Spring Training: Toronto 3, Philly 2, plus Beer Club

Friday, March 25 2005 @ 09:00 AM EST

Contributed by: Named For Hank

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?