True story – I planned to take this week off a long time ago. At the time I had no idea there was an afternoon game on a weekday, nor did I have any idea that Jose Bautista would be so close to hitting a milestone HR. Now I look like a genius.
So after attending last night’s game in the 500’s, we decided to spring for some lower bowl seats this afternoon – section 137, row 2 to be exact.
This was my view:
And this is where the majestic number 50 came down. Though the focus isn’t the best, you can kind of make out my black Jays jersey with a powder blue hat.
Congratulations to Jose Bautista for becoming only the 26th player in Major League history to hit 50 home runs.
I know what it looks like: the 500 Level Fan has been to three consecutive games in the 100 Level. But don’t worry, my G20 tickets are gone, and I will be back with my beloved 500-ites soon. Last night was potentially my final trip to the good seats this season, and man-oh-man was it a classic!
There was very nearly a tie in the fan of the game voting. In the first two innings, Samuel P. Clapper was a heavy favourite. Mr. Clapper looked to be in his 30’s, and loved to clap. Trust me, he LOVED to clap.
It is normal fan behaviour to clap when a Jays pitcher reaches two strikes on a batter. The entire stadium wants to see him finish off the strikeout. But normally, the vast majority of fans wait until the late innings or for pressure packed situations to get involved in the 2-strike clap.
Not Mr. Clapper.
Beginning with the first batter of the game to reach a two strike count (Joe Mauer, top of the first), he started clapping: clap…clap…clap, slowly picking up speed until the pitch was delivered. This practice continued the entire game. Every single two strike pitch.
The thing about Mr. Clapper that made him so lovable was the fact that not only did he clap, but he had to be the FIRST in the entire Rogers Centre to clap. And he was. Every time. And more – when his clapping did indeed lead to the strikeout, he unleashed an incredibly exaggerated fist pump. Beautiful. Check out the video of him in action.
But unfortunately for Samuel P. Clapper, one man caught him and then overtook him as fan of the game. He looked to be in his 50’s, sitting directly behind me. He was a half-intelligent baseball fan, meaning he knew enough about the players, the teams, and recent history to get by and sound smart, but a lot of his factual information was wrong. Example – Orlando Hudson used to play for the Jays (correct) until they traded him (correct) for some bum pitcher (incorrect – Hudson left in the Troy Glaus deal). And he was negative. Very, very, very, very negative.
Ladies and gentlmen, may I present….the Anti-Fan.
I wasn’t able to snap a photo of the Anti-Fan, and there really isn’t a story that goes with him. But take a moment to read the below quotations – verbatim quotations I might add – and you’ll get an idea of what a treat it was to sit within earshot of him. Enjoy.
“The Jays have pretty good pitching this year, but can’t hit a lick. They suck at hitting. Imagine how good we’d be if we could hit” (Fact – the Jays lead of all baseball in home runs.)
“They are all hovering around the Mendoza line.” (Fact – the Mendoza line is a .200 batting average. Only Adam Lind and Aaron Hill are hitting below .210)
“Oh, here comes Vernon Wells. This guy sucks. We’re paying this retard 20 million bucks a year.” (Fact – Vernon Wells is an all-star)
“Do you know how many players we could get for this stiff?” (Fact – probably none due to his contract)
“I don’t know why we didn’t re-sign Rolen and instead went out and signed this stiff Encarshin.” (Fact – Rolen was traded for Encarnacion. Re-signing him was not a possibility, especially after he asked to be traded. And it is Encarnacion, not Encarshin.)
“Encarnashin is useless.” (Fact – well, he might indeed be. Anti-Fan is correct.)
“See that? That is the 500 Level, where all the rowdy people go. You don’t want to go up there.” (Fact – yes you do.)
“This guy is Mr. Pop Up tonight. Holy sh*t. Fred Lewis.” (Fact – Fred Lewis went 1-4 with a triple, two fly outs to left, and one (ONE) pop out)
“This guy can’t throw a strike. Holy sh*t. He’s got a left handed hitter. Holy sh*t.” (Fact – Marc Rzepczynski threw 99 pitches, only 36 were balls. He walked one batter – Michael Cuddyer, a right handed hitter.)
“Double play coming up. Here watch this. Nope – the pitcher threw him a changeup and the idiot retard bit. Unbelievable.” (Fact – Alex Gonzalez batted with a man on first, one out, in the 5th. Anti-Fan predicted a double play, but instead Gonzo swung and missed. The pitch was 91 miles-per-hour. That is a fast changeup…)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love the Jays, love going to the games live, and love the 500 Level. But the good seats? Not so much. True the 100 Level isn’t without it’s perks. It offers a better view of the game (in most places). It gives fans a better chance to see players up close. And it brings foul balls into play. But one thing is always missing – crazy fans.
Last night I made my fourth trip to the 100 Level of 2010, using my free voucher received as a result of the G20 Summit. The seats were terrific – three of us sat in row 13, almost parallel to the first base bag. We were so close that when one friend yelled “O-Dog!” to former Jay Orlando Hudson, he actually looked up and nodded to him. Pretty cool.
But as cool as that was, the experience was lacking due to the surrounding fans. Here are several explanations why:
Where on some occasions you might get a few families in the 500’s, the lower level is full of them. While most of them are fine and just there for entertainment, some are annoying. Very annoying. Take, for example, the family sitting directly behind us last night – a mother, father, and young boy named Cooper. I don’t think Cooper really cared that he was at the game, but his dad sure wanted him to care. Inning after inning after inning, we were treated to this:
“He broke his bat Cooper! His bat broke Coop! Wow Coop! See that Coop? Coop, Coop, Coop!”
“Wow Coop! That ball is high Coop! See the ball Coop? See the high ball Coop? Coop? Coop!!!”
I don’t get it. In the good seats the fans are so close to the players they can actually see the sweat on their faces. Players are so close that they no doubt are able to hear hecklers loud and clear. But for some reason, fans in the 100 Level (for the most part) are TERRIBLE hecklers!
In the 500 Level, you hear gems. You hear witty and sarcastic remarks. You hear nonsensical, drunken drivel. All of them are fun. And none of them have a chance in hell of being heard by a player. But down low, you hear stuff like this:
“Hey Pavano! You just gave up a home run to Lyle Overbay!”
“Hey Pavano! I’ve never heard of you. You’re a nobody!”
“Hey Pavano! Stop meddling and throw the ball!”
Are you serious? You paid $60+ to sit close to the field, and THAT is all you can come up with? No mention of his porn-star ‘stache, his brittle arm, or his stupid, ugly face? Come on!
3. Bored Fans
It’s inevitable in any sport that you will get some people in the crowd who don’t really want to be there. For some reason, however, I don’t come across bored fans in the upper deck too often. Maybe people feel like they have to pay close attention down low, but by being far away they are allowed to be distracted and have fun in other ways. Whatever the reason, last night we sat behind one BORED lady. She didn’t speak to the man she was with. She never left her seat. She didn’t eat or drink anything. She just sat there. I was able to catch a glimpse of her face a few times. She looked pained.
Finally, in the 7th, she couldn’t take it anymore. Out came her iPhone and an electronic crossword. Not kidding.
4. Sense of Entitlement Idiots
I have talked about this before, but it seems that many fans in the good seats feel that they are entitled to something. They paid more money than those in the upper deck, so they should be treated like royalty. Of course there are only a few who act like this, not the entire level, so this is not an indictment of everybody. But here are a few treats of what I am talking about:
– Our seats were in the middle of the row, meaning we had to walk by people to reach them. Upon reaching our row, we were greeted with a gruff look and a roll of the eyes from the guy sitting on the aisle, who then slowly and dramatically rose to this feet to let us pass. Douche bag. Then, a few people further in, sat a young guy – about 22 – who simply refused to stand up. We had to wait and look at him before he finally (with another eye roll) stood. Of course we took much delight by continually going up to the concourse level for beers.
– A man two rows in front of us took up four seats. Literally. He paid for one, and took up four. Not sure if the rightful owners ever showed up, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they did and he simply didn’t let them sit. Amazing.
Bottom line: the Jays lost, the seats were great, the fans were not. But hey, nothing better than a day at the ballpark. Can’t wait to get back tonight.
The G20 Summit is making life difficult in Toronto. As a guy who lives downtown, right near the dome, everything has been altered. From fences erected all over the place, to literally thousands of police walking, riding bikes, on horseback, or in riot gear, it really does look like a war zone.
But two good things have come out of the Summit: 1 – I was able to work from home this entire week, meaning I didn’t miss a single minute of the World Cup, and 2 – the Blue Jays series was shifted to Philadelphia. Before you flood my email box with angry messages about number 2, let me explain. I’m as angry as the next guy that we are denied the chance to see Roy Halladay come back to Toronto. I was looking forward to this series since the schedule was released. But here is the bonus – I am a Toronto Star season pass holder. While season ticket holders were given refunds for the games they lost this weekend, I was expecting nothing. Instead I received an envelope in the mail from the Blue Jays giving me one “best available seat” voucher for each game that was moved. That means that for three games between now and the end of the season, I have a chance to move down to ANY seat in the dome! Since a 100 level premium dugout seat goes for $62 – $75 depending on the game, essentially my pass paid for itself two-fold.
And so it was a rarity on Wednesday night. Accompanied by my dad (500 Level Fan Sr.) I made a trip to the good seats.
And it was in section 120, row 9 that I sat beside the 100 Level Fan of the Game – Fez from That 70’s Show.
To be honest – it wasn’t actually Fez. But I’ll be buggered if he didn’t sound exactly like him, the same Mexican-accented, higher pitched, squeaky voice. Every time I heard his voice while watching the game, I had to look to my right to make sure that it actually wasn’t Fez. And by every time, I mean every time – probably over 85 glances.
Three things stood out about Fez:
1. He liked to drink. He sucked back pints like they were going out of style. Upon his arrival in the first inning, he had two beers in hand. They were gone almost instantly. What followed was pure fascination on my part. Every time a beer vendor would walk down the aisle, Fez would stop him and order two more. I lost count of the amount of beers he consumed, but was treated to some further entertainment in the 7th inning when his buddy told him that beer sales stopped after the bottom half of the inning. Panicked, Fez tried to drink as fast as he could in order to sprint to the concourse level. He never made it.
2. He liked to heckle. Imagine hearing somebody with Fez’s voice heckling. Amazing. The problem was that he didn’t know a whole lot about baseball. When Aaron Hill couldn’t come up with a line drive that flew six feet over his head, Fez was angry: “Come on Aaron, I’ve seen you make that before.” When Pujols was on deck, Fez grilled him: “Pujols! Pooooooo – hooooooles! You suck sh*t Pujols!”
3. He could control the future. Seriously – what ever Fez said happened. During one Pujols at bat, this took place:
Fez – “Come on Pujols! Watch the ball. You can’t hit that.”
Pujols – watched strike one
Fez – “Ha! One more Albert, you can’t touch this. Leave the bat on your shoulder.”
Pujols – watched strike two
Fez – “Now….swing!”
Pujols – swung and laced a base hit to centre field
Twice in the game he predicted a double play the second before the pitch was thrown, including the Alex Gonzalez back-breaker in the ninth. Quite a performance.
While I still prefer the 500 Level for sheer entertainment value, Fez did his best to win me over for further trips to the good seats. Congratulations Fez, on winning a rare 100 Level Fan of the Game award. link checker
I had the “pleasure” last night of sitting right behind the Blue Jays dugout on the third baseline. It is a rare occurence indeed when I move away from the safe haven of the 500 level, but I was given a pair of seats for the Jays/Twins game in section 125, right in the thick of the action. Mrs. 500 Level Fan and I were excited to be down low where we could see the players faces, see the strike zone, and have a chance at a foul ball. But we came away disheartened and disgusted at the fans around us.
The upper deck is full of positive (albeit drunken) energy a majority of the time. People are there to have fun, enjoy the game, have a few brown pops, and maybe get a bit rowdy. Apparently fans in the lower deck are there to heckle and get on our own players. I don’t know if they feel they have a sense of entitlement because they paid more for a seat, or if they just want to try and have their voices heard on TV. Whatever the reason, the treatment of Overbay as he came off the field was uncalled for. People around us were literally screaming at the top of their lungs: “You Suck!”, “Learn to field!”, “Triple A for Overbay!” One guy even went so far as to run down about 20 rows just so his screams could be heard loud and clear.
Because that’s how to get a guy out of his slump – boo him mercilessly until he forever loses whatever shred of confidence he had left.
Look – I get it. There are some cold hard facts that show Lyle is off to a rough start. Two errors on one play last night. A .181 avg, with only 3 HR and 38 K’s so far this season. But here are some other facts: .274 avg, .356 OBP, 63 HR, 143 2B, 269 RBI. That is Overbay’s stat line since joining the Jays in 2006. Throw in a .996 fielding percentage, and you get pretty good production at a fraction of the cost of other first basemen around the league.
And here is one more number to chew on: 23. That is the age of super-prospect Brett Wallace, the guy who the entire lower deck wanted in the game instead of “Lyle Overpaid”. Sure Wallace is tearing up Triple-A. Sure Wallace is the first baseman of the future. Sure Wallace has tremendous upside and might be able to outproduce Overbay right now. But answer these questions you raging, angry, lunatics:
– What do you do with Overbay if Wallace is called up? Release him? Eat his salary? Dump him on another team?
– What happens if Wallace is overmatched by big league pitching, has his confidence shattered and has to go back to the minors for an extended stay?
– If Wallace is the real deal, why start his major league service time early so he can become eligible for arbitration and free agency earlier? Why not take the path that Tampa Bay took with Evan Longoria and David Price, and Washington is taking with Stephen Strasburg, ensuring Wallace will be a Jay for longer?
I know a few bad apples ruin the section, so this is not an indictment of an entire crowd of people at the game, but the majority of the booing fans could not answer those questions. Why? Because they have NO IDEA who those players are!!! The fat kid to my left wanted to boo Overbay badly so he could impress his buddy. The fat guy to my right booed lustily, then left the game early so he could get home in time to watch Law and Order. (True story – I heard him say so to his buddies as they were leaving). They only know that Overbay didn’t hit a home run, didn’t make the diving play he tried for, and threw a ball into left field. I bet somebody would have tried to beat the snot out of him if possible.
Bottom line – give me my 500 Level seats any day. At least up there fans know the game, respect the game, and respect the players. For the most part anyways…
(Closing note: kudos to the security guard in the top of the 9th inning in our section for letting two young boys move down from way back and sit in the first row. At a time when other security guards were stupidly kicking people out who tried to move lower, this guy not only let the young kids stay, but talked, joked, and laughed with them the rest of the game. That is how you get fans back to the ball park.)