The drive was a little slow due to traffic (construction and an accident) and weather (lots of rain and fog). I managed to arrive safely and in plenty of time for the game. I'd never watched a game in a dome and let me tell you, it's pretty weird. My seats were slightly under an overhang so I couldn't see the roof from there but I was hyper aware of the lack of things like sun and clouds and wind. I suppose if I watched games there all the time I'd get used to it but I don't know. I really missed seeing blue sky over the field. The effect was even more noticeable since it was cold, rainy and foggy outside and then eerily perfect inside.
I was a fan divided. I am an American so I suppose I should have been cheering for the U.S team. But Jason Bay, the only significant Pirate of the last 15 years or so - he was a legitimate All-Star and not a "well, we gotta get a Pirate in here" All-Star - is Canadian. Also, the Canadian crowd was booing all mentions of Derek Jeter along with Derek Jeter himself and I was more than happy to join in on that. Plus the US did not start Roy Oswalt who I really had my heart set on seeing. Booooooooo!
The video board was beautiful as were all the ribbon boards. Everything was very streamlined and simple. My only complaint would be the diamonds you see under the player in the photo above. The result of the at-bat was put up like on a scorecard but it ended up looking kind of busy and overly complicated. It's hard for me to say because I do know how to keep a scorecard but does the average fan know the difference between a K and a backwards K or what something like 3U means?
The other thing that's kind of weird about the stadium is that you're locked into your level. Your ticket tells you what gates to enter the stadium through and then you can't go anywhere else. So there was no wandering down to field level for me.
I didn't really follow the last WBC so I wasn't sure what kind of crowd or atmosphere to expect but both turned out to be really pretty awesome. I'm sure it helped that the home team was involved but there were over 40,000 people there and they were really into the game. Joey Votto (of the Cincinnati Reds) is from the Toronto area and he got an especially warm welcome every time he came to bat. The crowd around me went absolutely bonkers when he hit a home run and when he drove in a run in the ninth inning.
The only bad part about the crowd was this yahoo in front of me:
There's a special level of hell for fans who use Thunderstix and an extra special level for the person who created them. Thanks for nothing, guy.
When I was taking in the stadium I noticed the image below and immediately wondered who the heck Tom Cheek was and why he wore number 4306. I took the picture partly so I would remember to look it up when I got home.
Tom Cheek was the Blue Jays' radio broadcaster from 1977 to 2004 and is probably most famous for his call of Joe Carter's World Series winning home run in 1993: "Touch 'em all, Joe! You'll never hit a bigger home run in your life!" I've heard the call before many times but never knew who it was. Anyway, Cheek called 4,306 consecutive regular season games and when he was placed on the Blue Jays' Level of Excellence that number was used in lieu of a jersey number. I was just reading something the other day about Dave Zinkoff of the Philadelphia 76ers having a banner in the Wachovia Center. I think it's a very cool idea to honor long-time announcers and I hope the Sabres will consider something like that when Rick Jeanneret retires.
It turned out to be a really fun game to watch. It definitely had the feel of an exhibition game at first but as it went on the players seemed to buckle down and the crowd really got into it. The US led for most of the last few innings but the Canadians had a chance to tie it up and/or take the lead in the ninth and I admit, when Jason Bay stepped to the plate with Canada down by two with a runner on, I was totally pulling for him to be the hero. Alas, it wasn't meant to be and the US won.
On a total side note, you guys, when did Chipper Jones get so old? He was a snot-nosed rookie during the prime baseball years of my youth and suddenly he's an almost 37-year-old veteran? Does not compute.
Anyway, after the game was over I waited for the crowd to clear out a little and then walked down to the front of my section so I could get a good look at the roof. Totally bizarre to see a full field under a roof. When you watch games on TV, I think you kind of forget they're taking place inside.
A very kind bystander noticed me staring at the roof and took a few minutes to explain to me how it all worked. He pointed out where the roof separates and described how all the different sections open. He also described how the stadium opens for football games and where the 50 yard line and end zones are. It was really interesting and considering the stadium is almost 20 years old now - again, where does the time go? - all the technology involved is pretty amazing. If that guy happens to stumble across this, thanks for taking the time to chat with me. It made my day.
After the game I took a little jaunt around the city. As hard as it may be to believe, I'd never been to Toronto before Saturday and it is amazing. I knew it was a big city but it's totally different actually seeing it in person. It's like a smaller, cleaner, safer New York City. I didn't take any pictures because it was getting dark and the weather still wasn't very cooperative but I came home with a wad of brochures and immediately told Mark we were going back ASAP. I can't wait to explore things more fully.
I ended my trip with dinner at Richtree Market, a place that came highly recommended by a friend. Richtree is designed to mimic a European food market with different stations set up throughout the restaurant - pasta, seafood, grill, salad, and lots of crazy mouth-watering desserts just to name a few.
When you come in, they give you a swipe card, you grab a tray and at each station they just add what you ordered to your card and you pay for everything when you leave. It's much more convenient than having to pay at each station but it does make it pretty easy to lose track of how much you've spent. Happily, the food was really good. I had a sirloin (medium, as all meat should be), made to order in front of me along with sauteed mushrooms and absolutely amazing mashed potatoes. They were extremely lumpy and full of skin (as all mashed potatoes should be). I finished the meal off with a strawberry crepe, topped with chocolate sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream although I was extremely tempted by the belgian waffles. It was awesome and the whole atmosphere of the restaurant is very busy and charming. Don't sit on the patio. I don't think you get the full effect out there.
The drive home was a bit of a disaster. It was pouring from Toronto to Buffalo and that made for a very slow drive especially since I can barely see in the dark to begin with. But I made it home in one piece, pretty pleased with my day and anxious to get the real baseball season started.
A couple of notes for the baseball fans among you:
First of all, don't forget to check out my brother Lee's blog, New York Mets Online, for all your Mets needs. He co-writes it with some friends and it's pretty good stuff. Lee, I'll think of you when I'm watching all those Mets games in HD this summer. Heh heh.
Second of all, Lee is starting up a fantasy baseball keeper league. If you're interested in joining in and want more information, email me at the address at the top right hand of this here blog and I'll pass along more info to you.