Last Wednesday, I was in the middle of writing about my experiences at Rogers Centre in Toronto, when my laptop went through the Blue Cycle of Death (Blue Screen of Death, reset, Blue Screen, reset, etc.) Since I had an interesting night, I figured that I should complete my thoughts now.
As I sat in the first row along the right field line, I was struck by how many empty seats there were. When Rogers Centre opened in 1989 (as SkyDome), it drew huge crowds. Turns out that the team hasn't been in the top five of American League teams in attendance since 1996. Also, after their last championship season in 1993, they've averaged roughly 80 wins per season, making them mediocre in a division (American League East) where mediocre just doesn't cut it (Rays, Red Sox, Yankees). To add to Blue Jays fans' woes, the team is only one of four that have not made the playoffs since 1993. My mother figures Canadians don't go for baseball, citing the late Montreal Expos and their ridiculous Olympic Stadium as proof. I'm thinking Torontonians do like baseball . . . good baseball. By the way, this paragraph was brought to you by Wikipedia and Google.
That night's opponents were the Kansas City Royals, perhaps a franchise even more woeful than the Blue Jays. They haven't been to the postseason since they won the World Series in 1985, let alone after 1993 (the other teams being the Expos/Nationals and Pirates). They're not thought of as a real calamity club like the Orioles or Pirates, but their season is usually wrapped up by June. Really, aside from their dramatic comeback from 3-1 down against the Cardinals in 1985 and George Brett's home run in the "Pine Tar Game" in 1983 (and his batshit reaction upon being called out to initially end the game), does anybody outside Kansas City know about the Royals? The only person I can remember from that team in recent years is Zach Greinke, but that was mostly because he made the cover of Sports Illustrated for battling depression during his Cy Young Award-winning season in 2009 . . . and he wound up heading for Milwaukee after the following season.
The game itself was interesting, starting with pitcher Ricky Romero plunking Alex Gordon on the first pitch. He would steal second base and score on a double by Billy Butler. Two innings later, the same thing happened, with Gordon walking, advancing to second on a ground ball, and coming home on a Butler single, giving the Royals a 2-0 advantage. By comparison, the Blue Jays weren't awake against Luke Hochevar, mustering one walk in the first three innings. In the bottom of the fourth, shortstop Yunel Escobar (not to be confused with Royals shortshop Alcides Escobar . . . and apparently, they're not related) got hit by a pitch, and then slugger Jose Bautista homered to left field to tie the game. The crowd starting getting into things, as the massive scoreboard put up his name. Incidentally, I was disappointed that the stadium's dome was closed. It had been a nice day in my time in Toronto so far. If only I knew what was happening outside.
The Blue Jays wound up taking a 3-2 lead, as Brett Lawrie hit a triple to drive in Edwin Encarnacion. But in the following inning, Gordon scored his third run of the game, and he didn't need Butler to do it, as he homered over Bautista's head in right field to tie things at 3-3. I don't really remember what was going on between innings. I know they had a power surge race (one of those deals where animated stuff happens on the screen), and the grounds crew was called the fastest in the majors as they cleaned up the infield. Also, the fans did the wave. I was a little mortified. That still happens? In the majors?!? And after the Royals bowed out in the seventh, the team played some weird song, while ladies and girls led the cheers on the foul lines. Is that a Canadian thing, or is that de rigeur in baseball these days? After that, Lawrie welcomed reliever Louis Coleman into the game with a homer to left, giving the Jays a 4-3 lead. They wound up getting two men on base thanks to a pair of errors by third baseman Mike Moustakas, but Yunel Escobar hit into an inning-ending double play.
After the seventh, I had to get up. Because I took my sweet time getting to the stadium, I barely made it to my seat before the game started. The Blue Jays are pretty good helping their fans . . . they give out pocket-sized maps of the stadium. It isn't for seat prices, but rather where the food and souvenir stands are located. I would've tried out more grub, but I have this disease where I have to keep score in my seat. So I spent the last two innings watching the game, keeping score, and trying to find dessert. I wound up settling for a soft serve ice cream cone, and I got my mother a keychain. That's what she wants . . . it used to be stuffed animals, but she's running out of room for those. As for the game . . . the Royals managed to get at least one runner on base in all nine innings, but they stranded eleven men on base altogether. After Jesse Litsch threw a scoreless seventh inning, Casey Janssen preserved the lead, and then Frank Francisco sealed the win in the ninth. It was a good game, and I had fun. But as I started out of the stadium, some stuff happened.
1. It was raining. Hard. Apparently, the dome did not retract because of the storm. Good call.
2. There was thunder and lightning, which was very, very frightening. I don't mean flashes of light in the clouds . . . I'm talking actual lightning bolts hitting the the tops of buildings, including the CN Tower, which sent the departing crowd into oohs and aahs.
3. The SkyWalk that I took to get to Rogers Centre was closed, meaning I had to walk back to the Fairmont Royal York. But that was okay, since I had an umbrella in my backpack. I always had it there. Not like I unpacked it in my hotel room and forgot to take it with me, right?
4. Oh, shit.
So there I was, my first day in town, trying to figure out how the hell to get back to the hotel, as my sneakers and socks started getting squishy. The lightning bolts reminded me that I had to hustle. I know that the odds of getting hit are remote, but I didn't want my mother to get a call about how her son defied the odds. Finally, I made it back, passing people who were underneath an awning, taking pictures of the CN Tower getting hit. But I had to get water, and I would be damned it I was going to pay $5.50 to open a bottle in my room. I was directed to Union Station across the street, but in my semi-delirious state, I settled for getting four bottles of bottle from a stand outside the station. I wound up waiting near a bunch of young guys, one of whom might have been smoking weed. I don't know what it smells like, but his friend was urging him to "hit that motherfucker like it owes you money!" You don't get that kind of talk over a Marlboro, you know?
After coming back to my room and drying myself off, I got online in my room and started to write about the day. I'd go into dramatics over the Blue Cycle of Death, but if you read my other blog entries already, you're probably sick of it. Needless to say, I wasn't taking it well. I wound up going to sleep, probably hoping that a messed-up laptop would be the least of my problems on my trip. If only I knew what was in store.
And now you know the rest of the story. To give you some idea of what I was facing as I left Rogers Centre, here's a YouTube clip of the lightning that struck Toronto, with photo stills and video . . .