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April 24, 2018

The Human Side of Sports

“I am on a lonely road and I am travelling…travelling..travelling…travelling” sings Joni Mitchell in the opening lines of All I Want, I know how she feels.

In January 2016 I started a new job. It was an amazing opportunity and chance to really further my career in a direction I couldn’t ever have imagined, the only downside? Travelling. A LOT of travelling.

Do not get me wrong, I love my job. I get to travel the world and do my best to make the most of the places I visit when I have a little downtime. Sometimes I travel with colleagues but mostly I meet the local teams wherever I’ve landed. As someone who has never been that good in my own company I struggled a little, I got lonely. I had nobody to banter with. I missed it.

I fly an average of 100-120 flights per year, I’m based in Scotland so most of these are within Europe with the occasional long haul trip. I’m not a huge movie buff, didn’t have an iPad and get bored with music and playlists easily. And so started my journey into the amazing world of podcasts! I found I still got bored with most, they got monotonous after a while, the same format over and over. I did enjoy Blue Jays Talk with Mike Wilner but that was something I often listened to at home with my girlfriend (now wife) and after a while could only bear to listen when we’d won (some of the callers are idiots, I really don’t know how he does it all year long!).

Just over one year ago everything changed! I had heard Barry Davis had left SportsNet, and realised he was starting a podcast. Well, the first episode had it all! A familiar voice but in a more relaxed, chatty environment and there was even a pee break! I was hooked.

Obviously the best part of Outta The Park wasn’t introduced until a episode or 2 later when Matt The Producer MacFarland moved in front of the mic. Now we were cooking with gas! The friendly, brother like dynamic between Matt and Barry is phenomenal. Their witty banter is entertaining to listen to and genuinely makes me laugh out loud. When Barry explained something to Matt, we all learned. It was the ultimate fan asking our questions to a very patient expert. It is with this genuine love of baseball, music and the desire to be decent human beings that has created not only a successful show but a whole community of “OTPers”, a lot of whom I now interact with on a daily basis.

Every time I now pack up my case for the next trip I am filled with a little excitement, because there’s a new show to listen to. I never listen at home, I can’t. My new friends keep me company in trains, planes and automobiles and I love it. They not only keep me company, they cheer me up without even knowing they do so. Most of my heroes have been interviewed over the course of the year; CuJo, JP, KP, Marco Estrada and Justin Smoak. Plus an outstanding interview with someone who became my new favourite Jay (I’m looking at you Mr Donaldson!).

As a Jays fan in Scotland for 20 years I was used to having nobody to talk baseball with. That has certainly improved in recent years as I started playing softball and baseball and convinced my new wife to fall in love with the game and the Jays when we first met. But this is a whole new level of cool. I fell in love with the city of Toronto when I was 12 years old. It was 1998, Yankees @ Blue Jays at SkyDome. Clemens was on the mound and Canseco hit a homer, set off fireworks and the Jays beat the Bronx Bombers (something they did only 3 times all season). I was hooked. I’ve never felt closer to the city I love than in the last year and I can’t wait to meet both Barry and Matt when we visit during our honeymoon in May. The coolest thing however is we’ll go to a game with two friends, fellow OTPers who we’ve never met. We’ll hang out and just enjoy the game with fellow Jays fans and equally awesome human beings.

Happy (belated) 1st birthday Outta The Park, I desperately hope this is the start of something wonderful and permanent. Thank you Barry and thank you Matt (and your wives and families) you both work tirelessly to make OTP a part of our week.

It truly is showing the human side of sports and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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