Behind Enemy Lines: A Three-Day Sojourn in Rogers Centre
By Ty Gonzalez
I got married on Sunday, the 6th. As a wedding present, my beautiful wife bought us tickets to each game of the Mariners recent three-game set against the Blue Jays in Toronto. It was, perhaps, my greatest (and weirdest) experience at a ballpark ever.
It’s been a very emotional and tiring last few months. Baseball, or sports in general, is one of my very few stress-relievers. My weekend was very surreal, and I was seeking to reclaim a bit of normalcy.
Since Sunday, I’ve often been asked, “Do you feel any different?” To that I respond, “Not really.” That’s the truth. My wife and I have been best friends for the past six years, taking interest in one another’s hobbies.
She likes Ink Master and Teen Mom, and I like baseball. It’s a fair trade.
She doesn’t really know many of the Mariners players or the rules of the game, but she gets into it the best that she can.
Despite being 2,576 miles separated from Safeco Field, I was going to rep my M’s proud. For the first two games, my wife donned the official navy Mariners cap, while I wore my vintage Ken Griffey, Jr. batting practice jersey.
Walking up to the stadium for day one, we were met with the natural playful banter between two fanbases. Whether it was the occasional boo or thumbs down, there was nothing too out of the ordinary.
But, I know how Blue Jays fans are. Since the Expos left Montreal in 2004, the Blue Jays have been Canada’s only baseball team. Consequently, Blue Jays fans think their team is God’s gift to baseball.
They are not.
Since meeting my wife and thus traveling to Toronto every now and then, I have attended roughly ten or so Blue Jays games.
Let’s get this straight: baseball is done wrong at Rogers Centre.
I’m a bit biased, considering Mariners fans have a weird relationship with the Blue Jays. But as a general baseball fan, it’s not a fun experience whatsoever. I had more fun going to the Oakland Coliseum, so take that for what you will.
Firstly, as MLB commissioner Rob Manfred recently stated, Rogers Centre is in desperate need of renovation. It’s honestly pretty depressing walking in there. It doesn’t look like a ballpark. It looks like a parking garage.
There’s no vibe to the stadium at all. It just feels, I don’t know… dead?
As for the aforementioned fanbase, I’ve seen a handful of fans act pretty ridiculously every single time I’ve attended a game.
For example, a few weeks ago I went to see the Royals and Jays play a matinee. During that week, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins were facing each other in an NHL playoff series. A man sitting a couple sections to my right was wearing a Bruins jersey in order to troll the Toronto fans.
While he was asking for something to happen, the classy thing to do as a fan would just be to boo and move on. Instead, multiple fans started throwing stuff at the guy, including a full bag of popcorn. These fans were not removed, somehow.
That instance reminded me of their 2016 Wild Card matchup against Baltimore, in which Blue Jays fans went all kinds of crazy.
You may think I’m getting off the beaten track here, but there’s a point in telling you all of this.
But first, I’ll talk about the positives, because there were a lot of them.
More from SoDo Mojo
- What if the Mariners traded FOR Tyler O’Neill this time?
- Mariners starting pitching is being overlooked by MLB
- Baking the Cake: An Adjusted Mariners Offseason Plan
- Taylor Trammell Could Provide Impact to 2023 Mariners
- How the Mariners could swing a trade for Fernando Tatis Jr
I saw James Paxton throw a no-hitter, live, from behind home plate. Every time I have gone to a baseball game, I always hope to see something special. I never, in my wildest dreams, expected to see something like that live, and by my favorite team.
Two Mariners fans were sitting next to me and we embraced when Kyle Seager threw the final out to Ryon Healy. My wife and I jumped around and screamed at the top of our lungs. It was, for lack of a better word, magical. I was beside myself.
Blue Jays fans congratulated me as I walked out of the stadium, and also while I waited for my train. The atmosphere was indescribable. It was a special night, not only for Mariners fans but for Canadian baseball fans seeing a fellow Canadian pitch a no-hitter in his home country.
I was giggling like a child on Christmas morning the whole night, reflecting on what I had just seen. It was the second greatest sports moment of my life, behind the Seahawks winning Super Bowl XLVIII.
I thought about the one Mariners fan I met while in line at the security checkpoint that night. We spoke briefly about our times living Washington and what we miss about the Pacific Northwest. One of the things he said he missed was Fred Meyer, which, uh… sure?
In passing, we talked about how Paxton’s become the best pitcher on the Mariners staff. At that point, we had no idea what we were in for. For me, it was the greatest Mariners game I have witnessed in person.
Coming off the high of Paxton’s no-no, I had no idea what to expect from the M’s the second day. Wade LeBlanc was pitching, so I didn’t get my hopes too high.
My wife and I were wearing the same gear as the day before, yet there were no boos in approaching the stadium. There was a level of respect perhaps earned after what Paxton did the night before.
We were behind home plate again. From the third base line to the first base line, I could see a significant amount of Mariners fans. Way more than the first game.
We watched the Mariners take batting practice and soaked in the sun for a bit. Moments later, we spotted James Paxton signing some balls for corporate sponsors in front of the batting cage. Then, he made his way over to the stands near the Mariners dugout and began taking pictures and signing autographs for fans.
My wife was urging me to head over there, but we were roughly eight or nine sections away and I figured he would be gone by the time I got over there.
He never left, so I dashed from my seat in hopes to meet the man of the hour.
I shook his hand and said, “I just got married on Sunday and I just wanted to thank you for making my week even more amazing.” My wife was running down to where Paxton and I were to take a picture and I pointed to her.
He laughed and congratulated me, which was insane to me considering the man just accomplished one of the more rare feats in professional sports. In my mind, congratulations at that time were only in order for him. He then patiently waited for my wife to work through the crowd, then introduced himself to her and congratulated her as well.
I haven’t interacted with many ballplayers over the years, but James Paxton was definitely the nicest by far. At such a high point in his career, most players would be feeling themselves a little too much. Paxton was humble and spent at least 20 minutes with fans before he was dragged away for an interview.
I was already a huge fan of the Big Maple, but that interaction and display of professionalism made me love him even more. I am so happy he’s ours.
As for the game, it was pretty annoying to watch. The Mariners had plenty of opportunities given to them by a poor performance from Jaime Garcia, yet they were unable to take advantage of them.
Somehow they were able to walk the tightrope for seven innings and stay in the lead. Then Juan Nicasio blew it, and the Blue Jays fans began to show out.
I was pretty obnoxious during the no-hitter, I’ll admit that. But it was an amazing game, so how else do you expect me to act? On Wednesday, though, I was drained so I just did my normal cheering and didn’t go overboard when things went well. I just sat back and kept to myself.
When Nicasio started to get hit pretty hard and the Jays eventually took the lead, a drunken moron kept reaching over my wife to get me to give him a fist bump. He was clearly trying to rile me up and perhaps bait me into fighting him like some testosterone-filled loon, but I just looked at him and shook my head.
Then, the guy behind me tapped me on the shoulder and kept mouthing “trash.” I responded with, “Well, at least you won’t get swept like the Raptors.” He shut up.
I was pretty irritated with Nicasio and the offense’s performance, so we ended up leaving after the third Blue Jays double. On the way out of our row, two female Jays fans wouldn’t let us through and laughed at us.
As we headed out the door, the security guard said, “Awww, leaving so soon?” Walking back to the train station, a group of Jays fans chanted, “F*** Seattle!”
Blue Jays fans are sore winners. Not only do you see it at the ballpark, but on social media as well. There’s a reason they’re often considered the worst fanbase in the MLB.
They’re also pretty casual. On that night, Jays fans around me were yelling that Josh Donaldson should be benched due to his recent slump.
Donaldson started the eighth inning rally versus Nicasio, to which those same fans erupted in cheers.
As for the rubber match, it was pretty uneventful despite the Mariners winning 9-3. On Thursdays, the Jays host an event called “Thursday Night In the 6ix,” which is basically pop songs being poorly covered over their $3 Fisher-Price sound system. I then proceeded to use their $10 napkins to wipe the priceless blood from my ears.
Anyway, it was nice to see the Jays fans filing out very early in the blowout with their heads hanging low. You know I had to give them a taste of their own medicine.
Kyle Seager brought the Jays fans to tears with his first inning grand slam, and boy were those tears delicious. When Seager came up again later in the game, a fan two rows ahead of us yelled, “Corey Seager is better!” to which Kyle replied with a solo shot to dead-center. I’m not kidding when I say the same fan was out of his seat seconds later and I never saw him again that night.
This is a good time to remind everyone that the Blue Jays come to Seattle August 2nd-5th. For years, Jays fans from British Columbia have filled Safeco to the brim and created a home atmosphere for the Jays. Don’t let them continue to taint our beautiful ballpark with their poutine and bad baseball takes and stuff.
Despite all that I’ve said, however, I don’t think all Blue Jays fans are bad. Heck, most of my new relatives on my wife’s side are Blue Jays fans and I like them.
Overall, it was still a great time solely because I got to spend it with my beautiful wife and saw my boys win a series. Plus, the no-hitter. God, that no-hitter was amazing.
Next: Kyle Seager is Good. Deal With It.
Thank you, Mariners. Thank you, James Paxton. Now go end this playoff drought and perhaps you’ll see me again in October at Safeco Field.