I fell in love with Toronto and the Blue Jays in 1992 when I was just 15 years old. No, not because the Blue Jays won their first World Series, but because of my Grandad.
It was special. I don’t know why he chose to take me, but that decision affected me for the rest of my life. We stayed with my Great Aunt in Kitchener for three weeks and that was where I remember my first exposure to baseball and the Toronto Blue Jays.
I was unaware at the time but the team were having what would turn out to be a history making season. I recall spending evenings in the basement (I’d never been in a basement before!) cheering the Jays on TV. I knew nothing of the game but something appealed to me and one player’s name would stick in my brain, Roberto Alomar.
We stayed in the Delta Chelsea hotel in Toronto for a couple of days and saw the revolutionary, shiny, new Skydome, the CN Tower which was the tallest freestanding structure in the world at the time, a lake you couldn’t see the other side of, skyscrapers… I’d never seen anything like it before. I blew all of my holiday spending money on a Blue Jays jacket, an aluminium baseball bat and a ball.
I returned to North Wales and convinced my friends to come and play in the school field, but with no diamond, no coaching, no idea of any rules, the bat would eventually find its way into a corner of a cupboard. Occasionally I’d come across it and think fondly of my amazing trip and as for my beloved jacket, I was devastated when I left it on a bus.
My Grandad passed away the following year but I was left with fond memories of my time with him that would never leave me.
With no internet, it was impossible to follow the team from the UK and the Jays just remained as part of my holiday memories. I made it back to Toronto 15 years later but in the off-season this time so still no opportunity to go to a game. In 2017, I took a 3 day transatlantic trip to my first Jays game for my 40th birthday. That’s right, I was born in 1977, coincidence? Yes, yes it is.
May 29th 2017 I finally ticked the box at the top of my bucket list. Sat in the 200 level out by first base, I watched as the Jays crushed the Reds 17-2. Russ Martin hit my first homer in the 2nd inning and Tulo followed it up with a Grand Slam in the 3rd. A season high for hits! It was like I was meant to be there, as though someone was looking down and making sure that I had the greatest time. It would end as a series sweep and to date I’m 3 for 3 –perhaps I’m a lucky charm? We’ll soon find out – I’m heading back this week!
Now, I try to catch as many games as I can and share my love for the Blue Jays with my 10 year old son who is a big Kevin Pillar fan. I’ll take him to Toronto soon, maybe next year. I want to give him the experience that I had when I was a boy.
So, I may not have had the opportunity to watch the team until I discovered MLB.tv in the early part of the 2016 season but, if you ask me who made me a Toronto Blue Jays fan, it was Roberto Alomar in 1992…
…and my Grandad!