Category Archives: FLF of the Game

The “Spring Training Makes Everybody a Kid Again” Fan of the Game

I’ve had this picture on my phone for a while, waiting for the perfect time to post it.

It was sent in by loyal 500 Level Fan reader, and brand new Vancouver-ite @TheCraiger, a shot of him as a baby, being brought up the right way – as a Jays fan.

(As an aside – his love for the Jays didn’t last, as he somehow fell in love with A-Rod and the Yankees. Poor Sauny. Poor, poor Sauny.)

Well, that perfect time is now.

Put aside all the speculation about the rotation. Forget about the ongoing closer merry-go-round. Stop thinking about who will play third, who will play first, who will DH.

Most of all, drop all the negativity and sense of doom surrounding Jose Bautista’s looming arbitration case and how it will affect the slugger.

It’s time for Spring Training.

Spring Training is the best time of year. It is the unofficial end of Winter. It is a time for hope, a time when even fans of the lowly Pirates, Royals, and Mariners can muster up a thought of winning. Everybody is a contender in February.

But the best thing about Spring Training is that makes everybody feel like a kid again.

This was always the time of year when I’d bring out my glove and a tennis ball, brave the last gasp of the winter chill, and head to the driveway. With each throw against the house I was a different Blue Jay. I was Tony Fernandez fielding short hops, or I was John Olerud snagging line drives.

This has always been the time of year when my child-like love of the game is at its fullest. Baseball is a game again. There are no thoughts of arbitration, of contracts, of wins and losses, of trades, free agents, waiver claims, statistics, injuries,

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call-ups, or standings.

No, it’s all about the game. It’s all about the crack of the bat, the smell of the grass and of the leather mitt. It’s all about the feeling of catching and throwing a ball and of swinging a bat.

It’s all about being a kid again.

A kid with an old-school Blue Jay cap and shirt.

Offseason Fan of the Game

These past few days I have been in an offseason depression. 

It’s cold, snowy, and dark outside.

The Yankees are heavily involved in Cliff Lee talks.

The Red Sox picked up Carl Crawford AND Adrian Gonzalez.

The Orioles added 40 HR third baseman Mark Reynolds.

The Jays responded by trading workhorse / staff ace Shaun Marcum for a minor league prospect.

Thank goodness the Rays lost Carl Crawford, Joaquin Benoit, Carlos Pena, Jason Bartlett, and likely Rafael Soriano and Randy Choate or else I would be in tears.

But then….something happened. 

A loyal 500 Level Fan reader (and creator of the the 500 Level Fan theme song) sent me an email.

The email contained two photographs, photos that gave me proof that die-hard baseball fans still exist in this city.  Proof that despite the seemingly annual disadvantage the Jays appear to have in the AL East, people still care. 

And most of all – proof that these amazing jackets are still around.

From the email:

Just had the best customer in the store, named Nancy.  She just happened to be wearing a BACK TO BACK 92-93 World Series Champions leather jacket!!!!

We talked Jays for about 15 minutes, and she is a total sweetheart.

She talked a lot about the golden years.  In her opinion, Jimmy Key was the best pitcher to ever play for the Jays.

She is also in love with Tony Fernandez, telling me he was as graceful as a ballet dancer when playing shortstop in Toronto.

What a great lady!

Great lady indeed!  Thanks Nancy for cheering me up and never losing faith in our Jays.

Congratulations on being named 500 Level Fan’s first Offseason Fan of the Game!

500 Level Fan of the Game – September 22nd, 2010

It figures that the day I post an article about how bad Seattle is, and how atrocious their hitting is, the Mariners blast four home runs and beat the Jays 6-3.

There really wasn’t much to hold the crowd’s attention.  The Jays never really threatened the entire night.  Kyle Drabek really didn’t pitch all that poorly, but another, seemingly nightly, Brian “Billy” Tallet poor inning allowed Seattle to run and hide.

In fact, unless you were a Mariners fan, the game wasn’t necessarily worth attending.  The seemingly thousands of Japanese in attendance had a special thrill during each Ichiro at-bat, and were justly rewarded with a single giving him 198 hits on the season.  Jose Lopez hit three home runs to give the Mariners their third double-digit HR total.  And that was it.

While we did our best to stay positive and focused on the game, a man one section over from us completely tuned out.  While we cheered for whatever event we could, he was indifferent.  He had a beautiful, golden mullet, a classic yellow-print, floral shirt, and a freshly pressed pair of khaki’s.  Ladies and gentlemen the 500 Level Fan of the Game: Galileo.

Why did we call him Galileo you ask?  Take a look at this:

That’s right.  The astronomer has a pair of binoculars, but wasn’t really interested in watching the game.  Several times he was staring upwards, through the open roof and at the stars.  During moments when he wasn’t looking through his binoculars, he was busy doing this:

I couldn’t make out the title of the book, but one can be fairly sure that it had to do with the constellations.  Maybe he was trying to match Orion’s belt to the book’s description, or maybe he was trying to decipher what phase the moon was in.  Whatever it was, he made the game that much more entertaining for us.  So congratulations Galileo.

Also – a special honourable mention to a former Fan of the Game:

Tough to see from that distance, but zoomed closer it is none other than…

The Moustache Masturbator!

500 Level Fan of the Game – September 8th, 2010

10,616 – not a great attendance last night (not terribly bad considering the opponent, their injuries, the first week of school, and the weather – but not great), making it tough to find a fan of the game.  The upper deck was eerily silent.

But then something magical happened.

A 500 Level Fan of the Game appeared, seemingly from nowhere.  And this fan looked famous!  Here’s a clue:

This is Ground Control to Major Tom/  You’ve really made the grade/  And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear/  Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare

This is Major Tom to Ground Control/  I’m stepping through the door/  And I’m floating in a most peculiar way/  And the stars look very different today

Or how about this:

 

That’s right!  In the 5th inning, a quick look behind us brought us last night’s fan of the game – Major Tom!

Gold tights.  Blue eye makeup.  This man/woman was heavily involved in a photo shoot for a few innings at the top of the upper deck.

Until the always lovable Rogers Centre security staff put a stop to it…

Disappointing.

But it was great while it lasted. 

And for distracting all 425 of us in the 500 Level during a game in which the Jays lost 8-1, and virtually the entire ‘B-squad’ (Mike McCoy, Jose Molina, Jarret Hoffpauir, Brian “Billy” Tallet, and Josh Roenicke) made an appearance, winning the 500 Level Fan of the Game is richly deserved.

Congratulations Major Tom.

500 Level Fans of the Game – August 25th, 2010

Only one word can describe the events in the upper deck last night.

Wow.

Do you recognize these men?

If not, please click here and here.

That’s right folks.  Not only did I get the chance to see the Jays beat the hated Yankees and get some revenge for Tuesday nights debacle.  Not only did I get to enjoy an open roof and a few cold beers.  I had the incredible opportunity to see the return of both the Chicken Licker and Pingu!!!!

Pingu was seated a few rows behind me.  As usual, he was looking quite rotund.  But unlike the last time I spotted him, when he was verbally abusive, sleepy, and grumpy, he appeared happy.  He was clad in a Blue Jays jersey, fully tucked into his 58-inch waist.  He was no longer cursing Overbay or Encarnacion.  Instead he was jovial, taking photos with random fans and trying to chat to young women (unsuccessfully).

Perhaps it had something to do with being alone.  His normal sidekick, Bobby, was spotted a section over and about 10 rows lower.  Was there a falling out?  It didn’t look like it when Bobby stood up in the 6th and waved.  Maybe they’re just better off kept apart.

As for the Chicken Licker.  I looked to my left in the 4th inning and nearly fell over.  I think I actually did spit some beer out.  There he was, in all his glory.  An inning after spotting him I watched with great anticipation while he brought a snack out of his bag.  Unfortunately it wasn’t a fully cooked bone-in chicken breast this time, but several thick cut slabs of marble cheese.  Sadly, he simply ate them.  No licking on this night.

But nothing, and I mean nothing, can ever put a damper on my personal 500 Level All-Star game.  Congrats Chicken Licker and Pingu, 500 Level Fans of the Game.

Sometimes Even Yankee Fans Are Alright

Here’s the scene: 7th inning, Nick Swisher at bat.  As a Blue Jays fan, it is my duty to hate the Yankees.  It is my priority to hate Nick Swisher.  So I booed him.  Heavily.

“Swisher sucks!  Boo!”

I can hear a female Yankee fan behind me speaking to her friends about my booing of Swisher, which of course encourages me to boo even louder.

“You suck!”

Then, I feel a pat on my shoulder.  I turn around.

“What are you saying?” she asks?

“Swisher sucks,” I reply.

“What was that again?  What are you saying?”

“I said Swisher sucks.  He is terrible.”

She then points at her ear, where she is wearing a pair of dangling Yankee earrings.

“Sorry, I couldn’t hear you cause we’re twelve-and-a-half games up.  You’ll have to talk louder.”

Sadly, I could not think of a comeback.

Well played Yankee fan, well played….

500 Level Fans of the Game – August 24th, 2010

At the same time last night’s Jays / Yankees game was terrible and amazing.  Terrible obviously because the Jays got smoked.  Rzep and Tallet were terrible, allowing five Yankee homers in an 11-5 rout.

But the game was amazing because of the 500 Level Fans.  As always, they did not disappoint.  The combination of a beautiful night, an open roof, and the Yankees in town resulted in a LOT of flowing beers.  Seriously – everybody was drunk. 

We started our journey on the third base side of the upper deck, section 533.  It was there that we discovered this gem of a man, the Throwback:

Nice radio. Nice hat.

He could have come straight from the ’50’s with his old school bowler-type hat.  He came equipped with an antique radio to listen to the game, and a tambourine to make some noise when the Jays did something good.  But the best part about the Throwback?  His arm:

That’s right – you are looking at a tattoo of Joe Carter’s leap around the bases after his series winning HR in 1993.  If that is not commitment to your team, I don’t know what is.  Amazing.  Literally amazing.

In the sixth inning, with Toronto getting ripped apart, our crew decided to move.  We found a bunch of empty seats in section 525, behind home plate, and settled down with our beers.  After watching an entire row of drunk guys get tossed from the game for smoking (yes – smoking), we met two fans beside us: the Snakemen.

The Snakemen were on a quest  They wanted to replicate this, seen at a CFL game about a month ago:

Unfortunately, beer snakes have been outlawed in all stadiums since that time.  But that didn’t stop the Snakemen.  They were busy gathering all empty beer cups they could find.  They stood up and asked everybody around them to donate their cups.  They encouraged the entire section to drink faster, so the snake could grow.  Up and down the aisle they went, gathering and stacking like primitive hunters.  At one point the snake got as high as this:

The Snakemen - stacking cups since inning 6

But then, Rogers Centre security, the most respected men in the city, arrived on the scene to confiscate the snake.  A second, third, and fourth attempt to start a new snake failed as security was swift to squash them.  Though the cups were taken, the  Snakemen were not kicked out and never lost their drive.

For that perseverence the Snakemen edge out the Throwback for 500 Level Fans of the Game.

500 Level Fan of the Game – August 12th, 2010

Some technical issues prevented me from posting this yesterday….

**********************************

What a day at the dome.  It was a game that had everything: idiot Red Sox fans, thousands of camp kids who loved to scream in high pitched voices, an open roof with hot sunshine, a Blue Jays ninth inning comeback win off the Self Cleaning Anus, and plenty of my coworkers getting ripped apart on free beer.

They say that any day on the golf course is better than a day at the office, but I would say a day spent drinking beer and watching baseball tops both of those things – especially on a Thursday afternoon.  Our entire work group was treated to an employee appreciation event yesterday at the dome.  Each of us were given a ticket to the 500 Level and a $20 voucher for refreshments.  While a large majority took the “refreshments” label to mean popcorn, nachos, chicken fingers, and cokes, a small group of us took it to mean beer.  The beer combined with the heat and the thrill of not being at work seemed to have a heavy impact on everybody, but especially on one man:

The 500 Level Fan of the Game for August 12th – SanMan the Superfan.

Right upon arriving at the game I felt better that SanMan was there in his Jays hat and jersey, meaning I didn’t look too out of place in my powder blue Tony Fernandez jersey.  After the stirring comeback win by the Jays, the rowdy ones from our group hit up a bar for a few more pints, which is where the above photo was taken.  The best part about the photo is not the eyes, the smile, or the double thumbs up.  No – the best part by far is the “are you serious” look he is getting from his wife.

It takes a great man to do any one of these things: get drunk in public at a work function, volunteer to be photographed for 500 Level Fan, and do it all to the bewilderment of your significant other.  SanMan the Superfan did all three.

Which is why he is a well deserved winner of the Fan of the Game.

500 Level Fan of the Game – August 11th, 2010

Well, that sucked.  Last night was the 18th time I have been to the Rogers Centre this year to see the Jays, and it was by FAR the worst game I have attended.  In fact, the game was so bad that I broke my own rule of thumb – never leave early.  I’ve been to games where the Jays have come back from four runs down in the bottom of the ninth, and I am a firm believer that anything can happen at a game.  But yesterday was not one of those days.

They Jays were thoroughly thumped, and it took the wind of most of the fans at the game – except for the loud and obnoxious Red Sox fans.  In our section in the 500’s, morale was so low that even the drunks weren’t heckling like normal.  It was sad.

There was one group, however, that was having the time of their lives.  They were singing, dancing, cheering, jumping up and down, and screaming.  They were also extremely annoying because every chant they sang had something to do with Spain – not baseball. 

They looked like a tour group, or perhaps a school that was in Toronto on a trip.  I have no idea how many of them were together, but it looked like 40-50.  Or more.  My best guess for their ages was between 16-19. 

The group was pretty quiet for the first few innings, and it wasn’t until about the 5th when they really found their voices.  At that point, the classic tunes came out, including:

–   “Espanyol, Espanyol, Espanyol.  Espanyol, Espanyol, Espanyyyyoooooolllll.”

–   “We are from Spain!” clap, clap, clap, clap, clap “We are from Spain!” clap, clap, clap, clap, clap “We are from Spain!”

– “La la la la la la la la SPAIN!”

It was like it was the World Cup all over again.  Finally in the bottom of the sixth, with Boston clinging to a 9-1 lead, the Spaniards decided to step it up a notch.  The girls in the row ahead of us lifted their shirts, and the guy on the end took his off.  The plan was to write Blue Jays across their stomachs.

There were two problems though: 1. There were only six of them willing to join in, and 2. They didn’t have a marker.

So how did they move forward?  Like this:

Girl 1 – B

Girl 2 – L

Girl 3 – U

Girl 4 – E

Girl 5 – J

Guy – ays

In ballpoint pen. 

That’s right.  A blue pen.  Forget for a second that using a blue pen would make it impossible for anybody to see what was written.  I was sitting right behind them and could barely make it out, so the rest of the crowd would have no chance when they popped on the Jumbotron. 

No – the most ridiculous thing about using the pen was the fact that it hurts.  Try writing on your hand with pen, pressing hard enough to make it dark.  Then imagine having somebody else write on your stomach.  The poor Spanish boy on the end was clenching his teeth and trying to hold back tears.  He might as well have been getting a tattoo.

In the end it worked.  They got on the Jumbotron.  Nobody could read their stomachs, but that was a moot point.

Congratulations Ballpoint Spaniards, 500 Level Fans of the Game.

500 Level Fan of the Game – August 10th, 2010

This is a man who LOVES his mustard

It was a very, very exciting game at the dome last night.  The Jays wound up on the wrong end of a 7-5 score, but the game was entertaining and featured yet another bomb by MLB HR leader Jose Bautista.  The crowd was big (over 27,000) and very involved in the game – one of the noisiest crowds of the season in fact.

In the upper deck, the roof was open and the beers were flowing.  Fans in all sections were enjoying a nice summer Tuesday night by getting absolutely blind drunk.  While most drank beer, some were drinking red wine (who knew you could get that in the 500’s), and one crazy girl was drinking beer from a coffee cup that she snuck through security.  But one fan in particular was drinking neither beer nor wine – he was consuming enormous quantities of mustard.

The 500 Level Fan of the Game for August 10th – Mean Mr. Mustard.

To be fair to triple-M, he wasn’t literally eating mustard from a bottle or packet.  But he might as well have been.  The amount of mustard he put on his hot dog was bordering on the obscene.  My friends and I were transfixed and spent minute after minute simply staring at him.  Each bite saw yellow dripping everywhere – on his shirt, his pants and all over his scraggly beard.  It was almost vomit-inducing.

There was more than just mustard that made Mean Mr. Mustard so intriguing however.  First was the fact that he ate.  A lot.  At one point he had a hot dog in his left hand, a second hot dog in his right, and a tray of fries on his lap.  Keep in mind that this was NOT an all-you-can-eat section either. 

Second was the fact that he was mean (hence the name).  He was mean to the players on the field, calling Aaron Hill an idiot, taunting Encarnacion with chants of “Russ Adams”, and telling Snider to go back to the minors.  He was mean to his little buddy sitting beside him.  And he was just plain mean looking.  The thought of having him turn around and glare at me was downright terrifying.

But really, at the end of the day, the craziest thing about this dude was the mustard.  It’s hard to tell from the photo above, and it is also hard to describe, but trust me – there was a LOT of mustard.  Picture getting a hot dog, going to the condiment table, grabbing the mustard, and squeezing the bottle.  Now, keep squeezing.  Hold it.  Hold.  Hold longer.  Keep squeezing.   Get it so that the bun is nearly covered, and then squeeze again.  That might give you some kind of idea.

It was gross.

Congratulations Mean Mr. Mustard on winning 500 Level Fan of the Game.  For my sake, and for everybody’s sake, I hope you never win again.