is well represented in the stands—there are Cub fans everywhere they play ~~~ Man, is it bright in here ~~~ The grounds crew has plenty of small farm equipment on the field, including a mini-tractor, which baffles us when we learn from a nearby local fan that the field isn’t real grass, it’s “field turf ~~~
~~~ Hot dogs are a solid “C”—the dog gets points for being “all beef” but it’s lacking in flavor and the bun is chewy ~~~ Beer is really expensive, but they get points for offering premium selections other than Bud and Bud Light ~~~ Like all JumboTron games I’ve been to, there’s plenty that goes on before the first pitch—movie ads, contest winners, cars driving on and off the field—thank God for that field turf! ~~~
~~~ School kids sitting in the outfield occasionally scream, increasing the feeling that we’re at an indoor amusement park ~~~ A local heckler just off to our left wins the award for most polite heckling by yelling obscure facts about Cub players that he admittedly found on the Internet ~~~ ”It’s called Wikipedia, baby!” ~~~ This becomes our catch phrase for the rest of the trip ~~~ It’s a bit humid in here and we’re wishing they’d open up the dome—This is before we hear thunder during the seventh inning and learn that it’s pouring rain outside ~~~ Hometown fans near us are unhappy their beloved former Blue Jay Reed Johnson isn’t playing tonight and occasionally someone in the crowd yells, “We want Reed!” ~~~ Cubs’ fans are uncharacteristically quiet—Of course, our team isn’t giving us much in this game to cheer about ~~~ When the Jays hit a home run, an animated train races across the JumboTron to the sound of a very loud train whistle ~~~ None of us can figure out why a train? ~~~ We get a kick out of the grounds crew sweeping the grass ~~~
~~~ The school kids are bored and repeatedly try to get the wave going around the stands ~~~ They’re finally successful during a crucial moment during the Cubs’ at-bat—neither lasts very long ~~~ Did I mention it’s bright in here? ~~~ It’s beginning to feel like we’re watching a baseball game inside Woodfield Mall, Chicago’s largest indoor mall ~~~ I can’t wait to get out of here ~~~ The ushers we’ve talked to are pretty clueless, misinforming us about beer sales and how to get out of the park ~~~ Concession workers are dressed like movie theater employees ~~~ The movie theater ambiance is enforced by the concessions sold: popcorn, red vines, and candy ~~~ By the end of the game, the volume seems to have cranked way up ~~~ The sound of the crowd and the music bouncing off the dome has become deafening ~~~ The dugouts are located closer to home plate and there’s no railing between the players and the field ~~~ The infield is turf, not dirt ~~~ Tonight is “Flashback Friday”—perhaps that explains the Jay’s ugly powder-blue uniforms with the retro-‘70s lettering ~~~ This place is empty—only 27,800 fans in attendance ~~~ Entire sections are empty ~~~
The JumboTron displays one, and only one, fact per player when they come up to bat ~~~ Only one? “It’s called Wikipedia baby!” ~~~ There’s not much yelling from the vendors in the stands. No “Peanuts. Get your peanuts here!” ~~~ Between innings, a host who’s standing somewhere in the park appears on the JumboTron to make announcements about sponsors and give-away contests, or the crowd will be urged to dance on camera or cheer for sling-shot t-shirts or a FedEx mystery box of prizes—Every single moment is filled with some sort of noise and hype ~~~ The Seventh Inning Stretch is a ridiculous TaeBo-like workout routine led by “visitors” on the field ~~~ Anyone trying these moves would knock out the people sitting around them ~~~ A couple in a section behind us gets engaged on the JumboTron ~~~ Folks around them buy the happy couple beers and a few innings later they both looked very trashed ~~~ In our section, the game isn’t broadcast in the concession area, nor is it piped into the restrooms ~~~ For a serious baseball fan, it’s difficult to follow other games going on elsewhere in the league—the outfield screens are tough to read during play and when you want to check them in between sides, they change to advertisements ~~~ Fans get an “A” for being into the game and not having to rely on the JumbTron to tell them when to make some noise and cheer their team ~~~ The park gets an “F”—we can’t stand the look, feel and vibe of Rogers Centre ~~~