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.