Wednesday, March 14, 2012
I strongly encourage you to pay attention to the game when you are in a hockey arena or at a baseball game. Public address announcements inform you that you might get hit with a puck or a ball or other projectiles that may enter the seating area during the game. It can happen.
They have erected screens behind goals and home plates to protect the patrons from screaming foul balls and ricocheting pucks. There is no protection against balls and pucks flying into the crowd above or outside the screening. In those instances, you must be on your toes.
Last Tuesday, the Blue Jays came to Fort Myers to play the Twins. Well, to be more correct, some of the Blue Jays were here. In these early days of Spring Training, teams will play “split squad” games. Half the team here, half the team there. The rest of the Jays were in St. Petersburg playing Team Canada, at Al Lang Field.
We parked in the outfield of a softball diamond, and watched another van from Ontario pull in beside us. I suppose it is only natural to make a comment or two to provincial cousins. We struck up a brief conversation with a crew from Comber, Ontario. One of the group was sporting a Toronto Maple Leafs hat, and he told me that he was going to the Leafs game in Tampa the following Thursday night.
Inside the park, it warmed the heart to hear the strong ovation for Justin Morneau, the Canadian who has been beset with a serious of injuries, potentially jeopardizing his career. He is a wonderful player, and all baseball fans would like him to hang around first base for the Twins for years to come. The Twins looked dapper in their sparkling white uniforms. The Jays were bedecked in gray pants and blue jerseys, not exactly old school baseball attire.
The anthems were belted out of a trumpet, and the game began. In the first inning, a ball was fouled behind home plate into the second section of Hammond Stadium. It came into the crowd with a full head of steam. A young man stood, prepared himself in an instant, and snatched the ball out of harm’s way with his bare hands. He was given a rousing ovation. He was wearing a Leafs cap. Same guy from the parking lot! There’s a story!
Kevin Tracey is 22 years old, and loves his sports. He listed lacrosse as his number one sport, having carried the stick in Intermediate play with the Sun County Crows. He also has had some sand lot experience with the Woodslee Orioles, part of the Mic Mac League. Since he lives closer to Detroit than Toronto, he goes to Comerica more frequently than to the Rogers Centre. Nonetheless, an avowed sports fan.
By the time that I got over to his section to chat with him about his fine catch, he had already given the ball to a youngster sitting on the bench in front of him. When I asked him about his strategy for catching the ball, he replied: “None. The ball came right to me. I had no choice but to catch it”. Cassie was tickled pink with her new possession.
The Blue Jays rewarded their faithful with yet another win, spanking the Twins 8-2. They chased starter Francisco Liriano with four hits and four runs in the third inning. Travis Snyder and Travis d’Arnaud hit back-to-back doubles to plate the four markers. After his stint, Liriano shrugged off the outing. “I missed my spots. I made a couple of mistakes. I just tried not to get mad at myself for that, and tried to stay back, relax, and hit the right spots.”
The Jays now have a record of 9-2-1 for the spring, with many positive signs. It is early, but a few of the old observers have penciled the Jays in for much improvement this coming season. And you will likely find Kevin Tracey in Toronto or in Detroit, away from his desk at REM Insurance, looking for stray balls in the stands.
March 14, 2012.