Three Things From Week One

The new season brings the return

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of 500 Level Fan’s week in review column. Each week we take a look at three issues surrounding the club. Last year there were more good than bad postings. Hopefully 2011 brings the same. (Normally this wiill be up each Monday).

Week 1: March 31 – April 3

Record: 2 – 1

With the season shifting from a Sunday to a Thursday start, week one was an abbreviated one for the Jays. But although it may have been short on days, it definitely wasn’t short on excitement. Two wins against the defending AL Central champion Twins did more than get the Jays off on the right foot. It also brought baseball buzz back to a city that is starving for a winner.

Here are three things from the first week of the 2011 season:

1. A Blazing Start

Pregame ceremonies are always a nice touch at Blue Jays home games. The on-field presentations are always well put together with a lot of class and entertainment value. But too often they overshadow the game itself, as was the case with the Dave Stieb and Cito Gaston nights last year.

That was different on Opening Night. The tribute to Jose Bautista and the Hall of Fame tribute to Pat Gillick and Roberto Alomar were both touching moments. But as soon as the game started, they were distant memories, erased by one of the most dynamite first innings ever on Opening Day.

John Farrell promised more basepath aggression and to be a more difficult team to play against, and mere minutes into the 2011 season Toronto delivered. What a crazy series of events to start the year:

– Infield Single

– Botched Pickoff

– Single

– Double Steal

– Walk

– Hit by Pitch RBI

– Sac Fly RBI

– Sac Fly RBI

– Reach on Error, run scores

Just like that it was 4-0 Blue Jays and the game was essentially over. The Twins never knew what hit them.

2. Dream Debut, Take Two

Both J.P. Arencibia and Kyle Drabek made their major leage debuts at the tail end of the 2010 season. Both were called up as highly touted rookies. Both had outstanding debuts (Arencibia: 4-5, 2 HR, 3 RBI; Drabek: 6 IP, 3 ER, 5 K). And both ended the season feeling they could have been better.

Well, last weekend they came out firing. J.P. Arencibia stole the show on Opening Day, going 3 for 4 with two home runs, a triple, and five RBI. Not to be outdone, Drabek took the ball on Saturday and destroyed Minnesota. The rookie took a no-hitter into the sixth, and finished the game with a line of 7 IP, 1 ER, 7 K, 3 BB.

It was the perfect start for both prospects, one that could land both in the Rookie of the Year mix before the season is out.

A look at the throng of fans lined up at the box office, 30 minutes before first pitch

3. A Buzz is in the Air

47,984.

27,194.

35,505.

Those are the attendance figures for Opening Weekend. Add them up and you get a total weekend attendance of 110,683. On top of that, over 2.5 million viewers tuned into Rogers Sportsnet to catch the series on TV. Are the Blue Jays back as this city’s hot ticket?

With the Leafs poised to miss the playoffs again, the Raptors near the bottom of the league, and TFC trading away their best player and captain, Toronto has never been more ripe for the Jays. And the buzz that surrounded the Skydome all weekend long is a good sign that things are changing in this town.

It was impressive to see fans lined up hours before the first pitch on Sunday in hopes of getting a Jose Bautista bobblehead doll. But it was even more impressive to see the enormous crowd lined up outside the Gate 9 Box Office a few minutes before game time, hoping to buy tickets. The crowd reminded me of the glory days. Maybe we’re not as far off as we think.

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