Blue Jays Fans Can’t Escape Hockey

By HOWARD BERGER

TORONTO (Apr. 5) – The only evidence that baseball had not fully gripped this town on Friday night was the increasing clamor about the Chicago-Columbus NHL game. Just after 9:30 p.m., word spread quickly through the first rows of Sec. 529 at Rogers Centre that Peter Regin had scored a powerplay goal for the Blackhawks with three seconds left in regulation time. Three seconds more and the Blue Jackets would have gained a valuable point on the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Such are the priorities, it always seems, in this hockey crazed city. With more than 49,000 giddy baseball fans huddled inside on a rainy night, Toronto Blue Jays allowed an early lead to slip away in their 2014 home opener and dropped a one-sided match, 7-3, to the New York Yankees. It was still 5-3 for the Bombers when Regin potentially destroyed the Blue Jackets playoff hopes. One can only imagine the stunned gathering at Nationwide Arena – the home team serving a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty in the dying minutes and losing at 19:57 of the third period.

MY PHOTO FROM SEC. 529 AT ROGERS CENTRE FRIDAY NIGHT DURING CANADIAN NATIONAL ANTHEM. MORE THAN 49,000 ATTENDED BLUE JAYS HOME OPENER.

So, the Maple Leafs are still rather alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Games in hand only count if they are won, and Columbus coughed up a big opportunity. The Blue Jays have no-such worries (yet) – 157 games from the finish line. It was quite an environment in Rogers Centre with all seats accounted for, reminding yours truly of the early SkyDome years. I had the privilege of covering Blue Jays for The FAN-590 in their run-up to consecutive World Series titles. Every game at the ‘Dome was sold out between 1989 and 1993. With the gargantuan roof open or closed, the joint buzzes when it’s full – as it did again Friday.

Even if hockey briefly interjected.

I had my trusty NIKON with me at the ballgame:

COVER OF OPENING NIGHT PROGRAM.

ALL 49,000 AT THE GAME WERE HANDED THIS TOWEL TO WAVE.

IT WAS GLOOMY OUTSIDE ROGERS CENTRE…

… AND ARTIFICIALLY GREEN INSIDE.

THE DOC CAME HOME ?? TO THROW OUT CEREMONIAL FIRST PITCH.

THE CROWD WAS LARGE…

… AND HEALTHY.

JOSE BAUTISTA SHAKES HANDS WITH MANAGER JOHN GIBBONS DURING PRE-GAME PLAYER INTRODUCTIONS AS COLBY RASMUS (LEFT) APPLAUDS.

FIRST PITCH JUST AFTER 7:30 P.M. – DUSTIN McGOWAN TO JACOBY ELLSBURY.

JAPANESE NEWCOMER MASAHIRO TANAKA OF THE YANKEES WINDS UP FOR THIS FIRST MAJOR-LEAGUE TOSS – TO MELKY CABRERA OF THE BLUE JAYS…

… AND IS TAKEN OUT OF THE PARK TWO PITCHES LATER.

ICHIRO STANDS AT FIRST BASE BESIDE EDWIN ENCARNACION.

CLOSED LID ?? KEPT FANS COMFORTABLE ON A RAINY NIGHT.

JOSE BAUTISTA AND YANKEES CATCHER BRIAN McCANN.

TWICE, UMPIRES HUDDLED TO REVIEW PLAY AT FIRST BASE (LEFT); ONCE, AN INEBRIATED, SCANTILY-CLAD PERSON INTERRUPTED PROCEEDINGS.

A TORONTO SPORTS TRADITION: ?? FANS LEAVING EARLY TO “BEAT THE RUSH.”

MAICER IZTURIS GROUNDED OUT TO END THE BALLGAME.

C.N. TOWER AND NEW CONDOS ?? REACHED INTO CLOUDY NIGHT SKY AFTERWARD.

          

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