Bubbling excitement for the Blue Jays season

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Jose Berrios throws the Blue Jays’ first pitch of the game and of the season to Texas Rangers second baseman Brad Miller on April 8.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

A couple of days ago, Kevin Gausman, the Toronto Blue Jays’ big offseason signing, had his wife over for lunch.

Gausman is famous in baseball more than famous famous. He is not particularly tall or muscular. He looks like the person in front of you in the Loblaws box.

“I took three steps out of the parking lot and a guy said, ‘Welcome to Toronto,'” Gausman said Friday. “I told my wife, ‘A little different than what we’re used to.'”

That’s a good way to describe Toronto baseball, circa April 2022, a little different than what we’re used to.

For the first time since Charlie Montoyo has managed this team, the Blue Jays sold out opening night on Friday. This is Montoyo’s fourth year in office. Montoyo mentioned that he remembered what a full house is like at Rogers Center, from his days as a coach in Tampa.

When I turned to an old baseball player and asked if that could be true: no sales for three years? – He said, “Charlie has been here since 2019. Did you see that team in 2019?”

That’s the last strong memory of the Blue Jays as a fixture in the Toronto landscape: habitual losers watched by habitual masochists. What made last night’s Rogers Center frenzy a trip.

The Blue Jays’ long-awaited home opener could be the start of something special

A few thousand fans showed up when the gates opened and stood screaming for balls in the outfield bleachers. Two hours before the game, the stadium was louder than it normally had been two hours after a game.

The pre-game festivities lasted longer than the average kid’s birthday party. They presented awards, Olympic and Paralympic athletes (medal winners only, thank you very much), Billye Aaron (Hank’s widow), one of those field-sized novelty flags, postseason cheers for everyone on the Blue Jays team, including the laundry boys, and a boo to the Texas Rangers, who seemed more confused than hurt. Who gets excited at the World Series level on opening day? Canada, that’s who.

A large Canadian flag is unfurled on the field as the Canadian national anthem is sung before the game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers on opening day at the Rogers Centre.COLE BURSTON/Getty Images

Even a disastrous first inning for Blue Jays starter José Berríos, who was retired after facing eight batters and recording one out, couldn’t dampen the crowd’s enthusiasm.

This is what the stadium felt like in the second half of the 2015 season, when a whole generation of sports fans in this city were learning what it felt like to win.

It’s not just the quality of the team that has supercharged the reaction. It is a quirk of history. Due to the pandemic, the Blue Jays were given something no one else gets: the opportunity for a total reset.

Toronto Blue Jays fans can enjoy video screens and lighting upgrades at Friday’s home opener

A hard reset is not just starting from scratch. It’s doing it after everyone has forgotten all the bad things that happened before.

The Pittsburgh Pirates can’t tell the city of Pittsburgh that they haven’t been feeling like themselves lately, so they’re going to do something they’ve wanted to do since they were buccaneer kids: get a job in California and live nearby. the beach.

In this scenario, while the Pirates are gone, Pittsburgh realizes that he misses them dearly. The Pirates begin to feel the same. When they return, they are renewed. They have lost weight. They look great.

They get their old job back at PNC Park and start winning a bunch of games. And everyone falls in love again.

That’s not possible to do, but the Jays just did it.

In 2019, they lost 95 games. Total losers. The pandemic hit and the Jays left home. They still weren’t that good, but now that was a Florida/Buffalo problem.

When the Blue Jays returned to Toronto for the latter part of the 2021 campaign, it felt more like a vacation than a return. They missed the playoffs on the last day of the season, packed up and disappeared again.

The Jays had become that distant cousin you only see on Thanksgiving, but every time you do, you wish you could see more. That’s why this opening day feels different in Toronto. It’s not just the start of MLB’s fiscal year. It is a meeting of distant friends.

This week, the New York Times ran a delightful taunt titled “Baseball Is Dying. The government should take over.”

The op-ed was obviously intended to be ironic. But many of his points were not: that baseball is now a game watched by older people and not so many; that your economic graph of supply and demand is out of whack; and that some kind of correction is inevitable.

The most impressive thing was that the United States registration document was able to publish something that said that America’s hobby had one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel and the reaction of the public was: “Sure, that’s fine, but what’s your point? The thesis was so obvious that it did not deserve a serious refutation.

When no one bothers to take offense: In 2022, that’s when you know you’re headed for irrelevance.

But if baseball’s national headquarters is shrinking, here at the only international branch, big things are in the pipeline this year.

Gausman told a story about how every team he’s been on has the same meeting in spring training where the manager tells the players they’re good enough to compete, maybe even win. everyone. The implication was that professionals learn to ignore such talk.

“But when Charlie said it, we agreed,” Gausman said.

Toronto loves a team above all else, any team that is winning. Right now, no one seems like a better bet than the Blue Jays.

That, combined with the heart-pounding absence, makes the fan base not only gasp but rapidly expand. We fill up a lot of cars in this city, but we don’t often do it before a game has been played.

Blue Jays history is dotted with great seasons you saw coming, but not like this one. Not with so much melancholy for lost time mixed with giddy feelings of what is possible.

Other teams must take notes. In fact, many people who do many things might want to think about it. Do you have an apathy problem at home? Leave for a while. Go and when you come back, come back much better.

For the results of Friday night’s Toronto-Texas game, visit our website, globesports.com


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