Guest post written by Mike.
As a Torontonian and a lover of baseball, the Blue Jays hold a very special place in my heart. The smell of hot dogs and popcorn at the concessions, the sounds of cheers ringing in the stands, smiling with a shit-eating grin every time I see the blue birds take the field, the high fives I feel with such enthusiasm from the best fans in the world and the wonderful taste of an ice…. cold…(stadium-priced) Budweiser I make sure to have in hand before I take my seat. I feel it all.
4 words. Five claps. Let’s go Blue Jays.
I use every bit of my five senses to enjoy the game and team that I love so much.
I did not grow up playing baseball, although my pops and both my brothers played. I watched my brothers play baseball and I threw the ball around with my pops. It was fun, but it wasn’t a passion of mine.
I never had a loyalty to my city growing up, I just didn’t. I didn’t understand it. I knew what I liked and that was that. (One may say I was a bit stubborn) I wasn’t even a Blue Jays fan growing up. (If you know me now, I know you’ll find that hard to believe – but it’s true.) I was an Oakland A’s fan. Being an 80’s baby I may have jumped on a bunch of bandwagons, and those bash brothers were easy to love.
I just didn’t understand the whole “city pride” thing. It was something I wouldn’t understand until I was introduced to Doc.
We have seen so many talented players, players with potential, and just players with a God given, natural ability play for the Blue Jays over the years. MVPs, Cy Young winners, silver sluggers, gold glovers, you name it, we’ve seen it. Oh, and let’s not forget about those back to back world championships! Who could forget those? We’ve really had it all here in this beautiful city.
We even had Doc.
Fast forward to 2003. I was asked by a couple buddies to join their softball team. I obliged thinking it would be a fun excuse to hang out with my friends. And then I played, and well – I wasn’t half bad. I was actually good, one of the better players.
Coincidentally, 2003 was also the year that Doc won his first Cy Young award and the year I really started to fall in love with the sport.
This time, as a fan of the hometown Toronto Blue Jays.
It only took me 20 years to get it right, eh?
I mean technicallyyyyyyyyy, there were only 2 or 3 seasons as an A’s fan. The years 1992-1993 really confused me. I was happy, but I wasn’t happy. Then the strike of ‘94 happened and I was out of it for a bit. Though, the New York Rangers and San Francisco 49ers both won championships in ‘94. So, that made me a happy little bitch. I told you about my jumping on bandwagons back then, didn’t I?
Doc finished the 2003 season with a record of 22-7. Let that sink in for a second.
His emotionless face after an inning ending strikeout, his cutter that made opponents look silly, his masterful delivery, and his sheer dominance on the mound made me appreciate something I never seemed to notice before.
It was like art. Every time he would pitch, in my opinion, it would be like watching Picasso paint or Michelangelo sculpt.
He was special to this city. He was special to me.
How could anyone not fall in love with a guy like Doc? Let’s be honest – the Blue Jays were predominantly a losing team in the ‘00’s. Once Carlos Delgado left, they were a tough team to watch. But, I knew that every five days between the years 2002 and 2009 there was a reason to watch. There was good chance we would get the win. Because of Doc.
I was at his final start at home in a Jays uniform on September 25, 2009. The dome was pretty empty, the Jays were mathematically eliminated. Halladay pitched a complete game shutout (like he had done before so many times) and he walked off the field to a well-deserved standing ovation.
Listen, I was at the infamous “bat flip game” of 2015, but this – seeing Doc’s last game in a Jays uniform…seeing him walk off to a standing O, this is still the most special moment I have experienced at the ballpark.
We all (Jays fans) knew that he would be traded in the off-season. We all came to accept it. We were fine with it, he was our companion that we just couldn’t provide for anymore. He wanted a chance at more, and we wanted him to have that chance. I loved him as a Blue Jay, but I came to love and respect him as baseball player. Period.
Doc took out a full page ad in the Toronto Sun to thank the city of Toronto for everything we had done for him. Truthfully, it should’ve been the city of Toronto taking out an ad to thank him.
If I had to pick one word to describe Roy Halladay, it’s easy – I would pick: Class.
When I heard that Doc was (finally) being inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame – I was ecstatic. I thought, finally a more intimate way to show my love and support for the guy. Just being that close to him and maybe catching a smile and hopefully him being able to see my smile, it was a day I was truly looking forward to.
Scene: June 24, 2017, approximately 9am.
I woke up that morning overly happy and excited. Today was the day of the induction. It took me an hour to pick out which of my many, many Blue Jays caps I was going to wear to match to my black “Doc” jersey. I remember looking in the mirror before we left, seeing Jenn finish getting ready, and telling her, “today will be a special day!”
Fifteen minutes before Jenn and I got to St. Mary’s for the induction, we were involved in a pretty serious car accident. In the middle of an intersection, a car came speeding towards us and clipped the front end. Our car spun out into the middle of the intersection, the other into a ditch. Hearts pounding, minds racing – panic mode. Thankfully all parties were ok. Shaken up, but overall – ok. The cars, not so much…both were totaled. (The paramedics, firefighters and OPP officers in Perth county were top notch.)
In that moment, my excitement for the day turned to fear. My top priority was no longer seeing Doc be inducted, not even the status of my car…all that mattered was Jenn. I looked over and saw her being attended to on the side of the road. The volunteer firefighters holding her still as to not move her neck. I raced over to be by her side, wiping the tears as they fell down her cheek…kneeling beside her, I took her hand and for the first time, told her that I loved her.
We obviously didn’t make it to the induction ceremony. I would cheer myself up by telling myself that I would go to Cooperstown to watch his induction ceremony at the Baseball Hall of Fame there.
HOF class of 2019? Fingers crossed.
I remember being at work on the morning of November 7, 2017. I remember getting a call from my mom, saying there had been a plane crash in the Gulf of Mexico and that I may want to sit down. My mom told me that “it’s unknown who was in the plane, but the plane belonged to Roy Halladay.” I fought back tears as my heart started beating rapidly, I took an early lunch that day, I sat down and glued myself to Twitter for updates. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t really speak to anyone. I felt like a child admitting to my colleagues why I was so distraught. I felt like no one would understand.
I didn’t speak for the rest of the day. I was in shock. I couldn’t believe that the life of my hero, Roy ‘Doc’ Halladay, had been tragically lost that day.
I never had the chance to show my appreciation for what he did for this city, the Blue Jays, and baseball as a sport. I never had the chance to thank him for making me fall in love with this beautiful game. I never had the chance to cheer for him one last time as he was inducted.
He deserved that from me as I appreciate everything that he did for my life. He was and always will be a hero and an inspiration to me.
As soon as I heard the Blue Jays were doing a tribute to him on Opening Day this year, I knew I had to be there. This is my chance to say thank you. This is my chance to say goodbye.
3 words. Five claps. THANK YOU DOC.