Part VII: Rogers Centre
(AKA: Canadian Hospitality At Its Best)
The previous three ballparks I went to weren’t exactly the cream of the crop. Combined with the humid weather, I was ready to begin a new phase of my travels. I got my passport and was ready to head back into Canada. I had been looking forward to returning to the Great White North since my last trip to Montreal which you can read about here
. I was also looking forward to visiting Toronto because I had never been there, and I was visiting a long-time friend, television’s Ryan Vickers! Additionally, I had been previously contacted by the Toronto Blue Jays after they were so kind to replace my Montreal Expos hat from the visit to Stade Olympique. The Blue Jays organization already went above and beyond to replace the hat. They were so kind before, how could they possibly top that?
The events leading up to this day were something else. First off, I had been featured on MLBlogs, and because I was e-mailing back and forth someone named Sydney from the Guest Experience Team, my blog was starting to see some consistent traffic. Plus, Sydney mentioned sharing my blog with others from the team! So while I was excited to meet the people from the organization, I was happy to see the formerly-named SkyDome in all its glory. I should mention that Ryan showed me the best of what Toronto has to offer. I went to the 360 Restaurant at the top of the CN Tower, the Hockey Hall of Fame (which was a huge highlight for me), and Steam Whistle Brewery! The day was capped off by a great baseball game at an underrated stadium.
Ballpark 21: Rogers Centre, elevation 90 metres
The game: Red Sox @ Blue Jays on June 30, 2015
After the Steam Whistle Brewery tour across the street, Ryan and I made our way to the ballpark and were among the first to enter. I went to guest services, and when I mentioned my blog and my travels, they were excited to hear about it and meet me! That was so exciting! I gave them my seat number, and they would take care of the rest…? Okay, I thought nothing of it at the time and went to batting practice where several Red Sox players were teeing off. Several baseballs came in my general direction, but no luck there.
After a bit of that, I went to their amazing gift shop. For the record, the Blue Jays have a great team store with an excellent memorabilia section. They have so many artifacts it is ridiculous. Their cap selection is among the best in baseball as the team store contains nearly every cap from each era of Blue Jays baseball. I thought about getting the old-school powder blue hats, but I opted for the current hat at just over $42! Keep in mind, this was in Canadian dollars… so it wasn’t too bad. Even though I bought the Blue Jays cap, I would proudly wear my Expos cap that the Jays kindly gave to me previously as a gesture of appreciation.
The food: Poutine in Toronto is always excellent, that’s just a given. Towards the start of the game, I had to try their huge footlong hot dog. This thing came with onions and peppers, and I poured on the ketchup. At $10 Canadian, this wasn’t too bad of a deal at all. Plus, the dog was a bit more filling than I thought. Another bonus for the dog is the taste, it was delicious. The food up there made me quite happy!
The fans: I will come out and say it right now, these are some of the most social fans across the major leagues… but in a good way! Fans come out very early before the gates open, and all of them dressed in Blue Jays gear. The Jays faithful really love their team. There was also a decent crowd because it was the day before Canada Day. Oh, these fans will sing “O Canada” very proudly during their anthem, and it is a glorious thing. Fortunately, I know all the words to the Canadian national anthem, so of course I’ll sing along!
Right when I got to my seats, I struck up a couple conversations with fans around me who were curious about the score book. When I explained that I was visiting all the stadiums, the fans around me were all excited that I got to visit the Rogers Centre. They were all knowledgeable about the game, as well. One guy in particular loved the Expos hat… because he had the exact same hat!
As for the seats I received, these were top notch. We sat in the upper section, but this was Upper Level 522, row one! Yes, right behind home plate in the first row of the upper level. From there, the views are excellent and you can see everything on the field. However, because the roof was closed, we couldn’t see the CN Tower from our seats. That was understandable… it had been raining earlier in the day, and we couldn’t even see the top of the CN Tower before entering the stadium.
The game: I will admit right now that I paid attention to this game a bit less than the other games mainly because I was having such great conversations with the fans around me. The first inning was a blur when the Red Sox got two runs. In the 2nd inning, Jackie Bradley, Jr socked a home run to right field to give Boston a 3-0 lead. Then in the 3rd inning, David Ortiz hit a towering home run to deep right field to put the Sox up 4-0. I honestly thought the game was over right there and paid attention even less to the game.
I really started admiring the view and noticing all the people looking down on the stadium from center field. Embedded within the stadium is the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Toronto, and some of those rooms have a stadium view. This is a four-star hotel that isn’t cheap at all. All rooms are easily in the triple-digits, but boasts one of the best views. During the game, we could see people looking down on the game, some of them cheering from the comfort of their own rooms! This might be one of the most unique aspects of any stadium.
During the middle of the game, I was met with a special surprise. “Excuse me, are you Jason Hernandez?” I looked around, and saw a bunch of fan services people to my right while they kept calling out my name. At this point, all the fans around me were wondering what was going on. A couple people from the Blue Jays organization presented me with not only a first-game certificate, but a pin, and a couple other gifts including a Jose Reyes bobblehead! They heard about my trip and wanted to wish me good luck on the rest of my travels personally. We talked for the duration of that at-bat, and everyone seemed to love hearing about my travels! That went way above and beyond the typical fan service, and I truly mean that. I will go on the record in saying this: The Toronto Blue Jays have the best guest services in all of Major League Baseball. If they keep caring about their fans like they did in my case, they will gain and maintain an excellent fan base. So to the Jays, keep doing what you’re doing! Thank you very much!
Now that I was feeling more at home, one fan in particular really wanted to hear about my trip. A fan named Marcus was also going to be traveling to some parks, but not on the level I was. We talked for most of the rest of the game, and I truly appreciated the great baseball talk. As for the rest of the game, the Jays came back with three runs, but it wasn’t enough. The Red Sox won the game, 4-3. After the game, so many fans stuck around the main concourse and just hung out and talked baseball and hockey. This is what I meant when I said these are the most social fans in MLB.
When Ryan and I even walked outside the Rogers Centre, there were so many fans just hanging out and talking about the game and events for the following day. The scene was rocking, and one of the best I’ve seen all season. I got to spend Canada Day in that great country, and everyone in Canada is truly proud to live there. Everything about that day, especially the Blue Jays game, was so amazing and incomparable to any place I’ve been to. The stadium itself is pretty nice, but their hospitality is tops. This leg of my trip was off to an excellent start, and the rest of the cities I was visiting had some big shoes to fill. Again, huge thank you to the Blue Jays. Thank you all for reading, and see you at the ballpark!