The Blue Jays game on the afternoon of October 3 was the final one of the season for the club — and my final game of 2021, too.
Of course, the Jays had played 161 prior contests since the regular season began, and this would be just my third game of the season. You won’t hear any complaints from me about only making it to three games in 2021. Given how I felt shortly after the start of the season, I consider myself fortunate to have attended any games at all.
All that said, I woke up early on the morning of October 3, feeling eager to get back to Rogers Centre. Before doing anything else, I pushed back the curtains to check out the fantastic view of the Toronto Inner Harbour, only to see that the conditions were wet:
Fortunately, the domed design of Rogers Centre meant that that afternoon’s game wouldn’t be in jeopardy. As much as the Toronto stadium isn’t exactly a favorite of mine, I’m thankful that weather-related game postponements aren’t ever an issue.
Since it was raining, I decided to skip my morning walk around the neighborhood. Instead, I wanted to do a little more exploring of my hotel, The Westin Harbour Castle. As you might’ve seen in my previous blog post, I’d spent time a day earlier checking out the hotel’s roof deck. On this day, I decided to take a tour of enormous lobby, which was stylishly lit up first thing in the morning …
… and then check out the gym and a handful of other common areas. Once I’d wrapped up my tour, I returned to my room and hung out for a few hours before heading over to Rogers Centre in the drizzle. The walk between the Westin and Rogers Centre takes less than 15 minutes, which I’d appreciated on the two previous days, but especially appreciated on this day as the rain fell. I walked strategically to stay under the overhangs of various large buildings along the route, and soon had this view as I cut through Roundhouse Park and saw the ballpark come into sight:
A moment later, I was even closer — and you’ll see that there wasn’t much of a crowd outside at this early hour:
Here’s some further proof:
If you’ve been a reader of this blog for a while, you’ll know that it’s not exactly a surprise when I’m the first fan in line at one of the gates. Instead of lining upright away, though, I decided to make a slow lap around the outside of the stadium before choosing an empty gate, lining up for a short period of time, and then entering into the 200 Level on the third base side. I immediately went to the front row and snapped my first shot of the field a moment later:
As you’ll notice, the closed roof gives the whole ballpark a darker feel than what you might’ve seen in the photos in my previous two posts.
The Jays were nearing the end of their batting practice session, and with a lot of empty space beside me …
… I hoped that a hitter might be able to pull a baseball down the line and into the second deck so that I could snag it. Just a few minutes after I had that thought, the Jays jogged off the field and I was left contemplating my next move. After taking this selfie as the field began to empty …
… I decided to head toward home plate, pausing for a moment to turn back and snap this shot of the video board and the WestJet Flight Deck — the latter of which was largely empty at this early hour:
Next, I made my way down to the 100 Level. Like a day earlier, I was surprised that the ushers didn’t ask to see my digital ticket as I walked down through the 100 Level seats toward field level. I wanted to check out something I’d noticed from a distance earlier in my trip, but hadn’t photographed. Take a look at the view from where I stood down the first base line:
Prior to the three-game series that I attended, I’d never seen the blue barrier between the seats and the field. I’m not sure if it’s a pandemic-related measure that is designed to increase the space between fans and players, or if it was added prior to the pandemic but I just hadn’t seen it before. (For the record, I last visited Rogers Centre in 2016, so I suppose it could’ve been added in 2017, 2018 or 2019.) If it’s not related to the pandemic, I’m wondering if it’s designed to keep fans off the expanded protective netting that was added early in 2020.
In past years, this area looked like this:
(I took the shot above during a visit in June of 2016, and you’ll see that the front row seats were immediately behind the fence in foul territory.)
Anyway, it’s sort of curious. The barrier obviously reduces the ballpark’s seating capacity to a slight degree and moves fans father from the field, which is crummy.
Speaking of that netting, here’s a shot from farther back about how this area looks now:
I really miss ballparks that didn’t have netting down the lines. Not a popular opinion, perhaps, but I’m glad I got to visit so many different parks before this enhanced netting became the norm.
My next stop was back up to the WestJet Flight Deck in straightaway center, where I snapped this fogged-glasses selfie:
Then, it was time to grab something to munch on. Given that there were far fewer concession options this season than in years past, my chance of finding something unique to eat was pretty much nil. Instead, I decided to grab a most classic ballpark fare of all:
As you might’ve noticed, I ate the hot dog on the third base side and watched the grounds crew prepare the field for the game.
After eating, I followed one of the ramps up to the 500 Level to take a look around. One thing that caught my eye was the logo on this seat at the end of one row:
Those of you who are a certain age may recognize this as the SkyDome logo. Rogers Centre was originally known as SkyDome when it opened in 1989 and kept that name until 2005. I should note that most of the seats have Rogers Centre logos on them, but I saw a handful in the upper deck with the original logo. It’s weird to think that these seats have survived more than 15 years since the ballpark changed its name.
Next, I went down to the 100 Level and stood behind the Baltimore bullpen for a few minutes. Some members of the bullpen staff began tossing baseballs into the crowd shortly after my arrival, but nothing came remotely my way. When that action died down, I snapped this shot of Orioles catcher Pedro Severino chilling out before the game:
Shortly before first pitch, I did something I never do — I sat down in my ticketed seat and stayed there for the whole game. With no exaggeration, this is the first time I’ve done this at a game since I started traveling for my website and blog in 2010. The reason for this unusual behavior? I’d done all the exploring of Rogers Centre I wanted to do, and I simply wanted to relax and enjoy some baseball. This was a game that had big implications in the Blue Jays season — spoiler: they won the game but didn’t end up making the postseason — and after going nearly 800 days without seeing live baseball, the idea of just sitting down and watching the action was very appealing to me.
Here’s the view from my seat once the action began:
The action, it turned out, wasn’t only taking place on the field. The Jays were running a homestand-long 50/50 draw that was climbing rapidly throughout the game, so I was having fun watching a TV screen near my seat to see the tally as it grew. The take-home amount ended up being a staggering $1.632 million. You might be surprised to hear that I didn’t win it, which is a shame because I’d made elaborate plans about how to spend most of the sum while I watched the game.
I lingered for a bit after the final out, enjoying another walk through the concourse and once again feeling appreciative of being able to attend some games in 2021. After I’d made a full lap, I exited and began the short walk back to my hotel — stopping to take one last look at the stadium under a gray sky:
With an early flight home scheduled for the following morning, I grabbed an early dinner and ate it in my hotel room while I caught up on highlights from the day’s MLB games throughout the evening. As I watched the highlights, I continued to keep an eye on the view out my window — something that I enjoyed many times over the course of my stay at the Westin. If you’re starting to plan your 2022 baseball trips and have Toronto on your list, I absolutely recommend this hotel. Its close proximity to Rogers Centre, the upscale amenities and the spacious guestrooms make it a home run for any baseball traveler.
If you’re considering The Westin Harbour Castle, make sure that you book the Game Day Experience package. It gives you your guestroom, free parking and a $25 food and drink credit at the hotel’s Chartroom Bar & Lounge and The Mizzen Restaurant. Check out this link to learn more about this package.