An Afternoon With The Blue Jays And Phillies

By HOWARD BERGER

 

TORONTO (July 4) – So, I’ve got this new toy, see?

 

It was a Father’s Day gift from Susan and the kids: a Nikon Coolpix P-500 camera (below)… just out on the market last month. It has a 36x zoom and a 12.1 megapixel lens. As one who has often walked about with a video-cam attached to my hand, I never thought I’d get into still photography. But, this camera is unbelievable. Even a techno-spaz like me can capture terrific images; hell, all you need is one eye and an index finger.

 

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With the Philadelphia Phillies in town to face the Blue Jays in intra-league action on the Canada Day weekend, I took my son, Shane, to the finale at Rogers Centre yesterday… and what a game! Looking for a sweep of the three road matches, the perennial powerhouse from the National League jumped all over Blue Jays starter Jo-Jo Reyes for four runs in the top of the second inning. But, the home side chipped away at the deficit before enjoying a monster eighth inning, as Eric ThamesJose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion connected for homers off Phillies’ starter Cliff Lee – Encarnacion’s two-run shot down the left-field line providing insurance in Toronto’s 7-4 victory.

 

There was a bit of nostalgia in this meeting for yours truly: the last time I saw the Phillies play at Rogers Centre, it was still called SkyDome and Joe Carter hit a home run off Mitch Williams to win the World Series. That was back on Oct. 23, 1993. Every seat in the joint was filled. Almost 18 years later, in an early-summer matinee, I was among 26,204 on a perfect afternoon with the stadium lid open… and enough light for even my photo skills.

 

I actually caught something rather unique… almost grotesque, given the illusion. Phillies slugger Ryan Howard broke his bat fighting off an inside pitch and my photo (below) made it appear as if Howard had no arms. Otherwise, the scenes in this photo-blog are more typical of an afternoon at the ballpark. Enjoy them.

 

 

A DAY AT THE BALLPARK…

 

THE EAST FACADE OF ROGERS CENTRE (ABOVE), HOME OF THE TORONTO BLUE JAYS AND ARGONAUTS.

 

IT WAS A PERFECT SUNDAY AFTERNOON AT THE BALLPARK, AND PERHAPS THE MOST EXHILARATING BLUE JAYS GAME OF THE SEASON. SADLY, HALF THE PLACE WAS EMPTY.

 

THE LONE PART OF THE ROGERS CENTRE ROOF THAT REMAINS INTACT IS THAT WHICH EXTENDS ABOVE THE SCOREBOARD IN CENTRE FIELD. SEE THAT ARCHING WALK-WAY WITH THE STAIRWELL IN THE MIDDLE? A CONSTRUCTION ENGINEER SOMEHOW COAXED ME ONTO THE DAMNED THING WHEN THE STADIUM WAS BEING BUILT IN 1989: IT WAS AMONG THE MOST TERRIFYING EXPERIENCES OF MY LIFE.

 

THE VISITING PHILLIES SCORED EARLY AND OFTEN (ABOVE) AGAINST BLUE JAYS STARTER JO-JO REYES IN THE SECOND INNING, GRABBING A 4-0 LEAD.

 

MR. “NO-ARMS”, HIMSELF, RYAN HOWARD (NATIONAL LEAGUE MVP IN 2006), SMILING AT FANS FROM THE JUMBO-TRON AT ROGERS CENTRE.

 

I THOUGHT THEY CALLED MODERN-DAY STUFF AT THE BALLPARK “FIELD TURF”. FROM MY RECOLLECTION, “ASTRO TURF” (A NAME DERIVED FROM THE OLD INDOOR STADIUM IN HOUSTON – THE ASTRODOME) WAS A BRIGHT-GREEN CARPET THAT WENT OUT OF STYLE ALMOST A DECADE AGO.

 

MY OLD COLLEAGUES FROM THE FAN-590 IN THE BROADCAST BOOTH AT ROGERS CENTRE: MIKE WILNER (SITTING); JERRY HOWARTH (STANDING). MIKE SEEMS OBLIVIOUS TO WHATEVER JERRY IS TELLING HIM.

 

ONE OF THE FINEST HUMAN BEINGS I’VE EVER KNOWN – IN OR OUT OF BASEBALL – WAS THE LATE, GREAT VOICE OF THE BLUE JAYS (ABOVE), WHO’S BEEN GONE SINCE OCTOBER 2005, HAVING LOST A BATTLE WITH BRAIN CANCER. TOM CHEEK CALLED EVERY BLUE JAYS GAME FROM THEIR INCEPTION ON APR. 7, 1977 TO JUNE 3, 2004 – (4,306 CONSECUTIVELY), AN INCREDIBLE WORK-RECORD EMBLAZONED ON THE CLUB’S “LEVEL OF EXCELLENCE” AT THE BALLPARK.

 

PHILLIES CENTRE-FIELDER SHANE VICTORINO APPEARED TO GET A CLEAT STUCK IN THE TURF WHILE RUNNING DOWN A FLY BALL LATE IN THE GAME. THE USUAL BASEBALL ENTOURAGE OF MANAGER (CHARLIE MANUEL); TRAINER, AND TEAMMATES – RYAN HOWARD (6), BEN FRANCISCO (10) AMONG THEM – CHECKS (ABOVE) ON VICTORINO, WHO STAYED IN THE BALLGAME.

 

FOR THOSE THAT HAVE NEVER BEEN TO ROGERS CENTRE, IT IS ALWAYS SPECTACULAR ON A MOSTLY CLEAR DAY TO LOOK UP AND SEE THE 1,815-FOOT CN TOWER LOOMING ABOVE THE BALLPARK.

 

A CLOSER LOOK (ABOVE) AT THE UPPER SPAN OF THE CN TOWER, WHICH OPENED IN 1975 AND WAS – FOR YEARS – THE TALLEST FREE-STANDING STRUCTURE ON EARTH.

 

WITH THE BLUE JAYS AND PHILLIES PLAYING ON THE CANADA DAY WEEKEND, A LARGE, RED MAPLE LEAF DECORATED THE TURF BEHIND HOME PLATE (ABOVE).

 

THE GLORY YEARS OF THE BLUE JAYS AND THE CLUB’S BEST-EVER PLAYER ARE DEPICTED IN BANNERS (ABOVE) THAT HANG FROM THE RAFTERS BEYOND CENTRE-FIELD. THE 1991 MAJOR LEAGUE ALL-STAR GAME WAS PLAYED AT SKYDOME AND THE JAYS WON THE AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST TITLE, ONLY TO LOSE TO MINNESOTA IN THE PLAYOFFS. IN ’92 AND ’93, THE JAYS WON THE WORLD SERIES OVER ATLANTA AND PHILADELPHIA, RESPECTIVELY. SECOND BASEMAN ROBERTO ALOMAR BECAME THE FIRST OF THE CHAMPION BLUE JAYS TO BE ENSHRINED IN COOPERSTOWN, N.Y.

 

LEFT FIELD IN AN EXPANSIVE BALLPARK CAN BE A LONELY PLACE (ABOVE), RIGHT BEN FRANCISCO?

 

LESS LONELY, BETWEEN INNINGS, WERE BLUE JAYS JUAN RIVERA (LEFT) AND RAJAI DAVIS, WHO MADE DINNER PLANS.

 

JOSE BAUTISTA (ABOVE) WALLOPED HIS MAJOR LEAGUE-LEADING 27th HOME RUN IN THE 8th-INNING UPRISING TO PUT THE BLUE JAYS AHEAD IN THE BALLGAME FOR THE FIRST TIME – AND FOR GOOD.

 

BAUTISTA IS THE MOST RENOWNED, ACCOMPLISHED PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE IN OUR CITY RIGHT NOW.

 

SIGN OUTSIDE ROGERS CENTRE (ABOVE) ACKNOWLEDGES BAUTISTA’S RECORD NUMBER OF FAN VOTES FOR THE JULY 12th MAJOR LEAGUE ALL-STAR GAME IN PHOENIX.

 

BLUE JAYS PLAYERS GATHER FOR HIGH-FIVES (ABOVE) AFTER COMPLETING THEIR DRAMATIC COMEBACK OVER PHILADELPHIA ON SUNDAY AFTERNOON.

 

BERGER JUNIOR (A.K.A. SHANE) HAD A JOLLY TIME WATCHING THE BALLGAME IN HIS BLUE JAYS GEAR.

 

A SHOT OF THE POST-GAME CLEAN-UP (ABOVE) FROM THE LEFT-CENTRE FIELD STANDS.

 

CN TOWER REACHES INTO THE AFTERNOON SKY OUTSIDE STADIUM.

 

A SILHOUETTE OF THE CN TOWER FROM BASE OF THE GIANT STRUCTURE.

 

HAPPY BLUE JAYS FANS WALK TOWARD UNION STATION AFTER EXCITING GAME.

 

HEY, REMEMBER THIS PLACE?

 

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