Jays From the Couch went to Blue Jays Winterfest 2019 and describes the very positive experience
Blue Jays Winterfest 2019 is in the books, leaving fans with a yearning for baseball, the lazy days of summer and the boys in blue. The Rogers Centre was packed with activities, displays, tours, games and player experiences and that made for a true festival of all things Blue Jays.
I was at Winterfest last year, and left with positive feelings despite seeing areas that needed improvement. It was the inaugural Winterfest however, and those hiccups were to be expected. It is important to note that it seems as though they listened to feedback and made many noticeable improvements.
The most obvious was holding the event over two days. This allowed for many more to be able to enjoy it, while keeping the numbers reasonable so fans would be able to enjoy more than one or two experiences.The increased size of the coat check was needed and the “every ticket holder gets a toque” giveaway allowed for fans to get there on their own schedules and not wait in long lines outside on one of the coldest days ever in hopes of securing one.
The “open to all” clubhouse tour. That was a great improvement. The limited tour last year filled up very quickly, leaving those who had arrived past opening no chance to partake. So many fans are curious as to what it looks like, and where their favourite players get ready, eat, play. There were so many more people able to enjoy it this year.
They did get rid of the live band and table area in favour of a much bigger arcade – free to use- , another good decision as it was a popular place for young and old alike, as were the additional bouncy castles and slides. Back was the carousel and skating rink, which was just fun and the new addition of a huge Farris wheel was genius and lent to the fun festival atmosphere in a big prominent way.
The season ticket holder experience was improved as well. Using the flight deck as the season ticket lounge ensured there was enough space for all to gather, take in the buffet of food and sweets, and have great player interaction opportunities. It was pretty funny to see the players bartending and scooping ice cream, laughing and talking with fans. A favourite had to be the Jesse Barfied and Frank Catalanotto combo that had Frank scooping three bowls to Jesse’s one. The ability to have these interactions and show the players personalities outside of baseball, and their senses of humour is endearing to fans and does nothing but increase the emotional investment in the team. The large game of pong at the back of the lounge was a hidden gem where fans were able to play against players and alumni alike and the sound of laughter from that area was awesome.
Wait! There was more! On the 100 level there were home plate making crafts for the kids, design your own baseball cap, team history displays, a snow globe you could climb into for a photo and fake snow fight, virtual reality batting, hockey goal shot area, digital caricatures, a place to pay homage to and take pictures of the two World Series trophies. The choices were almost endless. A shout out has to go to the new this year glow in the dark gaming area where you never knew when a player would show up to challenge you to a game. Joe Biagini was one player who seemed to love this area.
The main stage where players, coaches and alumni were interviewed was needed again this year as it gave fans the chance to see the players play games and answer questions en mass. It also gave new skipper Charlie Montoyo- wearing a Blue Jays blue wedding ring at that – a chance to get acquainted with fans before the season starts.
The garage sale was hugely popular again this year, the sale raising money for JaysCare and their amazing initiatives. The great deals inside gave fans the opportunity to grab pieces of team history and mementos. These mementos made more meaningful after visiting the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame exhibit.
As the second attempt at such a fanfest, the improvements over last year were incredible, a feat considering last year’s Winterfest was considered, despite the few hiccups, a success. It should be noted that this year I was able to pitch in the bullpen and have the ball reach the waiting catcher, as opposed to my drop in the middle pitch of 2018. There were improvements all around, and all you’d have to do is peruse Blue Jays twitter to see the accolades and happy posts and pictures to realize they did it, and did it right. Well done Blue Jays, I know the fans are looking forward to next year already, and are excited about the coming baseball season, and the return of our boys in blue.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Catherine Stem is a Blue Jays fan and writer who has combined both of these great things by writing for Jays From the Couch. Through all the ups and downs of baseball, all aspects of the game are explored. Keeping a close eye on the Blue Jays Triple A team, the Buffalo Bisons has also become part of her make-up.