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Thinking the worst they could do was turn me down, I called the Blue Jays office yesterday and asked for a media pass. Imagine my surprise and delight when Jay Stenhouse, the team's Director of Communications, said yes. It was only for the day, but since Gil Patterson, Brian Butterfield and Mike Barnett have all agreed to Batter's Box interviews, I'll be back on the field, tape recorder in hand, for batting practice on Thursday.

I chatted with several players, renewed acquaintances with J.P., thanked Keith again for the interview, and enjoyed a press box seat for the game. The food up there is pretty good, and so was the company. I had dinner with people I've criticized from my cozy armchair, but instead of shunning me as an outsider, the "working" media types who already knew about Da Box had nothing but nice things to say, and others were curious, promising to check us out soon. Oddly enough, I woke up this morning with "Money For Nothing" running through my head. That ain't workin'...

While lurking on the edges of a pre-game scrum surrounding Carlos Tosca in the dugout, I noticed another interested outsider, and struck up a conversation. Matt Tosca, the skipper's 13-year-old son, is in town for three weeks on just his second visit to Toronto. Matt's not a ballplayer, but he's an accomplished violinist, who will be playing the national anthems before a game, either this Sunday or next. I think it's great that he has a passion for music, and his parents deserve credit for encouraging that, instead of pushing him reluctantly into Little League.

I didn't want to get in the way of actual reporters doing their jobs, but was able to hear Matt's dad talking about Mark Hendrickson getting another chance in the rotation on Thursday, ending (for now) the speculation that Corey Thurman would be given that start. Tosca the elder also said that the club would soon go back to 12 pitchers and 13 position players, as there are just three more games in Montreal without the DH. The Jays are creatively juggling about 30 guys through the 25 roster spots, getting maximum return from their improved depth. It probably helps program sales, too.

About 5:45, I headed upstairs. There are pages and pages of game notes available to the press, so I absorbed a lot of trivia. The debacle in St. Louis (it's hard to play 9 against 13) was the sixth time the Jays have been swept in interleague play; not surprisingly, five of those were on the road. The 12 hits Cory Lidle gave up to the Cards were a career high, which (unfortunately) he matched last night -- maybe he should try pitching on short rest, because extra days off sure aren't helping. Matt Stairs, in 37 more games, will become the 11th Canadian to play 1,000 in the bigs. I could go on.

It's amazing that the communications people don't rest on all that advance preparation, but keep the updated stats coming during the game. Mike Shaw (listed in the 450-page media guide they generously gave me as "Manager, Baseball Information") is the voice you sometimes hear in the background on broadcasts, announcing such things as the start time, attendance, scoring decisions and other breaking news to the scribes. "That's Carlos Delgado's major league-leading 34th interleague home run, and he also leads with 99 interleague RBI," for example. Jay Stenhouse, shortly after the Delgado blast -- what were the Pirates thinking, throwing him a cookie with first base open? -- left the press box, then quickly returned with a list of the fastest Jays to 70 RBI in a season. Carlos broke his own record (June 25, 2000, in the 76th game) by 12 games and more than two weeks! George Bell, in his MVP year, was third quickest to 70, also in his 76th game, which wasn't until July 3. Only three other Jays (Carter, Green and Batista) have ever reached 70 by the all-star break, and the record of 80 is likely to be obliterated.

It's a much better view down in the "action seats" than up in the 300 level, but the press box has other advantages, including free popcorn. There are TVs everywhere, and because of the slight broadcast delay, you can watch a pitch on the field, then glance at the nearest monitor and see TSN's "live" shot about 1.5 seconds later. Instant replay of every pitch. There's just one problem with that arrangement; if you keep watching the screen, you won't see the next actual pitch, and if something happens, when the crowd reacts, you look up. By then, you've missed it on TV. Hey, it only happened once.

The game wasn't a classic, but it was entertaining. You know the manager is playing to win when he makes a defensive replacement for a guy who's 4-for-4, with his team up by five. Howie Clark, admittedly no Brooks Robinson at third, is now hitting .611 -- but it's a soft .611 -- so it's hard to believe he'll be returned to Syracuse when Shannon Stewart is fit to play. Catalanotto and Delgado both went deep, but impressed me more with hustle plays. Cat, who had another terrific night, flew down the line to beat out an infield hit, then scampered to third on a Wells single. Carlos, ignoring the big lead in the ninth inning, ran 50 yards into right field, as fast as I've ever seen him move, in pursuit of a foul ball that went into the seats. Tremendous effort from a guy who used to go all-out only on selected plays.

The bullpen was pretty good. Trever Miller got his lefty, stayed in to fan the righty Sanders, but for some reason wasn't allowed to face Craig Wilson. Tam had the sinker working, but did his usual high-wire act. It wasn't Aquilino's best inning, mostly because of his own error, when he took his eye off the throw after a nifty play by Delgado. Lopez did figure out a way to keep hitting machine Brian Giles from doing more damage -- he drilled him. Facing the next tough lefty, Simon, was no sweat for the unflappable rookie. Cliff Politte, appearing in yet another non-save situation, didn't exactly dominate (I'm hoping he heats up when the weather does) but had a lot more giddy-up on his fastball than he did Saturday, blowing one by Sanders for the K, and everyone who did make contact was late. O-Dog's sparkling catch to end the game was a result of good positioning in anticipation of what his pitcher was throwing.

I was gently admonished for the sin of "cheering in the press box" when I clapped for Phelps' dinger, a faux pas that will not be repeated. In my own defence, that's what fans and coaches do; it was a reflex -- thank goodness I didn't holler, or jump up and down. Without protocol restraints, I'll be part of tonight's big crowd (it's a $2 Wednesday) rooting loudly for Doc to win his team record ninth straight, but I'm already excited about wearing the media badge again on Thursday and talking to the coaches. I'm very grateful to everyone connected with the Jays for extending such courtesy to a mere blogger. Thanks also to my co-authors for lending their talents to this project, and most of all, I'm indebted to the hundreds of regular readers and thousands of occasional visitors who have made Batter's Box a hit.
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The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
_Shane - Wednesday, June 11 2003 @ 10:23 AM EDT (#100364) #
Very nice Mr. Williams, very nice.
robertdudek - Wednesday, June 11 2003 @ 10:48 AM EDT (#100365) #
I hope it's Werth that gets sent down to get regular playing time (they'll likely farm Huckaby for an extra pitcher soon).

Clark's lefthanded bat is extremely valuable coming off the bench and making the occasional start.
_Pfizer - Wednesday, June 11 2003 @ 10:52 AM EDT (#100366) #
Neat! I'm jealous you lucky dog.
Gerry - Wednesday, June 11 2003 @ 10:54 AM EDT (#100367) #
The first report was good. I am wondering how long it will be until coach turns into a media scribe clone, complaining about the conditions, people don't want to talk to him, the popcorn was not fresh, etc.....
_Ryan - Wednesday, June 11 2003 @ 11:03 AM EDT (#100368) #
I expect both Werth and Huckaby to be gone in the next few days. Thurman will probably take a spot away from one of them, and Stewart will knock the other one off when the team feels he's ready to come off the DL (he's eligible to return tomorrow).
_Brent - Wednesday, June 11 2003 @ 11:20 AM EDT (#100369) #
What an incredible experience Coach. However, it's only a matter of time before the icy atmosphere on the press box (and Griffin) turns you into a cynical and bitter man.
Pepper Moffatt - Wednesday, June 11 2003 @ 11:23 AM EDT (#100370) #
What an incredible experience Coach. However, it's only a matter of time before the icy atmosphere on the press box (and Griffin) turns you into a cynical and bitter man.

If that happens, Craig, Robert and I will kidnap Coach and make him watch 7 and 8 year olds play Rookie Ball until he gets his love for the game back.

Great work Coach! You and the whole BB team should be proud of yourselves.. you're going to be upto 100000 hits soon!

_EddieZosky - Wednesday, June 11 2003 @ 11:39 AM EDT (#100371) #
"'re going to be upto 100000 hits soon!"

I probably take credit for about 80,000 of these hits though. Sorry guys. Love the site, hate my job...

By the way Coach, don't feel bad about teh rookie mistake. Rob Dibble got booted from last years Allstar game for doing the same thing. He got into an altercation with the security guard, reportedly screaming "Don't tell me to shut up, how many world series did you pitch in?!". He stormed out of the stadium and watched the game from the Hooters across the street. I'm just sayin...

Anyways, great work as always. We're so lucky to have a blog like this. It's totally rejuvenated my love of the Jays.
_Jay - Wednesday, June 11 2003 @ 11:54 AM EDT (#100372) #
Let me add my kudos as a first time reader. I was introduced to the blog over in Baseball Primer last week and just bookmarked it yesterday. So nice to have intelligent discussion about our Jays in Toronto instead of hearing about some hockey player's offseason training habits in August.
Coach - Wednesday, June 11 2003 @ 12:09 PM EDT (#100373) #
the icy atmosphere

Au contraire. Apart from the ban on cheering, it's a collegial environment among some very smart, funny people. There was plenty of good-natured professional trash-talking, a sign of respect. In fact, I would have felt a lot more like I belonged up there if the people I met had ripped BB instead of being so damn nice.

I've been cynical and bitter for decades, but in regard to my love of baseball, Mike, you have nothing to fear. I'm going to take in a quadruple-header tomorrow. The provincial high school championships conclude with two semi-finals in the morning and the final in the afternoon; admission is free. Then I'll stick around for the Jays game.

Yesterday St. Mike's beat Notre Dame 9-8. Sorry, Gerry -- just one Ajax team left. Henry Street from Whitby also advanced; the other two quarterfinals are today, with King City and Pickering the favourites to make the final four. In the downtown Tier II championship at Christie Pits, Harbord defeated Marc Garneau 9-2. Congratulations to the Tigers, especially the five players I coached when they were tykes and peewees. Enjoy it, fellas, but watch out for UFA next year.
Dave Till - Wednesday, June 11 2003 @ 12:18 PM EDT (#100374) #
I was gently admonished for the sin of "cheering in the press box" when I clapped for Phelps' dinger

...that's exactly why I would never want to visit the press box!

Great article, Coach. I look forward to reading the other interviews.
_Wildrose - Wednesday, June 11 2003 @ 12:25 PM EDT (#100375) #
Were all envious coach. I look forward to the interviews. After the incorrect error charged to Delgado on the Lopez throw was there any interplay between the official scorer(who is a member of the media I believe)and the minions on press row?

I'm perplexed by this Werth business as well, keeping him on the roster, not using him, allowing his arbitration clock to tick. All this tells me is that Werth really isn't in the long term plans of the Jays. If I was some enterprising young G.M. in need of a catcher I'd be talking to J.P.
_Jordan - Wednesday, June 11 2003 @ 01:03 PM EDT (#100376) #
Yesterday St. Mike's beat Notre Dame 9-8. Sorry, Gerry -- just one Ajax team left.

Not to mention just one Papist team left. Go Micks Go!

If I was some enterprising young G.M. in need of a catcher I'd be talking to J.P.

Me too, except that if Werth is indeed up to be showcased (rather than evidently being the last bat off the bench), Carlos Tosca must not have gotten the memo. Even well-run clubs have operational blind spots, and for the Jays right now, it's roster and bullpen management. It's so minor, though, that if it's the worst thing the Jays do to themselves all season, it'll be a great year.

Kent, sounds like your visit was a complete blast. Thanks for a great report!
Gerry - Wednesday, June 11 2003 @ 01:06 PM EDT (#100377) #
Coach posted - "Yesterday St. Mike's beat Notre Dame 9-8. Sorry, Gerry -- just one Ajax team left"

My son was feeling bad about the loss last night. But he had a hit (and was hit) and made some plays so in a few days he will relish the experience. It will be nice for him to look at a game and say I played there. It is very good of the Blue Jays to sponsor the cup and give the boys a chance to play at the Skydome. It is a big thrill for them.

Now if they could persuade a player to show up and talk to the kids it would be a knockout.
_Mick - Wednesday, June 11 2003 @ 01:09 PM EDT (#100378) #
Press boxes are cool, but as someone hinted above, you can get jaded pretty quickly.

Coach, I genuinely don't see any reason why you wouldn't get a seasonal press pass if you formally requested one. It'd be nice if you could get a publication pass rather than a reporter pass, so anyone listed in the staff box could use it when you didn't (I'm not asking -- I live in Texas, remember).

The cheering in the press box thing, well, part of that is jadedness (see previous comment) and part of it is the unspoken agreement to "act like you've been there before" -- it's the whole thing with Barry Sanders just handing the ball to a ref after getting into the end zone.

I started bulling (read that several ways) my way into press boxes when I was in high school with "media credentials" created in the school's newspaper office. In college, I sent a couple of clips to the local minor league team -- not even a request -- and got full press access to (woohoo!) the Toledo Mud Hens Lucas County Stadium.

Granted, MLB clubs have been a lot more hesitant to grant press access to independent online publications, because of the whole "anyone can start up an e-zine, that doesn't make them a journalist" thing.

If the request is "hey, I do this blog thing about the Jays, could I maybe get a press pass some time?" then ... no. But a crisp request: Kent Williams, managing editor, The Batter's Box. Baseball news with a local spin, editorial staff from California and Texas to New York and here in Toronto, thousands of visitors a day, requesting a publication press pass blah blah ..."

Again, not sure you WANT to do that, Coach -- there's something about being in the stands -- but it's certainly do-able.
_Joe C. - Wednesday, June 11 2003 @ 02:52 PM EDT (#100379) #
I think I'm helping you to rack up your hits; I probably visit the site 12 times or more a day. When I am listening to the game (some game, any game, I need baseball!!) via MLB Radio I am always switching around reading baseball stuff. I need my daily fix, and BB is the first stop after reading about my beloved Mariners.

That 1.5 second delay thing on the TV's could really mess with your head...
_Paul Z. - Wednesday, June 11 2003 @ 03:05 PM EDT (#100380) #
Hmmm... An interesting and insightful story about press privilege.

A quick question - Is the view that much better up there? Couldn't you just get the press pass to get onto the field during BP, and then watch (and report on) the game from the stands? Of course, you miss out on the free food, the TV replays, the chance to watch RG in action, but it might be more fun!
_Steve Z - Wednesday, June 11 2003 @ 03:31 PM EDT (#100381) #
Hey guys. I've been enjoying the discussion here as much as ever, despite lurking in the background of late. I'd love to join any of you who will be at tonight's ($2) game, as I can't pull any of my friends to the ballpark. Where does the ZLC sit at the Dome?
_A - Wednesday, June 11 2003 @ 04:56 PM EDT (#100382) #
Hey Coach, when you talk to the Jays' coaching staff on Thursday, would you mind mentioning that in late March/early April the Flames have trouble finding a dry place to practice...See if maybe they can offer us anything? ;-)

And I'd love to make it down for the 2pm final (though school may get in the way), can you give a hint to where I might find you?
_Jonny German - Wednesday, June 11 2003 @ 05:19 PM EDT (#100383) #
Great stuff Coach! What's next, guesting with Bob McCown on Prime Time Sports? If you get talking to R. Griff or the other writers, I would be interested in hearing your take on them... Are these intelligent writers but staid baseaball fans who are having trouble adjusting to JP et al., or are they just cranky toads tired of their lot in life and taking it out on the home team? If you get an interview with Tosca, I say devote the entire session to "What exactly is your bullpen usage philosophy?"
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