The buzz is palpable in the sea of blue streaming towards the Rogers Centre in the chilly spring twilight. Children peer out from under oversized ball-cap brims, hot dog vendors rush to keep up with demand and a crowd is growing around Rick Donaldson, who is thumping a brisk beat on his drum kit. “Let’s go – ” he calls. “Blue Jays!” the throngs respond.
“Opening day is always fun – it’s the promise of a new season,” says Bill Simpson, 26, who came up from Hamilton to take in the game with several friends. “It’s the only time the stadium is full.”
Mr. Simpson is among the thousands of fans hoping this truism about Toronto baseball won’t come to pass this year. Thanks to a stellar preseason and other signs of a successful team developing, it may just be that the bat-toting boys of summer will give the city good reason to keep the home-opener high going.
“They look better, they’re more fun, they’ve got a great lineup for hitting,” says Weedy McIntyre, 32, sporting an ear-to-ear grin. She’s particularly excited to see what Canada’s Brett Lawrie, who posted nine home runs in just a few weeks last year, can do with a full season. Ms. McIntyre is also predicting a breakout year for pitcher Brandon Morrow.
A winning sports franchise would be especially welcome in Hogtown, where the Maple Leafs have missed the playoffs for the last eight years and the Raptors are posting a losing record again.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the Jays’ opponents Monday night are the storied Boston Red Sox, who were swept by the Detroit Tigers in their first series of the season. And Jays’ supporters insist they’re in it for the experience as much as the victory. It is, after all, a sport where enjoying a hot dog in the stands is as important as watching a runner slide home.
“As long as I can go and see a really good game, I’m happy,” says Diane Davidson, 53, who has been following the team from the beginning. Before she married her husband, Ian, she brought her parents to meet his at a game.
Tradition is also important to Joe Anstett, 32. “My boys have never missed an opening,” he says, holding his three-year-old son Leo. “We’ve always been a good, fun club to watch.”
Still, Noah, 6, has no doubt about the outcome. Asked what he’s most looking forward to in Monday’s game, he doesn’t miss a beat: “Watching them win.”