On a Tuesday afternoon in early August, it took David Price two hours to get home from the Rogers Centre on his electrical scooter. The recently added Toronto Blue Jays ace lives two blocks away from the ballpark.
He didn’t get into an accident, he didn’t get lost nor he did he have a mechanical issue with his ride. It took Price that long to make it home due to the sheer amount of support he was receiving from Blue Jays fans along the way.
Between all the photos, autographs and well wishes, it took Price significantly longer to get home on that Tuesday afternoon than it takes to get from Toronto to Waterloo on a clear day.
The Blue Jays success has given a championship-starved city a team to latch on to, and the fans have responded in tremendous fashion. Blue Jays players, old and new, are stuck in a state of amazement at the passion being generated across Toronto.
I was at the Rogers Cup this past month, and Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki came out to do the ceremonial coin toss in a Serena Williams match. Tulo got a standing ovation.
When the match started, people seemed to be disappointed that they were watching the number one women’s tennis player in the world, almost hoping the Jays new all-star would pick up a racket and smash a ball into the stands.
This city has gone absolutely head over heels for the boys in blue, and no one should be surprised.
You can break up the life of a Toronto sports fan in the last 20 years fairly easily. Living in this city, the majority of people are faced with a clear breakdown of the order in which they should love their city’s teams.
First and foremost come the Toronto Maple Leafs. They get the most attention in the biggest Canadian city and garner the most scrutiny of anyone. The ‘90s and early 2000s brought hope and an emotional roller coaster ride with that team. They had multiple playoff runs and half-decent teams taking the city by storm. However, I believe that all culminated with the Boston series in 2013. After that heartbreaking game seven, Toronto sports fans stopped wanting to put their faith in the Leafs.
Now, the attitude is “I’m expecting them to lose, but if they win that’s fine I guess. Just don’t get my hopes up.”
After the Leafs came the Raptors. This city has attempted to fall in love with the Raptors in the last 10 to 15 years. However much like the Blue Jays, the Raptors also have continued to disappoint.
That was until this past spring, when the team made the playoffs for a second straight season. The city became a basketball town, hoping for the squad to respond with a solid playoff run.
After those hopes were squashed with a soul-crushing sweep at the hands of the Washington Wizards, Toronto sports fans were left dumbfounded.
With baseball season around the corner, the Jays looked like the same team as last year. Yes, Josh Donaldson had arrived, but that just seemed like another bat; a cooler head than Brett Lawrie. There was no reason to believe this season would be any different than the 21 previous playoff-less attempts.
And as the season began a Toronto team was finding yet another way to lose — with the highest powered offence in the game, the Jays were losing baseball games.
On July 29, the Jays sat at .500, seven games back of the New York Yankees for the division lead, and looked as though the season would end on yet another disappointing note.
Turning on the radio, you heard hosts use the words “meaningful baseball.” All Jays fans wanted to see was “meaningful baseball” in August, and the team could not even provide that.
Then, a switch was flipped.
Clubhouse energizer bunny and defensive liability Jose Reyes was shipped to Colorado in exchange for all-star Troy Tulowitzki. Following him a couple days later was possibly the best pitcher in baseball in the likes of Price. Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopolous then added a couple pieces into the lineup like Ben Revere and Chad Pennington to sure up the defence. Suddenly everyone was calling the Jays a contender: and the team responded. They rallied off 11 straight wins in August and then five more at the end of the month to land them in first place, just ahead of the Yankees.
Here come the fans. Once again, because we can’t help it, we have attached ourselves to this team. We are living and dying with them, watching every pitch, calling for the World Series parade. We can’t help but treat this team like our saviour.
When the wins kept coming in August, we were no longer satisfied with “meaningful baseball.” Now we want it all.
According to a tweet circulating around Twitter, “Currently, the Jays are in first place, Shania Twain is on tour, and the dollar is at 75 cents. A World Series ring is the only thing left to make it really feel like 1993 in this city.”