On October 14, I headed down to the biggest game in Toronto Blue Jays’ history (since 1993), and later, a game that became one of the best in MLB history. It was the Blue Jays versus the Texas Rangers in game five of the American League Divisional Series. A do-or-die game for the franchise.
There were some obstacles on my way down to Toronto. First, I get to the Burlington Go Station for the 1:07 p.m. train and begin searching for a parking spot… I couldn’t find a single spot, thanks to the guy who parked horizontally between two spots.
That 1:07 p.m. train was gone and I was still without a parking spot. My only option was to drive down the street to the Appleby Go Station. Then, as I waited for the train at the tracks a voice came over the speakers. “For people waiting for the 1:47 p.m. train on track three, the train is delayed and will be there at 1:58 p.m.,” said the Go Station employee. Not the best start to the day.
Skip ahead to the moment I reached Toronto, after the longest train ride of my life. Getting onto the streets, I could only see a stream of Blue Jays blue, plus my buddy who is a New York Yankees fan. Thousands of people were crossing the streets at the same time, and for that day it didn’t frustrate Toronto drivers as they understood why. One old man leaving a parking garage could not help but smile, he knew he wasn’t leaving any time soon.
When getting into the Rogers Centre, I turn to my friend and say, “It’s not as loud as I thought it’d be”… then I got to my seat.
I’ve been to many games before, but none had a start like this one. The people sitting around me were introducing themselves and shaking my hand, as if we were family. We all started a Let’s Go Blue Jays chant as players got introduced over the PA system. We stood proud together and sung the Canadian national anthem. We even sang Happy Birthday for a fan sitting in our section. They trulyfelt like family by the ninth inning.
Then came the first pitch by Marcus Stroman… game on. Rangers first batter, Delino DeShields took a pitch and drove it over Ben Revere’s head in left field. DeShields would later score, making it 1-0 but not discouraging a loud sold-out crowd.
There was every possible chant just in the first couple innings. Josh Donaldson got the “MVP” chants, Jose Bautista got the modified “Ole Ole” chant, and Troy Tulowitzki got a “Tulo” chant that had a hand clapping rhythm I had trouble keeping up with. The Rangers center fielder, DeShields heard his fair share of crowd chirping. Josh Hamilton, the Rangers left fielder who has gone through rehab multiple times, received a, “Who’s your dealer?” chant.
Right fielder for the Rangers, Shin-soo Choo took it upon himself to quiet the home crowd. As soon as a pitch in the top of the third left Choo’s bat I could hear people in the crowd whispering, “Stay in the ball park”. It seemed like the slowest ball ever hit, till a fan said, “That’s gone”. The air was taken out of the building… only to quickly return.
In the bottom half of the third, Jose Bautista brought faith back into the stadium when he doubled home Revere from second. Blue Jays still trailed 2-1. Being down one-run had many fans on the edge of their seats, till Kevin “Superman” Pillar made believers out of everyone.
Hamilton hit a short flyball into center field. Pillar began racing in with Tulowitzki racing out (most fans remember when those two collided earlier this year), while the whole stadium held its breath. In a blink of an eye, Pillar threw his body into the air for a spectacular diving catch that had everyone back on their feet. For myself, this was the moment I knew the Blue Jays would comeback and win.
In the fifth inning it was still 2-1. This was the moment I turned to my friend and said, “Stroman does not have a strikeout pitch today”. After I uttered those words, Stroman went on to strike out the next two batters in the fifth and the first batter in the sixth.
Then came Encarnacion in the sixth inning. Chants of “Eddie” broke out and they only got louder as Encarnacion drove the first pitch he saw over the left field fence. My heart began to beat at an unusual pace.
But did any of us at the Rogers Centre and at home know that we were in for a 53-minute seventh inning? Nope. Also take into consideration that watching a live game means that as a live crowd we had no replay’s to our advantage.
When Rougned Odor got to third base in the seventh inning, the roof felt like it was closing (well it was already closed, so crashing down). Then we all witnessed the start of an inning that turned a simple postseason game into, “the game we’ve never seen before”.
In the middle of an at-bat versus Choo, catcher Russell Martin was simply throwing the ball back to pitcher Aaron Sanchez, when the ball hit Choo’s bat and Odor scored. The stadium had no idea what happened. For me, I looked away only to then see Odor not on third anymore. I joined in on boo’s even though I had no idea why they were happening.
When Rangers manager Jeff Banister came out to argue, the confusion grew. It slowly got around the stadium that the ball had hit off of Choo’s bat on Martin’s throw, which meant it was still a live ball. Nobody, and I mean nobody, knew the rule, but it didn’t seem fair at the time.
As Blue Jay fans have done before (and it has happened at other MLB stadiums) beer cans and other garbage came flying from the stands onto the field. I watched Revere in left put his hands in the air as if to enjoy the shower, but he really didn’t. Bautista out in right field tried to calm everyone down, it wasn’t working. The arena announcer sent out a very weak warning, it didn’t work. My section, the alcohol free section, could not get anyone to calm down as chants of inappropriate language broke out. With or without alcohol, no Blue Jay fan or player wanted to see a season end off an unusual play.
As the famous seventh inning stretch was set to take place following the top seven drama, the arena announcer in a cheerful voice asked the crowd to get up and sing Take Me out to the Ball Game. The music quickly started playing, and it quickly got drowned out by a rain of boos. For the entire song the crowd booed. Even a long baseball tradition wasn’t making anyone happy.
Before Martin took to the plate as play resumed I told myself, “Ball don’t lie” (which is a basketball line for when a call goes the wrong way, the ball will eventually help the team who got screwed). When Elvis Andrus was unable to field Martin’s ground-ball for an error, I looked at my buddy and said, “Ball don’t lie”. I did it again when Mitch Moreland committed a throwing error on Kevin Pillar’s ground-ball and again when Andrus was unable to catch Adrian Beltre’s throw at third. Baseball gods were shining on Toronto on this day. The crowd was as loud as it had been all day.
Then Donaldson’s bloop hit tied the game and the crowd was on their feet. Then the modified “Ole Ole” chants returned for Bautista. Remember when I said the Choo home run seemed slow? Well, when Bautista smoked Sam Dyson’s 1-1 pitch, I had never seen a ball travel as slow as it did. I also never saw a Yankee fan convert into a Blue Jay fan, though that only lasted a split second. High fives were being handed out everywhere. The cheering didn’t stop, and sitting down may have been against the law in this situation.
Now with the Blue Jays up 6-3, we can skip ahead to the top of the ninth. The superstitious person I am, stayed seated as 49,741 other people were on their feet. Twenty-year old Roberto Osuna was pitching to close it for the Blue Jays. When he got two quick outs and then a 1-2 count on Andrus, a young fella behind me said, “You should stand up now”. So I did.
Cheering on a 1-2 count, Osuna throws: foul ball, then ball, then another ball and then foul ball. It got to the point in which an older man behind me said, “You should sit back down”. At his request, I did. As we all looked on, Osuna throws strike three.
No longer was it high fives. Everyone was getting hugs. Including the baby that was one row ahead of me, and will probably never remember a thing.
The Blue Jays were heading to the American League Championship Series. It didn’t happen the prettiest way. It wasn’t pretty for the players and nor was it for the crowd present, but one things for sure, my generation finally has a Blue Jays game they can talk about 20-years from now.
Currently, in the American League Championship Series the Blue Jays are again trailing to begin a series. They had to play catch-up but were able to eliminate the Rangers, and will need to do the same against the Kansas City Royals. If Blue Jays do comeback, they are doing a great job giving their fans a heart attack with a drama filled October.
To the fans who threw beverages and garbage onto the field, I hope you have learned your lesson after embarrassing a normally respected Toronto home crowd. The Rogers Centre has now tightened up security for the remainder of the postseason to avoid any issue like that again.