Category Archives: FLF of the Game

500 Level Fans of the Game – September 5th, 2011

Baseball is, and has always been, a real father and son sport.  For decades, dad’s have been teaching their boys how to catch, how to throw, and how to watch the game.  It’s very common to see fathers and sons flocking into a big league stadium together, the kid wearing a glove, and a look of excitement on his face.

In this day and age, with so many different avenues available for kids to have fun – like videogames, skateboarding, football, and hockey – it’s nice to see that baseball still has the ability to bring fathers and sons together.  Mrs. 500 Level Fan and I witnessed it first hand yesterday.

It was unseasonably cool in Toronto on Labour Day, but the roof was still open.  The atmosphere was festive as the Red Sox, and thousands of their annoying and arrogant fans, were in town.  While Boston was trying to fend off the harging Rays for the Wild Card spot, the Jays were simply playing out the string, so the tension in the dome was almost non-existent.  It was a holiday and the last day before school – people were there to have fun.

And in the row in front of us, a father and his son were doing just that.  Having a blast. 

It started out quiet for them, with the dad reading the program, and learning how to keep score.  The son was quiet in his seat, watching the game.  But then, as the innings wore on, and the score remained tied, the anticipation and excitement built between them.  Suddenly the son was up and dancing in between batters.  In between innings when crappy Rogers Centre give-aways were happening, the son was again on his feet, dancing to the music.  The dad was clapping for him, egging him on for more.  When Jose Bautista was introduced for an at-bat late in the game, huge cheers erupted from both of them.

Then in the 8th, with the game still scoreless and both teams having missed great opportunities, the father reached over and put his arm around his son.  And there they sat.  For two whole innings, arm in arm.  During any musical breaks, they would dance in their seats, rocking back and forth.  Whenever a Blue Jay came to the plate, there was cheers.  If he struck out, unlike other fans who yelled “Come on you bum”, or “Seriously?”, the dad and son simply shouted “Next time Lind!”, or “Good try.”

It was great, and very refreshing, to see.

Unfortunately the dad didn’t follow the golden rule of baseball. 

Never.  Leave.  Early.

After the Jays failed to score in the 10th, the two of them stood up and headed for the exits.  It was all I could do to not reach out and grab them, tell them to stick around.  They missed the walkoff HR from Lawrie, which is a shame.

It would have been awesome to see their celebration.

500 Level Botched Ejection of the Game

A blurry view of the botched ejection

The game sucked. There – I said it. The Jays, amidst all of the excitement of Brett Lawrie’s home debut, put up a clunker against a team that they absolutely have to beat to prove they are on the way to contender-ville. The 4 – 1 loss to Oakland was disappointing.

Also disappointing was the action in the stands on a warm Tuesday night. Fans were happy to see Lawrie, angry with the performance on the field, but downright well behaved and polite – not what we have come to expect, especially in the glorious confines of the upper deck.

So no, there was no 500 Level Fan of the Game to hand out from last night. Instead, may I present the first ever 500 Level Botch of the Game.

Apologies for the blurry photo, but I had to act fast once the botch went down.

Everybody who has been to the Rogers Centre knows all about the “security” at the

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game. In the photo, the “officer” is wearing a baby blue golf shirt, equipped with an ear piece and walkie talkie, presumably to look more professional and intimidating. The “security” is wearing the white shirt. Generally, these people spend an entire ball game on the prowl for smuggled-in liquor. They have eagle eyes for spotting a mickey of vodka, an airplane mickey of rye, or a flask full of Jagermeister. Anybody who is over the age of 19 and orders a Coke from the concession stands is an instant suspect, likely to take a few sips of pop and then fill the cup with booze.

Also known as the fun police, these guys give the evil eye to anybody who might look suspicious. And last night, they saw an opportunity and pounced.

It was late in the game, the eighth inning, and the Jays were doing nothing on the field. After seeing the baby blue “officer” (let’s call him Biff) scowling around our section for most of the game, we were caught off guard a bit when he hurriedly ran to the section beside us, took off down the exit ramp, and returned with an actual police officer, and the “security” goon.

What had he seen, you ask? Was it the beginnings of a fight? A person chugging an open bottle of alcohol? A drunk vomiting?

No, no, and no.

Instead there was a young lady, in her 20’s, drinking a Coke out of a plastic, Rogers Centre purchased cup. Obviously, because everybody over 19 is a ruthless alcoholic intent on drinking illegally, they had to pull her into the aisle and rip the cup out of her hands. What followed was the most absurd thing I have ever seen. All three of them – Biff, “security”, and the policeman – took turns sniffing the drink. Theyhad their noses deep inside the cup, trying to detect even the faintest odour of booze.

Predictably, and hilariously, they smelled nothing. Red-faced, they let the girl go back to her seat, but offered her nothing in return – no apology, and no free drink, making her finish her pop after they breathed all over it. They left, embarrassed, to a chorus of boo’s.

Priceless.

So there you go – a 500 Level Botched Ejection.

On a side note:

Dear Rogers Centre,

Please do us all a favour and bring back the old draft beer. The bottom filling cups are a terrible, terrible idea. They invite spills, and they leak all the time.

Yours truly,

500 Level Fan

500 Level Fan of the Game – July 2nd, 2011

It was “Welcome Back Doc” day at the dome on Saturday afternoon, and as expected a HUGE crowd turned out to see our former hero. Nearly 45,000 people crammed into the Rogers Centre, giving us ample opportunity to spot a top notch fan of the game.

But a very surprising thing happened – the fans in the upper deck (at least way out in section 510 where we were sitting) were incredibly well behaved. Most were hardcore into the game. Very few people near us were drinking heavily. In fact, there were a lot of families in the seats surrounding us.

For a change, there were a lot of drunken idiots in the lower level. There was the fool who ran onto the field in the 9th. There were the clowns who littered the field with garbage and water bottles after the ejections of Jon Rauch and John Farrell. But people stayed relatively cool, calm, and collected up top. Refreshing.

The winner of the fan of the game for Saturday wasn’t really in contention until I finally got a good look at his face. He was there with a friend, who from the sounds of the conversation had been a friend for a long, long, long time.

The conversation itself was pretty entertaining, including such great lines as:

– “How are you enjoying life as a retiree?”…”I like it. I can’t ever remember what day it is.”

– “I wonder how they calculate the stat Earned Run Average..”…”I think it has something to do with pitches and innings.”…”Oh, OK. Maybe I’ll ask Google later.”

– “Who’s pitching?”…”I don’t know, they don’t post the pitchers name.”…”Oh wait, I see it. Vilvanoovayawwwaa.”

– “I don’t understand the fuss about flat screen TV’s.”…”I know, I’ve been watching my same TV since the 1970’s.”…”I’m surprised the cathode TV tube died out so quickly. That was a great piece of technology.”

So…entertaining? Yes. Fan of the game worthy? Not really. But when I finally turned around to look at him, I was floored.

Sitting behind us, in Section 510, Row 3, Seat 101 was none other than Mr. Sam Crenshaw!

You all remember Sam Crenshaw don’t you? The night security guard from epic children’s TV show Today’s Special? He had a talking computer, and was friends with Muffy Mouse who only spoke in rhyme. He was a classic character. Sure he was a puppet, but what does that matter?

By far the most noticeable feature of Crenshaw was his moustache.

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It was glorious. It looked almost looked like worms hanging out on his lower lip, settling in underneath is gigantic nose. It was a face you would recognize anywhere.

So when I looked behind me and saw his real life twin, I was shocked. Take a closer look at the comparison. It’s truly amazing!

So congratulations to Real Life Sam Crenshaw, 500 Level Fan’s Fan of the Game!

500 Level Fan of the Game – June 14th, 2011

For years and years I have been heading to the dome to watch the Jays.  For the majority of those years I have made my home in the 500 Level, a sucker for cheap tickets with a good view of the field.

I have probably been to at least 80 games in the upper deck, maybe even 100, and in all of those games there had always been one thing that had eluded me, one 500 Level curiousity that I had never laid eyes on.  It was a phenomenon, like Bigfoot – though there were rumours of its existence, I wasn’t quite sure if it was true.

But a few weeks ago, I found it, saw it with my own two eyes.  It does, indeed, exist.

I’m talking about section 520 – The Non Drinking Zone.

Even though I found it, I remain confused as to its purpose.  In theory I can see the point of the section.  Parents can take smaller children there without sitting beside drunks who swear and slur.  But in reality, it is useless.  The same drunks that you want to be protected from are still sitting one section over.  You can still hear the swearing and the slurring.  You are only a few feet away from any potential drunken brawls.

But it exists and it is monitored quite heavily by Rogers Centre security.  Step one foot inside the section while carrying a beer and a blue jacket will start walking up the stairs to remove you. 

The staff does a fine job of keeping the section clear, but sometimes can be a bit slow to the punch.

It is times like these when this man steps up:

The 500 Level Fan of the Game for June 14th – the Non Drinking Zone Enforcer.

He sat in the aisle seat, all the better to make sure not a single drop of alcohol crossed his path.  His eyes were constantly on the lookout for scoundrels trying to smuggle a $10 beer into his section, almost like a Prohibition era cop looking for bootleggers.  I’m not even sure he even watched (or cared about) the game.

On three separate occassions moves were made, daring young souls encroaching on his territory with a beer in hand.  Determined to press forward and penetrate the Zone, the drinkers placed one foot, then a second into NDZ (No Drink Zone) territory.  But they were destined to fail from the start, as the Enforcer would not be fooled or intimidated.

One look was enough to freeze anybody in their tracks, make hairs on the backs of necks stand up.  But it was the voice that really sent them scurrying, the stern “Excuse me!  This is a NON DRINKING SECTION!”.

The Enforcer was also armed with a camera around his neck – at least we thought it was a camera.  Equipped with a long zoom lens, the camera was NEVER ONCE USED!  I never saw a photo taken of the field, never even saw him peer through the viewfinder.  There was speculation that it might actually be a sniper rifle, giving the Enforcer weaponry against intruding drinkers.

Though he ended up leaving early, the Enforcer was effective.  So deep was the fear that he placed on those around him, that even after his departure not a single beer drinker tried to sit in the NDZ.

A job well done, and a fan of the game award well deserved.

500 Level Fan of the Game – May 31st, 2011

It was a very quiet night at the ball park on Tuesday.  Fitting, actually, because it was a terrible game.  The Jays lost 6 – 3 and it might as well have been 100 – 3.

But for my friends and I, it was an outstanding experience.  The weather was hot, the beers were cold, and the entertainment level in the upper deck was high.

The row ahead of us was occupied by a group of guys wearing matching camouflage hats, identical goatees, and Pro Bass fishing gear.  The seats beside were filled by three drunk girls, including one who openly poured vodka straight from a mickey of Smirnoff into a coke cup, yelled “Go Jays” in an extremely slurred voice before passing out on the railing and spitting up onto the ground.  She was promptly ejected.

While that may have been the highlight for many, it paled in comparison to the eventual winner of the Fan of the Game award.

Ladies and gentlemen, the 500 Level Fan of the Game for May 31st – the Nicest Man in the World.

He showed up towards the 4th, blue shirt, blue pants, and white running shoes.  He was carrying a shower radio, which he undoubtedly had tuned to Jerry Howarth.  One look at his face was all you needed to realize that he was indeed the Nicest Man in the World.

He had kind eyes and an intelligent face.  He was constantly smiling.  He stopped to say a few words to those around him.  He was happy when the Jays did something well, but he also appreciated good baseball by the Indians, rewarding them with polite applause when they made a nice play in the field.

A few innings after his arrival, a man wearing a full denim outfit walked up the stairs and sat beside Nicest.  The two spoke for several minutes – about what we’ll never know.  But it was plain for all to see that the Nicest Man was all ears, helping an old friend through some kind of problem.  When the man stood to leave, Nicest gave him a firm handshake, a pat on the back, and a smile.

It’s a rare day when the Fan of the Game wins the award for kindness and not lunacy.

It didn’t matter that Toronto was being drubbed 6-0 at the time.  The Nicest Man in the World made all of us feel happy and worthy.

500 Level Fan of the Game – No-Hitter Version

It was a terrible decision, but one that I had to make: I was unable to go to the game on Saturday. Thus, I missed seeing in person one of the most rare events that baseball has to offer – a no-hitter.

Thankfully I had some 500 Level Fan scouts at the game, and one was able to come away with a great piece about a drunk and obnoxious Tigers fan. Thanks @TOSocialEvents!

“The 5 inning SuperFan”

The roof was open. The sun was shining. The crowd was big. The fans were in good spirits. And Justin Verlander threw a no hitter, facing the minimum 27 batters and coming literally within one pitch of a perfect game. Forget that the Jays played terribly and got blown out – the respectful crowd at The Rogers Center still gave Verlander a standing ovation. By that point in the game however this guy didn’t even seem to care. Ladies and gentleman I give you… The 5 inning SuperFan.

Initially I had actually thought about calling this post “The Tigers fan who thought he was a Yankees fan.” He was obnoxious. He was vocal. He was rude. But most importantly he thought his team was God’s gift to baseball and he wanted everyone to know it. I mentioned above that he didn’t seem to care about the no hitter but that was a far cry from the opinions he voiced through the first 5 innings. Seemingly with every pitch he had a comment.

“Settle under that Inge, you got it buddy, no problem, nice grab Inge.” (routine inflied fly)

“Here comes an easy out.” (every jays batter – too bad this one proved true)

“Tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiggggeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrsss” (consistently with his group of friends)

“Oh that’s in there for a strike.” (seemingly every pitch, ball or strike)

And the list goes on and on and on. I think we have all seen these people before and you get the

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point. Literally this guy was cheering and jeering with every pitch. That was of course until the Bud Light Limes got the better of him. After the 5th inning he barely spoke, even to his friends seated with him in section 517. He made one slurred comment in the bottom of the 8th but that was all.

The guy didn’t even say a word… NOT ONE WORD… when Verlander completed the no hitter. He didn’t say ANYTHING when JP walked to spoil the perfect game. With two outs in the 9th I looked back and he was playing with his phone. Are you kidding me!!! The 25,000 plus that remained to watch the conclusion of the game even rooted for the opposing pitcher in a 9-0 romp. The 5 inning SuperFan however did not utter a single word and by that point I was proud that he wasn’t a Jays fan.

A 500 Level Fan First: An International Fan of the Game

It seems that the influence of the 500 level Fan of the Game is spreading!

Loyal reader @TheCraiger took a trip from Vancouver to Seattle last weekend to catch a game at Safeco Field.

It seemed that although the Mariners were up to their usual tricks (awful, horrible, terrible, putrid baseball), the stadium had plenty to offer…

Including our first International 500 Level Fan of the Game.

I’m not sure what they call the upper deck at Safeco, but for the purposes of this post, it’s the 500’s. From the words of @TheCraiger:

I was at beautiful Safeco field in Seattle this past weekend to witness the massacre that was the Seattle vs. Oakland game. I had nothing to cheer for. The Mariners sucked. That said, the stadium gave me something no game at the Rogers Center could: dozens and dozens of craft brews on tap, real grass with the smell of BBQ’s and garlic fries and not to mention an amazing feeling of being on holiday. I also witnessed and took a liking to (I believe) the first ever International 500 Level Fan of the Game…….Baby Susie.
Baby Susie is a natural. Alert for the entire game, decked out in a Mariners jumper, bib and even hair band. She insisted on facing the action, and was upset when her mom tried to have her nap.
Young Susie did respect the process, however. While the rest of us drunks where lining up for the last round of beer before last call, Susie nestled

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in for a breast feed during the singing of God Bless America.

Her mom helped her cheer for the home team, and jeer for the visitors. Both myself and @kszeto15 both enjoyed having Susie as a neighbor and know she will turn out to be a baseball purist. In fact, I feel like I could be her uncle.
Thanks Susie….you made for a fantastic game.

Thanks @TheCraiger. Hopefully this opens the floodgates for other cities. The more 500 Level Fans of the Game the merrier.

500 Level Fan of the Game – April 20th, 2011

The game was a disappointment.  Big Fat Bartolo Colon somehow completely befuddled the Blue Jays for nearly 7 innings (6.2 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 7 K), and Rafael Soriano snuffed out a late ninth inning rally.  The 6-2 loss dropped the Jays to 8-10 on the season and 1-1 against the Yanks.

The start from Colon was surprising.  It was the big righty’s first start since July 24, 2009 when he was a member of the Chicago White Sox.  I was one of many who expected the Jays to light up the tubby Colon on the way to a sweep of the two game mini-series.

I was shocked when he sat them down inning after inning.

But the shock of what was taking place down on the field quickly faded, replaced by a brand new type of shock and disbelief.

She was blonde, fairly tall, and pale-skinned.  She was wearing a short, tight black skirt, and a grey, low-cut top.  She was full of confidence, obvious by her strut up and down the stairs.

Oh – and she wasn’t a wearing a bra.

And everybody in section 532 knew it.

The 500 Level Fan of the Game for Wednesday night – the Head Turner.

With Colon mowing down the Jays, fans in our section were growing more restless by the minute, looking for something – anything – to take their minds off the atrocities on the field.  Suddenly, in the 4th inning, they had their saviour.  The Head Turner arrived with a few of her friends, wearing a white fur jacket.  As she walked up the stairs to her seat in row 16, each and every male (and most female) fans, literally turned their heads.

But that was only the beginning.

We counted three full round-trips between her seat, the concession stand, and back, with each trip proving more revealing than the one before it.

5th Inning: The Head Turner walks down with the white fur jacket on, then walks back up  with the jacket unzipped.  Estimated number of turned heads = 56.

6th Inning: The Head Turner takes a trip with the jacket off completely, grey shirt out in the open, no-bra fully obvious.  Estimated number of turned heads = 70

7th Inning: The grey shirt is completely off the right shoulder with the right breast 85% exposed.  Estimated number of turned heads = 175.

While she did a great job distracting the crowd from the putrid early effort, sadly she was an “early exit-er”, departing in the 8th inning.  Fans had nowhere else to turn when Johnny Mac and Yunel Escobar went down with the bases loaded in the 9th.

But for five glorious innings, the Head Turner was there to provide necessary, and entertaining, relief.

500 Level Fan of the Game – April 19th, 2011

Is this the next Devon White?

 

What a way to start a series!  A ninth inning comeback against the greatest reliever in the history of the game to force extras, and then a game winning double by a young star stuck in a horrific funk?  Yes sir.

The 6-5 win was a great thrill ride, and thus far in the early season, the hands down game of the year.  The Jays were able to overcome a shaky start by Kyle Drabek (4 walks, 4 runs), an injury to Aaron Hill, and typical bullpen debauchery by Jason Frasor (solo HR allowed) to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. 

The victory was even sweeter because it came against the Yankees.  As usual for Yankees games, there was a large crowd (over 25,000), and a lot of annoying, arrogant, New York fans.  There was taunting, there was heckling, there were some near fisticuffs.  One girl behind us came up with a gem when she stood up in her Yankee jersey, and started shouting names of the New York players as if that was supposed to terrify Blue Jay fans.  “We’ve got A-Rod, Jeter, Swisher, Granderson, Teixeira, ….”

But through all the excitement, both on-field and off, there was one man in the 500 level who never took his eye off the ball.  He didn’t let anything distract him, lest he miss his chance to fulfill his dream: catching a foul ball.

The 500 Level Fan of the Game – the Gold Glover.

I’m accustomed to seeing fans wearing ball gloves to games.  It’s part of being a baseball fan.  But generally those people fit one of the following criteria:

a) they are sitting low, either in the 100 level, or maybe the 200 level

b) they are 12 years old or younger

About 99% of all fans who wear a glove actually fit BOTH criteria.

Not the Gold Glover.  He looked like he was in his 60’s, and he was SITTING IN THE 500 LEVEL.  Not only that, he was sitting fairly high up in the 500 level, in row 12. 

Let me reiterate that.

He was sitting in section 516, row 12. 

And he was wearing a glove.

But it gets better.  Not only was he wearing a glove, but he never took the glove off.  Never.  Not once did I see his bare hand.  For ten full innings. 

And the focus!  Wow!  Take a look at the photo.  Tell me he isn’t picturing himself making a play.  He is ready baby!  Ready for any ball that might come his way.

Sadly for the Gold Glover he never did get a chance to show off his defensive skills.  Nary a ball came his way.  In fact, none were even close.

But he can at least take solace in the fact that he was named 500 Level Fan of the Game.

500 Level Fans of the Game – Opening Weekend

It’s back!

With the return of the MLB season comes the return of one our most popular features on the site – the 500 Level Fan of the Game. For those new readers, the fan of the game is basically a fan who does something, anything, to stick out.

It can be a drunken buffoon who makes a fool of him/herself.

It can be a super fan who is decked out in Jays gear from head to toe.

It can be anybody.

This past weekend, the choices were easy.

On Saturday, we arrived at the game just before the anthem. Already the upper deck was decently full. The four of us settled into our seats in section 529, tightly packed in row 11. We were forced to sit in our actual seats, a rarity in the 500’s. All that remained in our row was one single, solitary seat. The group of guys beside us, and our group, were so sure nobody would sit there that we all filled it with our jackets.

Then, lo and behold, he arrived. It was the third inning when he shuffled into the row, took a look at the coats on

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the seat and asked if we could take a look at his ticket to make sure he was in the right place. Dr. Nudathan, from my group, replied, “Oh, you’re a single. That makes sense then.” The coats were moved, and the man settled in for the game.

Ladies and gentlemen, the 500 Level fan of the Game for Saturday April 2 – the Happiest Man in the World.

If you thought you were happy about baseball being back, I can guarantee you were not as happy as him. He talked to us about players. He loved Drabek. He sang along to every song that was played, from disco, to rock, to hip hop. He used the railing in front of the seats as a drum kit. He stood and danced between innings. He was more excited about “OK Blue Jays” in the seventh inning stretch than I have ever seen from anybody.

His joyous demeanor was contagious. Although we were all happy already, he made us happier. Smiles all around.

The Happiest Man in the World - dancing in his seat.
The Happiest Man in the World - wailing on the drums.
The Happiest Man in the World - dominating the seventh inning stretch.

On Sunday, we made our way back to the ballpark. The crowds around the dome were insane – the amount of people brought back memories of the early ’90’s. The line to buy tickets from the Gate 9 Box Office stretched all the way down the block, about half way to Spadina. Police closed down the westbound side of Bremner. Crazy.

Once inside, we settled into our seats, this time section 534 row 5. And there, in section 534 row 4, was an incredible man. I’ve seen fans before, but this was a true fan.

He was an older man, I would probably guess mid’70’s. He was wearing a personalized jersey: “Bingham” number 92. But the true topper was this: he kept score. And not just using the scorecard in the program. No, he had created his own template, had a stack printed, and attached them to a clipboard. Each card said “Toronto Blue Jays, 2011 Baseball Season” at the top, with a line for the date in the top corner. It was incredible.

Bingham also wore an AM tuner in his ear for a large part of the game, listening to Jerry Howarth, and ensuring he didn’t miss a single play.

On top of that, he was into the game. Passionate, very passionate. The number of “hey, hey, hey” chants that came out of his mouth were too numerous to count. He loved Cecil, especially the fact that he struck out the side in the first inning.

Bingham was also an incredibly nice man, turning back to speak to us an a few separate occassions. “Not enough leg room for my tender knees up here. That’s what you get for being old and not down in the lower decks!”

Maybe I was sold because of the jersey. Maybe it was the scorecard. Or maybe it was because he reminded me of my late grandfather, right down to the facial expressions.

Whatever it was, it was a true pleasure to sit behind Bingham. I hope to see him again this year.

Bingham - an outstanding, score keeping, fan of the game.