Blue Jays neighbourhoods a simple reflection of society
Bad behaviour by a few fans should surprise nobody
The Blue Jays, on Thursday, on the field, failed to complete a three-game sweep of their first home series of the 2023 season against what seemed an overmatched opponent. The Jays had won the first two games of the series, but on this night fell 3-1 to the Tigers, in what, at one time, was an intense rivalry against their neighbours to the north … of Windsor.
Third baseman Matt Chapman had been scratched from Thursday’s starting lineup with a stomach bug that has been working its way through the clubhouse. Santiago Espinal started in his place and was 0-for-4, on a night the team managed just one run and seven hits. Unable to generate any sustained offence, the Jays were shut down by righthander Spencer Turnbull and four relievers, going 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
Sure, the Jays won the series, but for this team to take the next step in the tough AL East, to advance to the game’s elite levels, they will need to step on an opponent’s neck and finish the job when given a chance to sweep. Last year the Jays were 6-12 with a chance to sweep a series of three or more games. This year, after the loss to the Tigers, they are 0-1.
“Winning series is always going to be the goal,” manager John Schneider said. “Whether it’s two of three or three out of four. To try and finish it off is tough against any team. As the season goes on, to finish those series off it’s going to happen. There wasn’t a letdown. It wasn’t looking past tonight, looking ahead to Tampa Bay tomorrow. Tonight just wasn’t our night.”
Turning attention away from the field to action in the stands, the Rogers Centre outfield neighbourhoods may not have been quite as crowded as they had been the first two games, given Thursday’s attendance of 26,192, but the new locales were still populated and busy enough to warrant ever-present, extra security beyond right field at three levels overlooking and right next to the bullpen – as will be the case for all future games. That amped-up vigilance towards potential issues with fan-behaviour began the moment Tigers’ righthander Spencer Turnbull emerged from the bullpen’s covered staircase to begin his pre-game warmups.
The neighbourhoods in play, The Stop, The Catch and the Rogers Patio had all been ready and serving since the gates opened and the crowds were allowed in, over two hours before the start of the game. In fact, with improved pace of play and time of games being an average of a half hour quicker, many fans have changed their habits to arrive earlier.
Wandering out to The Catch to witness the Turnbull warmups at 6:45 p.m., it was impressive the feeling of camaraderie among the hundreds of fans that had already found standing spots above the visitors’ bullpen, most with beers in hand or plastic cups sitting on the rails.
Serenity then, but three games into the home schedule, there had already been one ugly-looking incident, with no physical contact, but the potential for that. The Blue Jays can’t possibly be shocked, or at least shouldn’t be, that the lasting TV image from Wednesday’s second home game, instead of players hopping around to celebrate the Jays’ dramatic walk-off win, will be a disturbingly aggressive moment unfolding earlier, in the bottom of the ninth.
As Tigers reliever Trey Wingenter finished his warm-ups and headed for the staircase taking him down to the field, and before he could reach the top step, a lone, drunk Jays fan in new blue, Vlad Guerrero Jr. jersey leaned in very close and welcomed him with a verbal assault and fist punching the air like a ref counting out an unlucky WWE victim of a Steve Austin, Stone Cold Stunner. The Tigers righthander then failed to retire any of his three hitters and the Jays tied the game. That encounter likely had nothing to do with the failure of Wingenter, but it showed potential for similar antisocial behaviour as the summer heats up.
The change in location of the bullpen and proximity to fans is not just one-sided. The Blue Jays ‘pen is also elevated and in play, but is on the left-field, home side with a much warmer welcome for pitchers as they go through their prep routines.
When asked how it felt to have the fans as close to the bullpen as they were for the first time, Tuesday’s starter, ace righthander Alek Manoah said, “It didn’t bother me at all. To tell you the truth it was kind of uplifting.”
Manoah agreed that the closest thing to the Rogers Centre setup he could think of currently in MLB was the ballpark in Seattle where fans on the concourse in left field can lean on the railing up close and watch the pitchers get ready. Those fans, though, are still not as close as Rogers Centre. When Manoah was also reminded that on the one occasion per year that his team visits the Pacific Northwest, most of the fans near the Seattle bullpen are Blue Jays fans, he laughed.
Here's an update on the self-described quest by the Corona Rooftop Patio, the highest new RC neighbourhood, to be ranked as one of the favourite rooftop patios in the city. It seems that is the only outfield location serving alcohol until the end of the game where you can still observe the game action for the last two innings. The other outfield districts will make last call after seven innings. In that case, coming to the game with someone as designated driver would seem to be the most responsible course of action. Onward and upward!