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Before I get to what I want to talk about, I'm going to give you a brief history of the NFH - Blue Jays love affair. It's necessary to explain why I feel the way I do about things. Don't worry, it doesn't get too goopy and nobody dies from a bee sting.

I was born in 1975 and named for a certain baseball player that you ought to be familiar with. When I was two, an expansion baseball team came to my town, much to the delight of my father. I have numerous memories of listening to games on my dad's old radio and watching games on our little black and white TV. I remember going to Exhibition Stadium, though not all that clearly. Mostly I remember that the seats were uncomfortable and that I brought a pillow the next time I went to a game. I vividly remember watching a game on TV in 1985, and when the Jays lost my father told me that there would be no more Blue Jays games until next year. I was heartbroken.

I remember the back-to-back World Series years. In '92 I watched the final game at the home of a girl that I had an enormous crush on. Later I dated her and she dumped me for another guy. And then the strike came, and like so many other fans I was so completely angered by the situation that I stopped watching major league baseball for a long time. I should also have stopped dating women, especially those who wanted to become actresses. That's a long, sordid part of NFH's history that will not be related here, aside from this warning to young men: Do not date aspiring actresses.

The clouds parted in 2002, when one of the vendors I dealt with at work gave me some late-season Blue Jays tickets. I went and watched a bunch of young kids I had never heard of beat the tar out of the New York Yankees. It was so much fun that I came back the next night. And then again the week after. And Mrs. Hank and I were married that summer.

Then, when an ad on the back page of the Toronto Star's sports section caught my eye in March of 2003, I bought a Season's Pass and came to 66 games. Would have come to more, but Mrs. Hank and I were celebrating our anniversary in Tobago, so we could only check the box scores from an old blueberry iMac in a tin shack on the beach (the place was De Maximum, a candy store, dive shop and internet cafe).

In '04, I tried for a repeat, and while I didn't pull off the same kind of ludicrous total I did in '03, I managed to go to about 50 games.

Friends, this is why I am so attached to some of the players on the current Toronto Blue Jays: they were instrumental in the rebirth of my love for baseball. When Josh Phelps melted down, it depressed me. The black cloud that's been hanging over Eric Hinske causes me physical pain. And the idea that there's no place on this team anymore for Reed Johnson, well, that makes me feel terrible inside.

I know, I know, there's nothing solid, nothing even hinted at. But Jerry Howarth's comment yesterday that Reed's great game was a message to management that he's not ready to give up his job sent a real shock up my spine. Would speedy Reed Johnson, Reeder, Sparky, would he be the casualty if and when Gabe Gross turns out to be the genuine article? It can't be true, can it?

In baseball, people get traded. Or cut. Or sent to the minors. Or they sign somewhere else as a free agent and come back to either kick you in the face or yield to your shouted field-level seat mockery (yeah, that second one is about you, Esteban). You can't get too upset about players leaving, especially if they're going to continue to play elsewhere -- you'll still get to see them, after all. But I do get upset. And maybe I'm just emotional because I have a three month old son who likes to save up his poo for three to five days at a time and then let it all out in one gigantic volcano of feces that doesn't stop until you start worrying that the kid is pooping out his lungs and brain, and he likes to do this at three in the morning and so I sleep with a hair trigger and twice this month I've jumped out of bed and grabbed Theo and run him to the change table before even waking up, only to discover that I was just dreaming. So in other words, I'm not sleeping that well right now. Yeah, maybe that's it.

Okay, enough about my fragile emotional state. Let's talk about Beer Club! For those who don't know, Beer Club is the offshoot of Cheer Club where a bunch of people meet up at a bar to watch an away game, and since the Jays open the season on the road, well, that's a prime Beer Club game, isn't it?

Except that the game is on a Monday at 4:15. Well, I'm going to skip out of work early if other people will join me. Anyone have suggestions for a bar in Toronto that's easy to get to and has a decently-sized TV? And who wants to come to Beer Club?

Oh yeah, the Jays beat the Phillies 3-2 yesterday. I was supposed to mention that near the start, wasn't I?

Spring Training: Toronto 3, Philly 2, plus Beer Club | 44 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
DaveInNYC - Friday, March 25 2005 @ 09:44 AM EST (#107465) #
Outstanding work NFH. That's a great story and I'm glad you shared it with us. Two thumbs up bro.

As far as Reed goes, that move would make absolutly no sense. If anything, why not trade Hillenbrand. He's got more of a "name" around the league, and he batted 300 last season so his value is probably higher than Reed's.

Also, it would allow Cat to DH and it would allow for an excellent offensive AND defensive platoon in left field between The Gabe and Sparky.

If JP or anyone with power within the Jays organization is reading this, this is my plea for Sparky.

PLEASE DON'T DISCARD REED "SPARKY" JOHNSON! We as fans have grown attached to his hard nosed style of play, and it would pain us as NFH said, physically, if there weren't a spot for him on this team. If anything, DUMP HILLENBRAND! We the fans have no connection to him and it wouldn't really hurt if he were traded. Besides, I know for a fact that a lot of Jays fans have kept in the secret distain or dislike of Shea for some of his comments in the past regarding not only Theo Epstein but even OBP in general!

So please, KEEP SPARKY!! He's more valuable than Shea anyway!
The_Beav - Friday, March 25 2005 @ 10:02 AM EST (#107466) #
Great stuff NFH. As a relative newcomer to the Box, it's refreshing to know that there are so many of you out there who share my passion for the Blue Jays. I'm 35 now, so I remember Exhibition Stadium quite well. This week, while doing some research for an article I'm writing about some of the new stadiums, I came across a web site with some grainy pics of the Ex. Talk about a flood of memories -- wow! I guess you had to be there to truly appreciate the place.

Are there any Bauxites in the Buffalo area? Marriage brought me here from Toronto almost 5 years ago, and it's not exactly easy to find a Jays fan in Yankees country. Maybe we can have a Beer Club of our own when Syracuse plays the Bisons on April 11 and 12? Drop me a note if you're interested.
VBF - Friday, March 25 2005 @ 10:03 AM EST (#107467) #
I can't see Sparky not having a place on the team, and it's not because I'm a big fan of him. He'll never be a everyday starter on a regular basis but he brings alot to the team that is seemingly undervalued. His ability to bunt, get on base, and his overall running game is too good for this team not to have a role for him. He makes an excellent defensive replacment in late innings of the game, and can be counted on to make clutch plays.

If the management decide to move him, I think they might be making a mistake. He brings alot to the team that not alot of other people can. Even if Gross does take his job, I'm confident that Reed will get his time in, what with injuries and all.
DaveInNYC - Friday, March 25 2005 @ 10:06 AM EST (#107468) #
VBF, don't forget about his ability to play very solid defense and his ability to absolutly MASH left handed pitching. IMO, he's the perfect platoon split for left field when it comes to facing lefties.

I agree with you that it would be a mistake to not find a spot for him.
mathesond - Friday, March 25 2005 @ 10:10 AM EST (#107469) #
I'm in for the Beer Club. Being relatively new to Toronto, I am at a loss when it comes to suggesting a watering hole, but I'm sure one can be found.

As for Reed vs. Shea vs. Gross, I prefer the New England approach, be it the Pats or the Sox - if a Nomar Garciaparra or a Lawyer Milloy aren't cutting it, sentiment be damned. The only Jays games I have seen in the past 3-4 years have involved Chicago teams, so I don't have much to go by, but it seems that, at best, Reed is a complementary player on an average team - the WS Jays could carry Candy Maldonado, but I don't see Johnson as reaching those rarefied heights. Shea may be an ass at times, but Gregg Zaun has a similar rep in my eyes, and I don't see anyone calling for his ouster. (perhaps because the Jays and their fans are expecting Quiroz to take over soon enough). If cutting Reed is the only way to allow Gross the opportunity to sink or swim, well, so be it. And if Gross fails miserably while Reed latches on with another team, well, them's the breaks.
kpataky - Friday, March 25 2005 @ 10:14 AM EST (#107471) #
I was at the game yesterday in Dunedin shooting pictures. Gus Chacin didn't look like he had much in the early going as the Phillies were hitting him hard and long and he was struggling to find the plate. The fans were actually getting impatient and were yelling for the manager to pull him despite the fact that the balls were staying in the yard. Gus settled down and was fairly impressive after that, limiting the Phillies to only one run over 5 innings.

Brandon League relieved and I'll tell you, he really opened some eyes on that Phillies bench. He was throwing so hard you could hear the ball sizzling and then pop in the catcher's mitt around the stadium. It was a small crowd and you could hear a pin drop as Brandon cut the air with the seams of his hard fastball. I was in the Phillies dugout and the things they were saying - man. They just couldn't believe the action on League's ball.

Other notes: Corey Koskie worries me. He played in the field for the first time since March 10, but he just looks so old out there. And I've seen better range on some of the guys that play in my local beer league. I realize he's been injured, so hopefully with time he'll improve.

Keith Talent - Friday, March 25 2005 @ 10:17 AM EST (#107472) #

I know for a fact that a lot of Jays fans have kept in the secret distain or dislike of Shea for some of his comments in the past regarding not only Theo Epstein but even OBP in general!

I hope this is a joke! I can imagine that if I were a major league player being dicked around by some stat-head boss who is younger than me, I would get a little pissed too. I know very little about Theo Epstein, but just every time I've seen him he rubs me the wrong way. I don't like him. He seems arrogant and all-knowing and lacks professional grace. He should surely realize that being a GM at such a young age is bound to automatically upset people around the organization. You would think, therefore, that courtesy and professionalism would be a top priority for Theo.

Mind you, I'm speaking out of my ass. That's just my first impression of him, that he's not someone I'd like to know.

NFH: Being the same age, I have a similar chronology with the Blue Jays as you. (Though, coming from the West I would substitute the Kingdome as the venue where I saw the Blue Jays of the 1980s.) I was such a huge baseball fan in 1994 (hyped for the Expos) and the strike destroyed that. When baseball went on strike I just partied and did what most 19-20 year olds do and left baseball on the backburner.

One thing missing from your chronology that I do remember was getting excited about the Blue Jays, baseball again in the late 1990s (despite the McGwire/Sosa homerun chase; that turned me off more than anything). I was into the Blue Jays who with Clemens, Green, Delgado and Koch on their team made a run at the Wild Card in 1998, was it?

I taught in Japan for a few years after that. Baseball is big in Japan, but it's tough to follow a team day-to-day. There was that great Diamondbacks/Yankees World Series that got a lot of attention. My Japanese boss at a staff meeting, speaking to our multi-national staff:

You people all come form different countries and work together as a team. You are just like Starbucks.

"Starbucks?" we thought. Then someone clued in: "You mean Diamondbacks!"

Oh yes, that's it.

I came back to Canada in late 2002 and was impressed watching the core of the Blue Jays on TV that September: Hinske, Wells, Halladay, Delgado. The rest is recent history...

Jobu - Friday, March 25 2005 @ 10:21 AM EST (#107473) #
Well, now that he's a member of Oreo Row at Web Gem Way, surely that carries some clout with the suits. To a team on a budget, he's almost a perfect 4th OF. And he simply can not be traded till I get him to sign the hammer.

But back to the important stuff. No not NFH's tale of love, loss and redemption.... the Beer Club! As a fella who lives in the 'burbs I'm not choc' full of expereince with bars, but there is one place that might work (according to chaos theory). It's called wegz (or possibly wgez), and while it's more of a sitdown sports restaurant type place as opposed to bar, but the place is huge and covered with giant easily visable tv screens that make watching a game easy. They also have lots of beer which the bring to your table in odd self dispensers. And if memory serves me they also have a "function" room that you have to book in advance and then you're treated to a off to the corner room and control of a movie theatre size tv screen.

But before I sound like a total stooge for this place I should comment that it's probably not close to many Buaxites except me and my loser friends. So if a nifty little bar can be found somewhere else that would probably be easier on everyone. Either way I hope to see all registered Cheer Clubbers there so we can also prepare for the new season.


Keith Talent - Friday, March 25 2005 @ 10:37 AM EST (#107475) #
Found this:

One of the goals for Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi this spring was to lock up second baseman Orlando Hudson in a long-term contract. But that may not happen. The Jays have made Hudson an offer and his agent sent back a counter-offer. That's where it sits.
-- Toronto Sun
Braby21 - Friday, March 25 2005 @ 10:55 AM EST (#107477) #
You can watch the 2004 Future's game where Aaron Hill I believe is named MVP of the game on MLB TV for Free today.
Dave Till - Friday, March 25 2005 @ 11:01 AM EST (#107478) #
Reed Johnson is a very useful player, even though he's probably not good enough to be a starter. He can do a lot of things: he runs well, he can play all three outfield positions, he's good enough to pinch-hit, and he can bunt. That sounds like just the sort of player you want as your fourth outfielder. The only issue is whether he'll start to complain if he gets benched, and I don't think he'll do that. Given this, I don't see the Jays dumping him.

My love affair with Blue Jays baseball started in the 1982-83 offseason, when I discovered the Bill James Baseball Abstract. When the Jays became a contending team that summer, I was hooked, and have (more or less) remained so ever since.

My first memory of watching games in person was sitting in the North Grandstand at Exhibition Stadium during CHUM Teen Nights in the late 1970's. For $1, you could grab a seat, yell loudly, and watch people throw wads of paper at each other and/or surreptitiously swig illicit liquor out of wineskins. Good times.
dp - Friday, March 25 2005 @ 11:14 AM EST (#107480) #
I hope they keep Reed- he's always seemed like the perfect 4th outfielder. But guys with those skills look bad when forced to play everyday. I'd rather have Reed on the bench than Cat, even though Cat's a better hitter, because Sparky's more versitile.

Part of the SABR thing that guys like Beane are praised for by BPro is recognizing a sunk cost and not playing guys b/c off their contracts. That's what the Jays are doing, both with Cat and with Hinske. While it's understandable for a while, if Hisnke isn't hitting a month and a half into the season, and Gross is hitting well at the Cuse, it seems stubborn to play Hisnke because the GM made a mistake giving him a big contract. Same goes for Cat. There's no way, after his '04, Cat gets that contract on the open market. And while it isn't handcuffing the team, playing him ahead of Gross because JP handed him a 2 year deal looks like bad decision-making.
Braby21 - Friday, March 25 2005 @ 11:16 AM EST (#107481) #
To keep my conversation w myself going on...There's also a show on that channel @ noon that reveals MLB's Top 50 Prospects, including the Jays Brandon League.

AND today's spring game is being carried on the FAN, great news.
Pepper Moffatt - Friday, March 25 2005 @ 11:21 AM EST (#107482) #
Reed is an incredibly useful player. He's great against lefties and he's a very good defensive outfielder. He's also probably the best bunter in baseball and that should count for something.

Successful teams need to have guys like Reed Johnson on their bench. I can't see the Jays getting rid of him anytime soon. Who would replace him?
Mike D - Friday, March 25 2005 @ 11:31 AM EST (#107483) #
I think Reeder's spot on the roster is secure, primarily because--

Aaah! BEES!!!

Ryan01 - Friday, March 25 2005 @ 11:42 AM EST (#107486) #

There's really no reason for the Jays to trade Reed, regardless of what Gabe Gross does. He's a great platoon partner for either of the lefties Cat and Gross, who both have platoon issues, and he can backup in CF. Plus he's a great righty bat/bunter/pinch runner off the bench. Nobody else can fill that role right now, and with Godwin gone, Anton French is really the only righty option with the potential to take over that role in the near future.

Some bad news for Skychiefs fans, John Hattig is out 4-6 weeks after elbow surgery to remove bone spurs.

kpataky - Friday, March 25 2005 @ 12:19 PM EST (#107487) #
I forgot to mention that little tidbit about Hattig. This past Sunday, he was fielding ground balls at Minor League Camp, but noticeably struggling to throw. On Monday, because of the threat of rain, the Yankees Triple and Double A teams cancelled their scheduled games with the Jays. So the Jays played Double A vs. Triple A. Hattig was missing, and I was informed as to why.

Brandon League started and pitched to Jose Umbria for the Fisher Cats and Scott Downs started and threw to Guillermo Quiroz for the Skychiefs.

For the Fisher Cats: Vito Chiaravaloti 1B, Ryan Roberts 2B, Raul Tablado SS, Robert Cosby 3B, Miguel Negron CF, Ron Davenport RF

For the Sky Chiefs: 1B: John Ford Griffin, SS: Aaron Hill, 2B: Dominic Rich, 3B: Danny Solano, OF: Anton French, Justin Singleton, Chad Mottola

Brandon League's wife was video taping the game through the backstop and Anton French came over and said "You better keep that camera rolling because I'm going to get a hit off your boy and then I'm going to do a break dance on your kitchen floor." He proceeded to hit the first pitch from League into the right center field gap for a triple.
kpataky - Friday, March 25 2005 @ 12:31 PM EST (#107488) #
Oops. I left out Maikel Jova from the Fisher Cats. He was also in the outfield.
Jobu - Friday, March 25 2005 @ 03:09 PM EST (#107519) #
Shall we keep a running tab then of people interested in Beer Club?

So far the very swanky guest list includes:
My loser friends
kpataky - Friday, March 25 2005 @ 03:31 PM EST (#107527) #
I'm in for Beer Club NY.
Mike D - Friday, March 25 2005 @ 03:32 PM EST (#107529) #
I'm sadly out for Beer Club NY, at least for the season opener. I'm happy to arrange one for a bit later in the season, though.
TorontoDan - Friday, March 25 2005 @ 04:27 PM EST (#107535) #
I'm up for the Beer Club. Depending on where it's being held of course :) What about Gretzky's?
HollywoodHartman - Friday, March 25 2005 @ 04:50 PM EST (#107537) #
I would join but I'm only 14, so it would be just coke for me.

Sorry guys:P
Jobu - Friday, March 25 2005 @ 05:36 PM EST (#107540) #
Okay, so the same guys from before, plus Toronto Dan and Hollywood Hartman (if we dont go to an actual bar)
Named For Hank - Friday, March 25 2005 @ 08:12 PM EST (#107547) #
Well "sports bars" are also restaurants, so 14 year olds can get in. I'm a cheap drunk, so I don't drink beer either.

Okay, let's start brainstorming a place to go to. I need subway access. Suggestions?
VBF - Friday, March 25 2005 @ 09:23 PM EST (#107549) #
I am unable to be there but I shall offer some tips for the Blue Jays fan looking to take in a game in a sports bar. There are a few places that are pretty good:

1) Shoeless Joe's on King-- Great place named after a great person. Lots of TVs, good atmosphere, fun for all.

2) Crooked Cue in Mississauga-- I know, I know. Not in Toronto, but a great place nonetheless. Personal favorite, big tv's. Lacks memorabilia like at Shoeless's.

3) Gretzky's-- It's alright. Obviously the hockiness may scare one Jays fan away, but it's still a good spot.

4) Alice Fazoolis-- Not really a sports bar at all. It made the list only because Jerry Howarth has implanted it in my brain for eternity.

5) Hard Rock Cafe at Rogers Centre-- This concludes my list of broad places to watch a game. It's a good restaurant, lots of TVs and the people that go there are Jays fans.

No, there won't be any bar-fights or seemingly beautiful women at these places. But, from experience they all have a good sports atmosphere, and a good place to watch a game.
mathesond - Saturday, March 26 2005 @ 12:47 AM EST (#107557) #
I'll be picking up a paycheque at BCE place that afternoon, so anywhere in the area of the 'Dome works for me
JackFoley - Saturday, March 26 2005 @ 02:08 AM EST (#107558) #
That's a long, sordid part of NFH's history that will not be related here, aside from this warning to young men: Do not date aspiring actresses.

Hank, where were you before I married one?! Speaking of sordid. Aaaanyway. Starting July 1 I'm in for the BC.
Named For Hank - Saturday, March 26 2005 @ 10:49 AM EST (#107568) #
Sorry, Jack. I feel for you, I really do. You'd think I'd have learned after the second one, but no, I had to go for a third.
VBF - Monday, March 28 2005 @ 03:08 PM EST (#107801) #
You may also add Vernon's Biggest Fan to that swanky guest list, although I will know for sure by late next week.

And like Mathesond, any place near the Centre would be great.
TorontoDan - Monday, March 28 2005 @ 07:09 PM EST (#107819) #
I'll say Gretzkys although to be honest I haven't watched a Jays game there, so I'm not sure how they prioritize that. I live within walking distance of the Dome, so obviously I'd prefer a central location. Any other ideas?
VBF - Monday, March 28 2005 @ 07:17 PM EST (#107821) #
If you go to the Hard Rock Cafe @ the Rogers Centre, you can guarantee that every T.V. will be on the game with full sound. There will also most likely be more Jays fans as supposed to the hockey people at Gretzky's. I went there a few times last season and it was more sports oriented than other Hard Rock's plus the standard Kiss memorabilia.

Joe - Monday, March 28 2005 @ 08:46 PM EST (#107823) #
Alice Fazooli's is a great restaurant, but you shouldn't go there if you want to watch the game :)

Shoeless Joe's is good, though I must admit I've never been there during game time. It's possible or likely that the sound wouldn't be up there.

I've never been to the Hard Rock Cafe, but its subway accessability is a little bit higher than Shoeless Joe's, and given other peoples' notes that it'd probably be full of Jays fans and have the sound cranked, that'd be my choice.

If I was going - sadly I'm in Waterloo for the next 23 days, 21 hours, 14 minutes, 34 seconds (no, I'm not counting, why do you ask?) and so I'll most likely only be able to make it to Toronto for the season opener (if that).
TorontoDan - Monday, March 28 2005 @ 09:03 PM EST (#107824) #
I totally forgot about the Hard Rock! Yes, that makessense ...and it's not much further away. Obviously I'll go with whatever we agree on, but meeting some Bauxites for some 4:15 PM monday game-watching/drinking sounds great :)
VBF - Monday, March 28 2005 @ 09:15 PM EST (#107827) #
I wouldn't have to know anybody would I? I wouldn't want to intrude.
Named For Hank - Tuesday, March 29 2005 @ 02:54 AM EST (#107834) #
You already know us, VBF.

Is the food at the Hard Rock any good? It seems to be getting some decent support and is well-located. I'm up for it.
VBF - Tuesday, March 29 2005 @ 05:51 PM EST (#107982) #
The food there is basic sports bar food. There won't really be anything out of the ordinary--stick with wings or a club sandwich and you can't go wrong.

If someone could back me up on this it would be great. My opinions often clash with reality. ;)
VBF - Wednesday, March 30 2005 @ 06:40 PM EST (#108221) #
If it came down to a vote, the Hard Rock gets mine, but I'm easy.
Named For Hank - Wednesday, March 30 2005 @ 10:14 PM EST (#108229) #
I'm going to pick Hard Rock as well, since I've never been there. Been to Gretzky's, it's okay but expensive.

Is there anyone who wants to advocate Gretzky's over Hard Rock?

I'll make a new thread about this tomorrow afternoon, with some hopefully more solid details.
TorontoDan - Wednesday, March 30 2005 @ 10:22 PM EST (#108230) #
I can only vouch for Gretzky's as a second choice for this idea, or as a great place to go (especially the patio!) for drinks after a home game. This sounds good.
VBF - Wednesday, March 30 2005 @ 11:02 PM EST (#108234) #
especially the patio

Ah, yes. Who wouldn't enjoy a nice cold beer on Opening Day when the temperature peaks at about 5.

Craig B - Thursday, March 31 2005 @ 01:00 AM EST (#108239) #
I see that NFH and JackFoley also have firsthand knowledge of that highly underused simile, "mad as an actress".

Completely mad. Every single one of them.
Named For Hank - Thursday, March 31 2005 @ 07:29 AM EST (#108246) #
I think drama schools must use lead paint or something.
Spring Training: Toronto 3, Philly 2, plus Beer Club | 44 comments | Create New Account
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