For their first foray into the MLB fan festival realm, the Toronto Blue Jays have pulled out all the stops – offering fans access to the Rogers Centre and players like never before.
Fans attending the sold-out Toronto Blue Jays WinterFest today, January 20, 2018, are likely to have only one disappointment about the whole event – they won’t have nearly enough time to participate in all of the fun activities scheduled for the day. From activities for the kiddos to loads of baseball memorabilia to autograph and selfie sessions to tours to Q and A opportunities, fans attending are advised to get to Rogers Centre early and plan to stay all day. And it’s probably also a good idea to bring comfortable shoes, because they’ll be covering a lot of ground.
Doors at the Rogers Centre open for the event at 10 a.m. Ticketed attendees can enter through Gate 5 on the east side, Gate 11 on the west side. Those requiring an accessible entrance should use Gate 7. The temperature will be hovering around 4-degrees in the morning, but don’t worry that dressing warm means lugging around armloads of coats, hats and scarves all day – free coat check booths will be available at Gates 6 and 10.
Once the dead weight is shed – it’s time for the fun! So where to begin?
While tickets for the special autograph sessions were scooped up in a hurry – the Blue Jays are making sure that there is ample opportunity for fans to meet their heroes. Selfies with players will be available in the “Around the Horn” section. Kids 14 and younger can get an autograph from players, rookies and alums in section 127. The coaching staff will be signing autographs in the “Home Run Alley” area. And adults can get photos with players near the 100 level at third base. All of these opportunities are open to anyone attending WinterFest. Players will rotate throughout these areas through the day. It’s being managed on a first-come, first-served basis, so it might be a good idea to head to these areas first if rubbing elbows is a #1 priority.
Also, sure to be a popular stop will be the Main Stage where, throughout the day, various groups of players will be participating in game show type of activities and Question and Answer sessions. Game shows which include, “Blue Jays Feud,” “Batter Up,” “Teammates,” and “Draw a Walk” are hosted by SportsNet personalities Jamie Campbell and Hazel Mae. The four Q and A sessions, which will feature different groups of players, will be hosted by Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler. Seats are sure to fill up fast for these opportunities to see players interact with each other and for the chance to perhaps pose a question as well.
Behind the Scenes
While getting a chance to meet players is likely high on everyone’s list, another wonderful opportunity at WinterFest is to tour special areas of Rogers Centre. Available tours include: the Clubhouse tour, including the Blue Jays Locker Room; the Production tour, including a visit to the production control room and SportsNet TV room; the Media tour which explores the baseball media room and SportsNet 590 Radio Room and the Roof tour, which takes visitors to the roof control room on the 700 level of Rogers Centre. Details on the tours and sign-ups are available in Section 143. Since sign-ups are offered, it’s a sure bet these opportunities will fill up.
In the “Around the Horn” area, there’s an opportunity to get instruction on baseball skills and techniques and learn about equipment in the very batting tunnel the team practices hitting in. Also, there is the Ground Crew Showcase, which gives fans the low-down on everything they wanted to know about the team behind the team. Finally, for all of those fans who think they can do it better, there’s a “Be a Broadcaster” experience in the Jays Central booth in section 134 where adults and kids alike can see if they have what it takes to call a game.
Gaming – of All Types
Also located in “Around the Horn,” The Gaming Room features interactive arcade games – and where there’s video games, there’s usually a baseball player to be found. Blue Jays players will make special appearances here throughout the day, and they might just be ready to face off with a fan or two.
The “Spring Training Zone” is where the place for fans interested in honing their baseball skills. After signing a contract to be a free-agent for the day with a member of the front office, new Jays can check their throwing-speed in the radar cage, work on their stance in the batting simulator, throw a few pitches in the bullpen or work on their accuracy and range in the catch and throw area.
Speaking of face-offs, should anyone get tired of baseball activities (Really?), the Toronto Blue Jays are making sure there’s plenty of other sports to keep fans busy. A curling rink, hockey shoot-out game and synthetic ice skating rink will all be set up and ready for visitors.
There’s also a Junior Jays Park for those kids under 14 who may need a break from the lines and crowds. It features inflatables, carnival games, a merry-go-round and even prizes. Face painting, airbrush art, caricature artists and balloon animals will be available for kids in multiple sections.
Thanks for the Memories
“Memory Lane” will feature a Canada Baseball Exhibit complete with world series trophies, gold glove awards, the jays’ league membership and other exclusive pieces of Toronto Blue Jays history. There will also be items to view from the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, as well as Roberto Alomar’s plaque from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Section 116 will be dedicated to a memorial to Roy Halladay. It will feature his original Blue Jays locker and other memorabilia that commemorates his time with the team.
The Blue Jays are also offering fans several opportunities to do a little work. Craft work, that is. At Home Plate, fans can make their own t-shirts or canvas tote bags at the Pressing Station. They can also make WinterFest buttons and in section 135, their own gingerbread cookies! There’s also a colouring area for the kids and the chance to add a photo to a mosaic wall to reveal a special Blue Jays image. At first base, fans can add a message of good luck to the team as they prepare for Spring Training on the chalk wall. Finally, fans can turn themselves into a GIF at the party Pix Photo Station of Home Run Alley and share it instantly on social media.
- A portion of the proceeds from the event benefit Jays Care Foundation, which works to support children and youth across Canada. Jays Care will be hosting a Garage Sale in Section 136 with lots of fun Toronto Blue Jays items for sale, all benefiting a good cause.
- WinterFest is sponsored by TD Bank.
- The official hashtag for the event is #TBJWinterFest
- WinterFest takes place from 10 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. Doors will close for entry at 5:30 p.m.
- Concessions will be open on the 100 level and the “Fielder’s Choice” area will also have food and drink available for purchase. Fans can also bring in their own food provided it is wrapped, bagged or inside containers. Cans, glass bottles, aluminum/steel and water bottles over 600 ml are not allowed.
- All ticketed fans attending the event will receive a WinterFest hat.
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Joy Frank-Collins is a Communications professional who got her start writing as a journalist at a daily newspaper in southeastern Ohio. She was born in Reds country, but “found” baseball watching the 1986 Mets win the World Series. A long-time Pittsburgh Pirates fan, she added the Blue Jays as her AL team the day they picked up Russell Martin. She lives in Marietta, Ohio, with her family, who all share her passion for baseball. She loves the suicide squeeze, a crisp 6-4-3 double play and catchers. When not obsessing over baseball, Joy likes to work out, travel and drink wine.