It’s not often when you can say you were proud to be somewhere, especially when that somewhere is in the crowd at a sporting event of an eliminated team.
But last night was one of those nights.
The “Thank You Cito” celebration at the Rogers Centre was special. It made me proud to be a Torontonian. It made me proud to be a Blue Jays fan. It made me proud to wave goodbye to a legend.
I arrived at my seat in section 130 just past 7 PM last night, and I will admit I had high hopes for Cito’s sendoff. Well, my hopes were not only met – they were exceeded.
It has been a special season in Toronto, with so many outstanding moments to choose from. Morrow’s near no-hitter, Dave Stieb’s no-hitter celebration, a team HR record, Bautista’s 48th and 50th bombs. But without a word of lie, despite those excellent moments, last night produced at least five or six of my favourites of 2010, including:
Seeing George Bell and Devon White in person.
The video tribute, with congratulatory messages not only from former players (Fernandez, Alomar, Molitor, Morris, Winfield), but from baseball legends such as Hank Aaron.
Hearing my all-time favourite Blue Jay Tony Fernandez call Cito by his real name, Clarence. Amazing.
Hearing the voice of the one-and-only Tom Cheek close out the video tribute, giving my goosebumps.
Joe Carter telling Cito “I love you.”
Vernon Wells saying that Cito “rocks a moustache better than anybody.”
Cito’s speech, where even on his special night, he still graciously thanked the New York Yankees franchise for being patient and allowing the ceremony to interrupt the start of the game. Always a class act.
Seeing tears stream down Cito’s face.
The handshake/hug line, where Cito embraced everybody on the 2010 Blue Jays, from the stars, to the scrubs, to the trainers and batting practice staff.
The sight of Blue Jay players donning fake moustaches in the dugout – likely the funniest thing I have ever seen on a baseball field – and then seeing Travis Snider set a new club HR record by leading off the game with a bomb while wearing his Cito moustache. Classic.
I remember opening day 2006 when the Blue Jays honoured the late Tom Cheek with a stirring pre-game ceremony. I was watching that one on TV, and am not ashamed to admit that I had tears streaming down my face.
I’m not ashamed to admit that last night the same thing happened.
I’ve been to Opening Day games. I’ve been to ALCS games. I’ve seen milestones, like Halladay’s franchise win record, and Bautista’s 50th.
But last night was the greatest Jays game I have ever seen.
Thanks Cito. We’ll miss you.