Baseball, part 2: The Jays

I held off on writing about the Blue Jays to give them a chance to prove the critics wrong and make an 11th hour run at a wild card spot. Alas, I fear it is not to be. As all other Jays fans do, I still love them just as much.

Our being a baseball family should probably have turned us into Jays fans many years ago, but we’ve made up for lost time. We watch every game, and the ones we’re not home to watch, we PVR and watch later, even if we already know the score. We watched Jose Bautista’s bat flip after his 3-run, go-ahead home run against the Texas Rangers, and we watched Josh Donaldson race home to beat Texas in that same series to win the American League Division Series.

We developed a MacDonald-wide grudge against the Rangers’ Odor, who punched Bautista in the face when the two teams met the following season. We watched them take the team to another ALDS, making for another exciting post-season, even though they broke our hearts by losing in the Championship Series for the second year in a row.

And while we thoroughly enjoy Buck and Pat’s commentary during televised games, we were lucky to make Blue Jays baseball a reality for both kids when we took them to the Rogers Centre to watch a game in person, last summer. It was an unforgettable experience.

The part that I looked forward to the most, and that I was even able to get a picture of, was the moment the kids walked through the doors and caught sight of the field for the first time. It will always be one of my favourite photos. I wish every Jays fan could have the opportunity to go to a home game; there is nothing quite like it.

While last year’s trip was one for the books, this year managed to top it. With one MacDonald in college and out of the nest, the three remaining MacDonalds made the trek to the Rogers Centre for a three-game series. Though cautiously optimistic, we were aware of the team’s recent struggles in the standings and crossed our fingers and toes that they could pull out a win while we were there.

Once again, the atmosphere in the Rogers Centre was amazing, between the cheering and music, and it would be hard for any baseball fan to contain their excitement, despite the $8 popcorn and $6 water. This year we decided to spring for awesome seats, so for game one we were right behind home plate as a mostly uneventful game dwindled down to the bottom of the ninth inning with the Jays two runs behind. I didn’t hold out much hope when, down to the final out, the 12-year-old voice beside me said, “can you imagine if Smoak tied it up and then Morales walked it off?”

And then, to our complete amazement, that’s exactly what happened. Justin Smoak tied the game with a two-run home run, and the next batter, Kendrys Morales, hit a walk off home run to end the game. I’m pretty sure the ball player from Nova Scotia sitting next to me was the most excited person there.

The following day, game two, our seats were right above the Jays’ dugout. The youngest, most persistent MacDonald managed to get autographs and pictures with several of the players and a quick hello from Kevin Pillar, so he was on cloud nine before the game even started.

As a parent, there are moments that you make a wish for your kids but know the outcome is beyond your control. And when you have a kid who is as huge a Blue Jays fan as mine, I’d have loved nothing more than for an exciting game with a story book ending that he’d always remember, because he was there.

And they gave it to him.

I’d have said it would be impossible to top a 9th inning, walk-off home run, but I was wrong. At that second game, in extra innings, with the bases loaded, two outs, a full count, and almost 50,000 people on their feet, Steve Pearce hit a walk-off, grand slam home run in the bottom of the 10th. It truly was an amazing moment for everyone there. And if we never again set foot in the Rogers Centre, we can live with that, because we were there that day.

We may not make the playoffs this year, but that’s okay. We’ll be waiting for next season, and if not then the season after that. We’re definitely in it for the long haul.