I have been a Toronto Blue Jays fan since I was a boy. I have been to hundreds of games over the course of my life and stuck by the team through the best and worst of times.
Of all those years I have to say that the worst of times is right now.
The yahoos at the helm of both the team and the Rogers Centre are running the whole experience of a day at the ballpark into the ground.
So far, I have been to three games this season. I enjoy being close to the action, so I don't mind springing the extra money to get as close as possible. But it seems that no matter what my proximity to the field is, a day at the Rogers Centre is as boring and frustrating as it has ever been.
After each of the three games I have attended this season, I have left angry, insulted, and with very little motivation to spend any more money at the Rogers Centre ever again.
I will briefly explain my three experiences at the Rogers Centre thus far this season.
Game One: April 23, 2009
This was my first visit to the ballpark this season. It was a great game until the bottom of the ninth inning when B.J. Ryan gave up a game-tying home run into the section next to mine, a non-drinking section.
The fan who caught the ball, as is customary, threw the ball back on the field. A few minutes later, security arrived and ejected that young man from the stadium.
You can read the full article I wrote about these events after the game here.
I then proceeded to an information kiosk to ask why the guy had been thrown out. After a little waiting, I eventually got the chance to speak to a manager of ushers. This woman treated me like a miscreant for even asking the question.
Finally, I was informed that it was new policy after opening day to eject anyone who throws anything on the field. This includes real fans who would surrender such a souvenir in support of the team.
I left the stadium that night feeling like I got slapped in the face and a little less sure of my devotion to the Blue Jays.
Game Two: June 5, 2009
I had decided that I would start off my birthday weekend by taking in a game with a couple of my buddies.
There were some younger fans sitting behind us who were being a little louder than the rest of us, but by no means disruptive. There was some heckling and the odd curse word, but nothing most of us would consider unacceptable behavior at a sporting event.
The usher came down and told them that if they didn't settle down, they would be asked to leave. I spent the rest of the game looking over my shoulder afraid to jar the opposing outfielders in any way, or even cheer too loudly, for fear of being ejected.
The section became so quiet and boring that we decided to leave in the seventh inning and find something fun to do for my birthday elsewhere.
Game Three: June 12, 2009
This was the last game I attended, and probably the last game I will attend this season. I took the game in with my father.
Again, about halfway through the game, some fans around us got a little boisterous after Roy Halladay left the game with an injury. Those fans were warned to shut their mouths in such a way that they simply got up and left without being required to.
I heard the way the usher spoke to these three young men, and I didn't blame them for being insulted enough to leave.
After their ejection, I decided I would go and get a second $10 beer. The girl behind the beer counter remembered me from the first time, and for some odd reason decided I was drunk and wouldn't be getting that second beer.
I did not let this deter me however, and I simply made my way to another vendor for a top up.
When I went for my third beer in the bottom half of the sixth inning, I was surprised to see that the beer vendors around my section were all closed...in the sixth inning!
I was informed that only two vendors remained open, and they were located behind home plate. I was sitting in the outfield next to the Jays' bullpen.
After walking all the way around the stadium, I was greeted with a line that would make an alcoholic forget about that third beer!
I simply returned to my seat and waited for the game to end. Once again, we left early.
To add to my displeasure with the experience at Rogers Centre is the no smoking/no re-entry policy that management has put in place.
I am a smoker. I realize that most of you non-smokers could not care less about your smoking brethren, but you all must realize that 25 percent of the population shares my habit.
Every other stadium and sporting venue in Toronto opens up a gate or two for those of us that would like to step out between the action for a puff outside of the stadium.
Baseball games are long. At two of the aforementioned games, people who were sitting in proximity to me, with whom I had spoken about the ridiculousness of such an anti-smoking policy, left before the end of the game.
They had each decided they would rather satisfy their craving than watch the rest of the game featuring a frustrating team in a boring stadium. One of these guys even left his girlfriend behind and told her to meet him outside the stadium after the game! Needless to say, she wasn't happy with the policy...or her boyfriend!
There is one more point I'd like to address before closing out this rant! Over the many years that I have been attending Blue Jays games, I have been fortunate enough to develop a relationship with, and an affinity for, some of the long-standing employees of the Rogers Centre.
I didn't know him personally, but I certainly remembered him: Wayne McMahon, a beer vendor known as "Ice Cold Beer Guy." He was always a hoot when he came around. Fans knew him well for his famous sales pitch.
I was informed earlier this year that last season he had been fired for selling beer to a 22-year-old secret shopper.
Fans loved this guy, and to many he had become a staple at the Rogers Centre. He was an off-colour personality who had become a part of the whole experience for many fans.
His firing is just another example of why the product that Rogers is offering has become so boring and pathetic.
According to pretty much every baseball source on the planet, the Jays have been shopping most of their top tier players around the league. This pretty much tells me, as a fan, that they have no intention of winning anything in the near future.
But this goes way beyond just the team's performance on the field. Their futility has been well documented over the past 15 seasons. This is as much about about the overall product that Rogers offers fans during a day at the ballpark, as it is with the players it puts on the field.
The only reason that I can come up with for how things have gotten to this low point is that perhaps those at the reins of the franchise are trying to create a more corporate/family experience at the ballpark, while pinching their pennies to make the bottom line look more palatable to Rogers' shareholders.
Whatever the case, the Blue Jays can have their families and their corporate crowds, and the rest of us real sports fans can find some other place to have fun.
It doesn't matter whom the team puts on the field—Roy Halladay or a bunch of kids that they trade for. I don't care anymore. I, a once-die hard Blue Jays fan, have had enough. And, until they make things right, going somewhere else is exactly what I'm gonna do.
Go TFC Go!