Our Catherine Stem takes a tour of the Toronto Blue Jays pre-game broadcast with legendary Jerry Howarth as her guide.
The deep contrast of being on the field at the Rogers Centre, with all of its loud, colourful and exciting Toronto Blue Jays baseball glory, to the focused, powerful, respect garnering quiet of the 300 level, was felt as soon as the elevator opened its doors. Within a few steps I found myself staring at the entrance to the Blue Jays front offices, the place where the inner workings of the team gets played out, where decisions are made. It almost felt like a church as I approached, and I instinctively grew quiet, not wanting to disturb the work being carried out in front of me.
The grand doors that greet you as the opening to the Blue Jays front office reveal a museum of sorts, displaying some of the greatest moments in Blue Jays history. The glass case that holds Roberto Alomar‘s Gold Glove trophy requires a stop so homage can be paid, as well as the two beautiful World Series trophies, lit behind glass so they continually glow with promise each season. As I stood silently in this hallowed space, my eyes jetted back and forth between the beauty of baseball on display, and the village of people that make the team run, determinedly walking in and out of the various doors. It takes a village.
Stepping beyond the reception area to the hallway that leads to the media center, it is understated and neutral, the walls adorned with the past. Photos that catch your eye of favourite players, and baseball memorabilia. I stopped to look at the photo of the World Series ring, a glaring reminder of the goal for each season and couldn’t help but wonder if it had the same effect on those pushing this goal day in and day out, or had it become invisible, part of the furniture? I posed the question to Jerry Howarth, my tour guide that day, whether he still saw the pictures or had they just melted into the background? His response was beautiful.
“Oh yes I do…and often times I walk the halls before the games on both the 3rd and 4th floors and smile at old friends when I do.”
As batting practice was continuing on the field, all the behind the scenes preparation was being done to bring the game to the millions of waiting Blue Jays fans. It was getting close to game time, getting close to air time, and it felt like a well choreographed dance, a routine done with such familiarity, it had settled into calm determination. I watched the villagers at work.
I continued my tour down yet another hallway to where the legend that is Jerry Howarth sits and regales fans with calls on the field and anecdotal baseballisms, as the man himself was doing in front of me on this tour. His innate ability to make you feel a part of the conversation, describing the hows and the whys of what was happening at each moment, making this tour come to life with all of the colour and shading, fleshing out what could have been a very black and white experience. It’s what he brings to the table, on and off the air. I couldn’t have had a better guide for this pilgrimage.
I wished good luck upon the home run horn, resisting the urge to press it as I glanced down at the field and Aaron Judge, as he grabbed his bat. We continued to where the media sits, each with the packages of information provided in preparation for the articles written on a deadline. Again, I thought, it takes a village.
As I concluded my tour of the inner workings of the 300 level of the Rogers Centre, the village of people who contribute to the team’s run were forefront in my mind. I had the overwhelming urge to say thank you to them. Thank you for putting in the time, thank you for keeping things steady in a difficult season, thank you for what you do to bring the Blue Jays alive to millions across Canada and beyond. You are good at what you do, and I congratulate you on a season well displayed. It takes a village, and I thank you.
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*Featured Image Credit: C Stem- JFtC
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