After ending a personal streak of 798 days without live baseball by attending a game at Rogers Centre the night before, it was time to build a two-day streak with live baseball.
Before I headed over to the ballpark for the 3 p.m. game, though, I wanted to take some time to explore my hotel and the neighborhood around it. I’m an early riser, even on baseball road trips. I was up while it was still dark outside, watched the picturesque view slowly appear through my window as dawn broke and then began to check out the scene around The Westin Harbour Castle. First on my list of stops was the fifth floor roof deck, which featured a number of noteworthy things. In addition to offering a really nice view of the sun rising over the Toronto Inner Harbour …
… there was a rooftop garden that provides veggies and herbs for the hotel’s restaurant, a tennis court and lots of lounge-style seating around it:
Truly a cool place to hang out and, given the early hour, it was special to have the place to myself for the entire time that I was there.
Following my roof deck visit, I took an hourlong walk around the Harbourfront area. While I love this hotel’s close proximity to Rogers Centre, its location in the city’s Harbourfront area is really appealing, too. The Harbourfront is an area I’d heard about for years but hadn’t previously explored, so I’m glad I took the time. Here’s a look at the boardwalk that I followed along the edge of the water …
… and a look back at the sunrise over the water:
Of course, the CN Tower was visible in the distance for most of the walk, serving as a cool backdrop for photos like this one:
While there were lots of different walking routes that were worth taking, I figured it’d be only appropriate to swing past Rogers Centre in advance of my visit a few hours later:
I grabbed a quick breakfast — a protein bar, some beef jerky and a green smoothie — at a grocery store along my route and returned to my room to enjoy the view and scarf down the meal before it was time to do more walking. This time, I had my sights set on the campus of Ryerson University, which is several blocks north of the hotel. I love visiting school campuses on my various baseball trips, but this one has a special significance to me because I graduated from Ryerson way back in 2004.
The campus and the neighborhood around it have changed dramatically in the years since I graduated, and I’m a little embarrassed to say that my visits to the campus since then have been few and far between. On this quiet Saturday morning, I spent about an hour checking out the various sights, including the scenes that you’ll see below. From the top left, and moving clockwise are: My first-year dorm building; my second-year dorm building; the basketball court at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, which is situated in the old Maple Leaf Gardens building; and the Rogers Communications Centre, where I had most of my classes:
Once I’d finished at Ryerson, I returned to my hotel, changed into my throwback Blue Jays jersey and made my way over to Rogers Centre again. With gates opening at 1 p.m. for the 3 p.m. game, I wanted to hurry so that I could be the first fan to enter the stadium through my gate.
(Spoiler: I was.)
I once again entered at Gate 12 but, unlike a day earlier when I’d hung out in the 200 Level seats for a bit, I quickly made my way down to the seats on the first base side. Toronto’s ushers can be pretty, umm, attentive about checking tickets before fans can enter the 100 Level seats, and I was curious to see if I could get down to field level before the game, given the increased rules that were put in place this season. Surprisingly, I had no trouble, so I grabbed a seat and watched the end of Baltimore’s batting practice before snapping this panorama:
After the Orioles left the field and the grounds crew got to work, I took this selfie to convey how I was feeling about being back at the ballpark for a second consecutive day:
I also couldn’t resist taking a somewhat artsy shot of the CN Tower just beyond the ballpark:
Next, I made my way toward home plate, stopping to take this photo of the ballpark’s roof panels:
The retractable roof — the first of its kind anywhere in the world when the park opened in 1989 — has four panels. One of them is fixed, while the other three move along a set of rails as they open and close. When I was a kid, I remember staring up at the roof and being mesmerized by its appearance. In particular, I loved seeing the tiny-looking staircases and walkways around the steel trusses and imagining what it would be like to stand up there and look down at the field. All these years later, the roof is no less impressive to see. This is especially true when it’s moving, but I was glad that the good weather on this day meant that the roof would stay open all game.
A few minutes after taking the above picture, I made my way behind home plate so that I could capture the scene:
Next, I headed up to the 100 Level concourse to take a look around, and my attention immediately went to a sign that advertised that the team’s annual garage sale event was going on at that moment. Somehow, I’d missed any mentions of this event on social media before the game, so learning about it was a complete surprise to me. For the unfamiliar, baseball garage sale events take place at the end of the season and are an opportunity to buy merchandise and memorabilia at deeply discounted prices. The sign indicated that the garage sale was being held inside of Gate 13, so I walked through the concourse as fast as I could until I reached a lineup that easily stretched a couple hundred people. Like at the team shop, the Jays were limiting the capacity at the garage sale event, which was taking place in some type of corridor area that was a short distance from the concourse. I quickly decided that I wasn’t going to stand in line for what I assumed might be close to an hour, so I headed back to the seats with a slightly disappointed feeling because I assumed the best deals would be gone before I’d get to check out the sale.
Of course, those disappointed feelings didn’t last long, and I soon made my way toward the left field corner. Here’s a shot that gives you an idea of the various levels of outfield seating at Rogers Centre:
The names of Carlos Delgado, Tom Cheek, Tony Fernandez, Joe Carter and George Bell are part of the team’s Level of Excellence. Several other names appear on the other side of the video board. (If you’re wondering about the number beside Tom Cheek’s name, it represents the 4,306 consecutive games that Cheek called during his tenure as the original play-by-play voice of the Jays — a streak that spanned 27 seasons. Cheek is the announcer who made the iconic “Touch ’em all, Joe!” call after Carter homered against Mitch Williams to clinch the 1993 World Series.)
A notable name missing on the Level of Excellence was that of Roberto Alomar, whose name was removed this May in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct against the hall of fame second baseman. Alomar’s #12 was retired by the team in 2011, but the banner that commemorated that honor was also removed this summer. That means that Roy Halladay’s #32 is the lone Blue Jays retired number on display — other than Jackie Robinson’s #42, of course.
After enjoying the quiet field from this vantage point for a few minutes, I set off in search of lunch. One concession stand that I’d noticed a day earlier was the Tenders, Love and Chicken stand, which I decided to check out. Upon scouring the menu while waiting in line, I had my mind set on a spicy chicken sandwich until I saw a fan receive a chicken tenders basket. I quickly opted for it — not because I’m particularly enthused about chicken tenders, but because the box in which they came caught my eye.
Here’s a look at my box from a spot in the upper deck, where I’d visited to partake in the poultry:
As you can see, the box was designed to have two sauce holders, which I thought was clever. With past chicken tender orders I’ve had at ballparks, the sauce container has just been crammed into the basket next to the chicken. The concession stand had several different sauce options, and I appreciated that patrons got two choices instead of just one. I chose plum sauce and Texas BBQ sauce, both of which were pretty tasty. The chicken wasn’t anything to rave about, though, so this isn’t a meal that I’d likely order again.
Once I finished eating, I took this shot that shows the WestJet Flight Deck and the luxury area above it from a bird’s-eye view …
… and then moved a little to my right to snap this panorama of the ballpark:
Because I was already in the 500 Level, I wanted to check out something that I hadn’t investigated a day earlier. During my first game at Rogers Centre, I’d noticed that there weren’t any fans in some of the 500 Level seats in the outfield. Naturally, this made me want to explore these sections to see if they were formally closed off or if tickets just weren’t being sold in these sections. I got my answer in the form of this scene, which prevented me from being able to take the 500 Level concourse all the way through the outfield:
Of course, I had to have a little peek past the barrier, and this is what it looked like:
Pretty unexciting, so I decided to return to the 100 Level seating bowl to grab a seat and wait until first pitch.
After the first inning, I took a walk through the concourse and swung past Gate 13 to check out the garage sale scene. To my surprise, the line was almost nonexistent, so after maybe two minutes of waiting, I was able to enter. The garage sale, it turned out, was pretty underwhelming. While there were some excellent deals — including $10 on-field caps — there wasn’t anything in the way of game-used memorabilia. Perhaps these items had already sold out, or maybe they weren’t there to begin with. Either way, I spent about 15 minutes browsing the merchandise and then left without buying anything.
Instead of returning to my seating section, which was majorly crowded, I decided to find an open area in which to sit. After scanning the seating bowl from the concourse, I set my sights on a sparsely occupied section in the 500 Level beyond the right field foul pole. Instead of sneaking into the section, I approached an usher to say that my section was really crowded and that I wanted to sit in an area that was a little more roomy. To my surprise, he led me up a few steps and told me I could take any seat in one specific row. While I was quite a distance from the field, I could still see the action and the video board — and it was nice to be able to stretch my legs and set my backpack down on the seat beside me. Here’s the view from my new spot:
And here’s me with a ton of open seats around me:
Given that I didn’t have much Rogers Centre exploring left to do, I opted to remain in this seat for several innings. The weather was absolutely perfect, and being out in the full sun this late in the year was a treat. I remained in my seat until the ninth inning, which I watched from a standing-room spot in the concourse behind home plate.
After the final out, I exited the ballpark and walked over to Roundhouse Park, which is a large park space across the street from Rogers Centre. It’s got places to eat and drink and is also home to the Toronto Railway Museum, which includes several rail cars positioned around the park. Here’s a look back at the ballpark from a grassy section of Roundhouse Park:
After a brief walk around the park, I made the short walk back to my hotel. While I initially had a few different ideas about how I wanted to spend the evening, I decided that grabbing some sushi and crashing in my room would be the best course of action. On this day, I walked 30,150 steps, which I believe is my all-time record for a single day. Simply put, I was happy to get off my feet so that I’d be ready for more walking the next day. After all, there was still more baseball to watch on this trip.