July 22, 2011 - The Midwest Plus tour got off to a great start in Toronto. After meeting up with all our participants here at the Four Diamond hotel, we took the short walk over to the Rogers Centre. Yes, it was a hot one, with temperatures expected up at 37! (That's about 105 fahrenheit if my math is right.) The walk over was early enough that it was actually pretty pleasant as we walked over.
We were met at the Rogers Centre entrance by Buck Martinez, longtime player with the Blue Jays, Brewers, and Royals and now the TV play-by-play man for the Jays. Buck took us into the baseball stadium and gave us the story of what was originally called SkyDome. We were there for the first time the dome had been closed for heat, so that's some history. Buck took questions for about half an hour, then walked us up to his TV booth. Then we went down to the TV Truck, a place most people don't get to see. (We went back during the game to see it working - very cool!)
As Buck went off to call the game, we took our seats for a close game between the Jays and Mariners. We were sitting a couple rows back near third base, a great place to see Jose Bautista normally, though he was DHing due to his ankle injury last week. It was a pitchers duel for the first seven innings, a tight 1-1. Then Doug Fister fell apart and the Jays pounced on the opportunity to ring him up. Quickly 5-1, the M's struck back even more quickly. Reliever Casey Janssen walked a couple, gave up one blooper, then Miguel Olivo tied it up with a line drive to dead center. It was the M's first grand slam of the season!
The M's, in the midst of a 12 game losing streak, couldn't hang on. Rajai Davis hit a long line over the CF's head to score a couple, but got the laughter from his teammates as he raised his hands after the hit. Yes, Rajai thought it was the ninth inning instead of the eighth and that he had hit a walk off. No, Rajai - run! (He made it to second on the throw, but he'll get a fine in kangaroo court for that one!) The Jays closed it out with big Jon Rauch, getting the win, 7-5.
Most of the tour group headed to the hotel attached to the stadium to meet up with Buck Martinez again. (I missed this part, staying behind to take part in the Blue Jays post-game show with Mike Wilner. The show goes out not just to Toronto, but is a nationwide broadcast in Canada.) Buck brought along his TV partner, Pat Tabler, for a drink before they jetted off to Texas. The group walked back to the hotel and had a night in beautiful (but hot) Toronto.
We'll be packing up and heading for Niagara Falls this morning, so I'll wrap this up for now. It was a great start to our small group tour. At one point, one of the participants turned to me and said "It's going to be tough to top this!" I had to just smile - while we had a great time in Toronto, Rogers Centre is the "worst" stadium we'll see on the tour and we've got a lot planned for the next four days.
February 10, 2011 - We're excited to announce the first of our player appearances for our 2011 baseball road trips. MLB Standout, Buck Martinez, is joining Big League Tours on the opening day of our Midwest Plus Tour in Toronto.
Buck will be joining us for the portion of our baseball tour that we call our "Big League Player
Experience." On this tour package, as on every tour we offer, we bring in former MLB players to share their experiences in and around the game that we all love so much. It's just another way that we help you get inside the game and is always a fan favorite on our MLB Tours. But this appearance has a special offer associated with it...
Buck has offered to take 12 of our guests up to the radio booth prior to the 12:37 game at the Rogers Centre. As of the point of this posting, a few more guests can still join in this exclusive portion of the tour. So don't hesitate to sign up now for this tour so that you can get one of the 12 special escorted tours of the press area from Buck himself!
Once the game is over, we'll return back to the Renaissance Center, the hotel connected to the Rogers Centre, for a full meet and greet with Buck and all of our guests.
Here is Buck's bio from the Blue Jays website
Buck Martinez returns for his second season as the Blue Jays play-by-play announcer…
The 62 year old brings with him 42 years of baseball experience, including 20 years as a player, 21 years in broadcasting, and two as a manager… Beginning in 1967 when he was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies, Martinez spent 20 years as a catcher in professional baseball with the Kansas City Royals, Milwaukee Brewers and his final six seasons with the Blue Jays… He appeared in the postseason with Kansas City in 1976, batting .333 in the 5-game ALCS against the New York Yankees… Wrote two books about his experiences with the Blue Jays, "From Worst to First" (1985) and "The Last Out" (1986)… Among his 12 seasons associated with the Blue Jays, he served as manager for Toronto in 2001 and part of the 2002 season, compiling a 100-115 record… In 2006, he managed the United States team in the inaugural World Baseball Classic… Martinez' first experience with broadcasting came in 1982, when he covered the American League Championship Series, the World Series and the All-Star Game for the Telemedia Radio Network…. His television broadcast career began in 1987 as a color commentator for the Toronto Blue Jays on TSN… Began working with ESPN radio and television in 1992, and in 1995, Martinez was awarded a Sports EMMY Award for his work on ESPN's coverage of Cal Ripken's 2,131st consecutive game… For the past seven seasons has worked as a television analyst for the Baltimore Orioles and has also served as a co-host of XM Radio's Baseball This Morning show on the MLB Home Plate channel…. Martinez also contributed color commentary for Sunday afternoon games on TBS, as well as for the network's postseason coverage… A California native, Martinez attended Sacramento City College, Sacramento State University, and Central Missouri State University. He and his wife, reside in Clearwater, FL. They have one son, Casey, a 47th round pick by Toronto in the 2000 First Year Player Draft.
Don't miss your chance to on this mid-summer baseball road trip that incudes games at 4 different stadiums plus a day at Niagara Falls. And don't forget, your trip could include an exclusive trip to the radio booth with Buck Martinez!