Sunday, April 07, 2013

Baseball excitement back in Toronto

The tired old line from The Field of Dreams of, "Build it and they will come." does not really apply to the Toronto Blue Jays and their fan base. Instead, it has been more of, "Show them you care and are trying to win and they will come." After a wild off-season, the front office of the Blue Jays has apparently done just that in Toronto and the fans there are back in full force.

Say what you want about "fair weather fans" or, "bandwagon fans." I have never understood what the problem is there. The bottom line is that more fannies are in the seats or on their feet hollering and screaming for the Blue Jays. More people in the stands, means more excitement and more dollars in the team's bottom line so that they can try to maintain a competitive team.

And definitely more people are showing up at Rogers Centre in Toronto. Through the first five games of season, the Blue Jays have drawn 184,116 fan in attendance. That is an average of 36,823 per game. They did not reach that amount of fans until the seventh home game last season. Through the nine games of the Blue Jays' first home stand last year, the Blue Jays drew 220,097 fans in attendance, an average of 24,538. The Blue Jays have easily topped the 40,000 mark in each of the last two games against the Red Sox and should have at least that many again today.

Today should mark the fourth time in just six games that the Blue Jays have topped 40,000 in attendance. Last season, the Blue Jays did not reach their fourth 40,000+ crowd until June 2, 2012. If the attendance increase continues on a per game basis, the Blue Jays have a good chance of drawing three million fans to the dome for the first time since their World Series teams of two decades ago.

To add a little voice of sanity to this conversation, this three game series is against the Red Sox and the Blue Jays have traditionally done well in attendance against the Red Sox. But still, there is an air of raucousness at the dome that has not been felt for a very long time. Some say it is too raucous and at times downright impolite. And there has been added incentive with John Farrell making his return to Toronto as the manager of the Red Sox after dumping the Blue Jays for his "dream job" in Boston. And besides, the crowd has been way too tame in Toronto for a long time.

But I do not think the added excitement is due only to the return of John Farrell. I think that the addition of players like Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes has built momentum and interest since that trade occurred.

Jose Reyes is going to be huge in Toronto. His style of play, his flair, his ever present energy and his speed are going to thrill Blue Jays fans for much of his tenure there. And yeah, the team has started a much ballyhooed season at 2-3 but it is early yet and the pitching has not yet gotten its feet under it. Once Josh Johnson, Brandon Morrow and Dickey start throwing zeroes, this team is going to be tough to beat.

Whether the Blue Jays will win the American League East  remains to be seen. The division seems like a scrum with only the Yankees reeling out of the gate. But whether they do or do not will not make that much of a difference to Toronto fans. What matters there is that for the first time in a long time, the fans in that "north-of-the-border" city truly believe their front office and ownership really went all out to bring them a winner.

No comments: