Roy Halladay, Blue Jay

It can be hard to accept certain things are real.

One of my earliest memories of realizing I dream I had could never come to fruition was that I could never be a professional baseball player. From a young age, I played in local rec leagues and was a player of middling ability. I held out hope for far too long that one day my body would realize it could make my arm throw hard and accurate enough to be a major league pitcher. Eventually reality sunk in. I could only ever be a fan of baseball and of the Toronto Blue Jays.

I am old enough to have been alive for the Jays’ back-to-back World Series titles in the early ’90s, yet I am young enough to have only a slight memory of jumping up-and-down as Joe Carter rounded the bases. Even still, the joy of that moment is ingrained in me. I thought baseball would always be like that. I thought the Blue Jays would always be the best. Starting in 1994, they were not. The team quickly devolved into basement dwellers of the A.L. East, leaving most of the city of the Toronto uninterested in baseball as the decade wore on.

When Roy Halladay made his major league debut for the Jays in 1998, I had just started high school. Baseball had taken a backseat for me as I got introduced to the painful awkwardness of puberty and the general awfulness of, well, being in high school. My fading fandom was also because the Blue Jays didn’t give us fans many things to be excited about. The team was just there, their mediocrity matching my experience in what pop culture had long promised me were going to be the best years of my life.

Notwithstanding hormones and bullies, Roy Halladay’s second career start is one of my best memories from high school. I wasn’t at the game. I don’t even think I watched the whole game on TV. But I remember he came within one out of throwing a no-hitter. I remember he pitched a complete game with only one hit. More than anything, I remember that he gave hope. For Blue Jays fans, it looked like the team finally had a young player who really looked like something.  For me, I saw a player I could rally behind. I thought he was a little awkward and gawky looking, much like me. But his baseball talent looked unreal. You wanted Halladay to be great. And you wanted him to help the Jays win.

As many other articles being written this week will explain, Halladay’s greatness didn’t unfold overnight like we all hoped. There were times where people wrote him off as another Jays bust. I remember rooting for him to figure it out over those three years, while I myself was trying to figure out the social intricacies of being a teenager. Confounded by the latter, I put a much larger focus on being a fan of the Blue jays and a fan of Roy Halladay. I won’t rehash his underdog story here because all that really matters is, by the end of the 2001 season, Halladay was in Toronto to stay.

His legacy as a Blue Jay will not read as a literal champion, but it doesn’t have to. Roy Halladay was the Blue Jays for so many years. He was the reason you turned the game on. He was the reason fans went to the SkyDome. He was the reason you took your non-baseball fan friends to a game. Sure, the team might not amount to much this year but at least you can go watch the greatest active pitcher in his prime. He made Toronto want the Blue Jays to be good again as a reward for him – for his effort, his commitment, and his humanity.

It is a testament to Roy Halladay’s greatness on the field and and graciousness off it that we ultimately wanted him to be traded. We wanted him to go to a team where he could win on a level the Blue Jays could not. He gave his all for the team and they couldn’t hold up their end. Watching him pitch a perfect game and then a no-hitter in his first career playoff start for the Phillies certainly stung, but only for selfish, city-pride related reasons. You could only ever want Halladay to be a champion for himself in the way that he was for Toronto.

And so today I find myself having a hard time accepting that Roy Halladay is gone. He hasn’t pitched since 2013, but he has remained a larger-than-life figure in my baseball fandom regardless. Not only because he was why I went back to watching the team and sport I now enjoy beyond reason, but because he seemed to relish life after baseball so thoroughly. His Twitter was a randomly updated collection of posts and photos about spending time with his family, coaching little league baseball and learning to fly. It seemed like he wore a smile in every single photo, something he never did much of as a player. You no longer felt like you had to root for Roy Halladay.

He was at peace.

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12 Tips For Those Joining The Blue Jays Bandwagon

The Toronto Blue Jays bandwagon has gotten awfully full in the last week, thanks to them trading for Troy Tulowitzki and David Price (among others). Here are a few handy tips for appropriate etiquette when you go to a Jays game:

  1. Don’t show up in the 4th inning. The game starts in the 1st.
  2. Don’t stand up to talk to your friends in the row behind you. You’re blocking my view of the game.
  3. Rogers Centre has strict regulations around selfies. You may only take a max of 3 per game and they must be taken between innings.
  4. Don’t participate in doing “The Wave.” What are you, 8?
  5. Don’t throw stuff on the field at opposing players.
  6. Don’t throw stuff at people in the stands because they didn’t laugh at or acknowledge your sweet burn of a heckle.
  7. Don’t boo Blue Jays players when the team starts to lose. Especially when it’s the 4th inning. The game goes for at least 9 innings. The game is not over in the 4th.
  8. There are 162 games in a baseball season. Even the best teams lose around 60 or more. If the Jays lose a game, it doesn’t mean they’re “fucking garbage” and that the team needs to fire Alex Anthopolous and John Gibbons. The most likely scenario is that you are garbage.
  9. The Jays aren’t suddenly winning because they traded away Jose Reyes. He was much better than you heard on the radio and read in internet comments.
  10. If you catch a foul ball, give it to the nearest kid. Not your girlfriend. Not your wife. A kid. It’s a baseball. You will Instagram a photo of it, take it home and never touch it again. Let the kid have it.
  11. Stop cheering for Kawasaki. He sucks. He sucks so hard. You are cheering for the idea of him being Japanese and you being mildly racist.
  12. You don’t have to be black out drunk to attend weekend Jays games. Strange but true.

Follow these simple steps and you’re on your way to not being one of the terrible people at the next Jays game. Enjoy the rest of the season!

Take Me To The Nosebleeds

Full disclosure: I’m a huge baseball fan. Specifically, I’m a huge Toronto Blue Jays fan. I grew up watching the team and caught their back-to-back World Series wins at the impressionable ages of 8 and 9. Maybe that’s why hockey never took hold of me the way baseball did. I’ve always followed the Jays and the sport very closely. That’s why I like to think of myself as a pretty reasonable fan. I know there are ups and downs in every season. I know a game doesn’t end when your team falls behind in the 5th inning. I know that with a 162 game season, eve the best players and teams waver and struggle. So I feel like I can fairly say that last night, sitting in great seats in the 100 level at SkyDome, I was surrounded by the worst fans our city has to offer.

SkyDome

I should start by saying that I have season tickets, but my seat is up in the 500s. The nosebleeds. That’s where I watch the majority of the 20+ games I go to every season. I got a seat in the 100s last night thanks to my girlfriend’s parents, and it was one of the best views I’ve ever had at a Jays game. But here’s the thing: I’m not sure any of the people sitting around us were enjoying themselves. It actually seemed like they were angry that they were even there.

Up in the 500s, people tend to enjoy themselves. Sure, there are people who are paying more attention to their beer than the game. But they cheer when the Jays score. They cheer when the Jays are in a jam and the pitcher’s trying to get out of it. They may have only paid $15 for their ticket, but they want the team to win. Or maybe they just don’t really care. Maybe they just want to have a good time and that’s why they cheer. I really don’t know.

What I do know is that the people sitting down in the 100s last night wanted to be angry. They wanted the Jays to lose. Because only then would all their negative thoughts about the team and this season be confirmed and they can go around declaring their “I told you so”s. Early in the game, I heard numerous people cursing R.A. Dickey, the Jays’ starting pitcher, as he struggled to not pitch a perfect game. Even more people were bemoaning the fact that Jose Reyes, newly returned from the disabled list, didn’t get a hit every at bat. One sterling gentleman in front of us went so far as to call Reyes a “stupid fucking Puerto Rican” when he went hitless in his first two at bats. Reyes is Dominican.

But it was more than the baseless, racially-fuelled criticism of Reyes (a four-time All Star) that bothered me. It was the fact that none of the fans, if you can call them that, sitting around us seemed to want to enjoy themselves. Last night’s game was a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair. Which to most fans, means it’s a really exciting game. But when the Jays took the lead, I’d hear things like “this won’t last long.” When the Jays were behind in the 4th inning, I heard someone say “I told you they were going to lose.” The 4th inning! We weren’t even halfway through the game and the team had already been written off by its alleged supporters.

As is often the case in sports, the lead kept changing between teams. The Jays were ahead and then they were behind. By the 8th inning, it was no longer just Reyes that was, to use that same gentleman’s words, “a piece of shit,” it was every Jays player that failed to hit a five-run home run in every at bat. With the team was down by a score of 9-7 at the end of the 8th, the game and season was widely being decreed to be over. Many of the people seated around us left the game disgusted yet exalted by confirmation of their eternally negative mind.

Then, in the bottom of the 9th, this happened:

The Jays won thanks to a walk off hit from their best player Josh Donaldson. But it was also thanks to a key hit from Jose Reyes. Now the meatheads loved him, at least until the last player had crossed the plate. Then I heard “the Jays didn’t deserve to win that one.” They couldn’t even enjoy a win.

The way I see it, if you feel that way about the Jays and you’ve got tickets in the 100s, you don’t deserve to sit there. Paying $60 for a ticket might make you feel entitled to complain and boo the team you’re supposed to be cheering, but it doesn’t make it right. It just makes you a jackass The Jays and their players are not immune to criticism but aren’t you there to enjoy the game? I know I am. I actually want the team to win. And I’d rather sit with people who feel the same way.

Enjoy your field level views with the clueless commentary. I’ll be in the 500s.