With the Blue Jays FINALLY returning to Rogers Centre, fans in Toronto and around the globe are trying to remember what it will be like to root for the home team. JFTC asked fans about how they came to embrace the Blue Jays as their side-and the stories are amazingly interesting.
Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase
My name is Steve Fek…and I am a Blue Jays fan.
Some of you may be wondering why anyone would open an article with such a stark statement. But as a global pandemic closed borders and sent our team on a 24-month long road trip, the images of withdrawal from Toronto Blue Jays baseball actually being played in Toronto have affected many people’s enjoyment of watching games from afar. Sure we followed along on the stream and on TV, but we never really enjoyed our fix. Playing at Sahlen Field in Buffalo and TD Ballpark in Dunedin served more as placebos than cures.
As an American Toronto fan, such a stark pronouncement also serves as an admission to my Blue Jays addiction. Lord knows the extremes (and expenses) I have gone to in order to steal a static-filled listen to a game or locate merchandise to display my colours. Given the fact Canadian-based Jays fans were forced to go cold turkey and not have opportunities to watch ANY live sports, a 12-step admission on behalf of all Blue Jays fans seemed appropriate.
Once the first pitch is thrown from the Rogers Centre mound, many of the shivers, cravings and heartaches will quickly dissipate from our consciousness. But the reasons for those feelings of loss and withdrawal have triggered nostalgic realizations about how strong a hold our fandom has on our lives. Which got us thinking…why are we Toronto Blue Jays fans?
During last weeks episode of the JFtC YouTube Channel show The On Fek Circle, I posed this very question to those viewing live and followers on Twitter. The responses ranged from the familial to the emotional and were just too good not to share with Jays From the Couch readers. Here are a sample of the stories that were shared:
Blue Jays Brit (aka David @BlueJaysBrit) shared his introduction to baseball and the Blue Jays on his blog The UK Blue Jay Way. In 2007, David took in a Blue Jays game against the Texas Rangers while on vacation in Canada. You can truly experience his joy and the thrill of experiencing the ballpark experience (snacks, 7th inning stretch, and the view of the CN Tower from his seats). Particularly striking was his commitment to learn more about the game and its nuances while trying to keep up on Blue Jays news and results from across the Atlantic.
Several fans shared family matters as the impetus to start barracking for the Blue Jays. Kerry (@kerry_a23) got to the heart of the matter in her tweet “In two words-my dad!” She shared that she was from a hockey-loving family and that rooting for the Jays was more her father’s thing. But after a co-worker offered the family tickets to attend a game, and Kerry admitted that “from the first moment, I was hooked. Now I take him!” JFtC Staff Writer and Sunny Side of the Dome host Karen Soutar also credited her father Irv with turning her into a Blue Jays fan. While she had attended games in the late 70s, Karen shared her father suggested going to a game at the Skydome in 1992 to celebrate her birthday. The family outing was when she “was bit by the baseball bug” and when you listen to her analyses and read her articles, you know her fandom is still going strong.
Shamus Nelson was not always a Toronto baseball fan, but ironically began following the Blue Jays through his support of the Buffalo Bisons. A Western New York native, he first began rooting for the Cleveland Indians after they moved their Triple-A affiliate to Buffalo. Once the New York Mets placed their AAA players in Sahlen Field, he switched allegiances. But it is once the Blue Jays became affiliated with Buffalo that he found his forever team. Given his city’s proximity to the Toronto media market, Shamus has for the first time been able to follow a MLB club on a daily basis and he is thrilled the Blue Jays affiliation has been extended for another 10 years.
You may wonder how your favorite Couchers became such die-hard Blue Jays supporters. For Staff Writer Jason McDonald, it was his appreciation of the broadcast work and dugout reporting of Fergie Oliver that drew his interest. The All-Star caliber talents of 80s icons George Bell and Dave Stieb deepened his sense of fandom. JFtC Founder and Senior Editor Shaun Doyle knew about the Blue Jays as a kid, but his Nova Scotia home did not have a TV set so he had to get his news from the odd newspaper and word of mouth amongst friends and family. The Bash Brothers in Oakland first caught his fancy, but by the early 90s he had grown into an avid follower of the team. Even a move to Korea could not dampen his fandom and since beginning to write about the team, Shaun admits it has become an “obsession”.
JFtC Staff Writer and analytics guru Bob Ritchie shared a story that most connected to my own experiences. Bob pointed to the 1967 World Series between the St.Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox as the time he first became a real baseball fan-as did I. He became enamored of Carl Yastrzemski and his Triple Crown season, but found himself switching allegiance to the Cardinals and remained a loyal fan until the Blue Jays were expanded into existence in 1977. It seemed a natural progression to now become a fan of his hometown team, especially since fellow accountant and fellow Canadian Paul Beeston was named the first Team President.
As for me, I never really shook my Yaz obsession until he retired in 1983. Plus it was way to get under the skin of my friends who, growing up in New Jersey, rooted for the Yankees, Mets or Phillies. When my high school mate Mark Lemongello was traded to Toronto, I began a flirtation with the team that I kept under wraps until I moved to Buffalo in 1982. The Yaz retirement in ’83, along with my affection for watching game at Exhibition Stadium, found me listening to every game on the radio and growing to appreciate the managerial genius of Bobby Cox and the seemingly endless stream of prospects being drafted and developed under the guise of Pat Gillick. Being a baseball fan that believes in supporting a team in each league, I drifted from the Mets to the expansion Florida Marlins to my hometown Pittsburgh Pirates. But since 1984, my heart and growing baseball obsession has been Our Toronto Blue Jays. I know it might not seem like it in my articles and my shows, but that is how I intend to live out my baseball centric life.
The key part of history are stories. These are just a sampling of fan stories about their fandom and connection to the Toronto Blue Jays. So as we all celebrate the return to the Rogers Centre this Friday, take a moment and think about your story as a Jays fan. We’d love to have you share them with us and allow us to share them with other Blue jays fans.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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