Tag Archives: Toronto Blue Jays

Bathrooms, birthdays and baseball: Lessons from the week

April 10, 2014 from GoComics.com

Peanuts, April 10, 2014 from GoComics.com

Lesson One: The last shall be first.

For the past two decades my husband and I have spent our time and money on family, so renovations to our house didn’t make it on to our to-do list. Now that our children have fledged and left the nest, we have begun to have conversations about renovations. We have talked about our master bathroom and the kitchen. Of all the possible renovations, the bathroom in our basement would have been last on the list.

Not any more. The toilet down there sprang a leak and we enjoyed the fun of cleaning up after a significant flood. It’s almost like our toilet down there said, “Oh yeah? You think you can forget about me? I’ll show you.” So the last renovation we would have considered has now become our first. Jokes on us.

Lesson Two: 60 is the new 25 

My husband celebrated his 60th birthday on the weekend. The news of this event caused many of our friends to fall into stunned silence. 60? They could not believe that a person as active and as fit as my husband could be 60. But it was true.

He puts many 25-year-olds to shame. We look around at friends of the same age and it is the same story. 60 is not the new 50, or the new 40, or even the new 30. 60 is the new 25.

Lesson Three: You never know what’s going to happen, so make room for random events. (All you non-sports fans out there, bear with me.)

My goodness, but that was a barn-burner of baseball game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night. So many flukes! Russell Martin—a professional baseball player for more than a decade who has played in four all-star games, and won a gold glove and a silver slugger award—made a Little League mistake at a turning point in the game. The odds against a player of his calibre making a careless throw that ricochets off the bat of the player in the box are astronomical. In baseball and in life, you just never know what’s going to happen.

Lesson Four: Respect is earned.

Such strong emotions between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers on Wednesday. Intense. After the debacle of Russell Martin’s errant throw, José Bautista hit a home run to give the Blue Jays a comfortable lead. (He has a reputation for doing that, so it shouldn’t have surprised anyone.) After he hit the ball really, really far—a certain home run—he admired his work and flipped his bat. The pitcher for Texas, Sam Dyson, didn’t like this, because according to unwritten baseball “code,” batters are supposed to respect the pitcher. They aren’t supposed to watch a home run or, worse, flip their bat.

I think we’d be hard pressed to find any baseball player anywhere who would not have shown emotion in that particular circumstance. Could the Texas Rangers admit that if one of their players had hit a home run, there might have been some celebration?

And José Bautista earned his celebration. I remember when he first joined the Toronto Blue Jays. He was a question mark. No one gave him any credit. People didn’t see his potential. But he worked and worked and worked. No matter what people might think about him personally, they have to respect his hard work and his talent. He earned it.

And Sam Dyson? He responded to the circumstances poorly. He gave up a home run, and that happens to pitchers. They have to learn to wear it no matter the circumstances, and no matter what the players on the other team are doing. He didn’t. He left his mound. He taunted the batters. He accused Bautista of doing what kids would do. Instead of accepting the loss with grace, he groused about the other team, just like kids would do. He didn’t earn my respect. In baseball and in life, no matter what the “code,” respect is not automatically granted; it is earned.

____________________

The managers of baseball teams in the post-season probably don’t want players on the field to be quite as relaxed as Snoopy, but they do want players who stay calm and focused no matter what mayhem surrounds them. May the mayhem be minimal and the focus maximal.

Peanuts Comic Strip, April 10, 2014 on GoComics.com.

The spirit of the Expos: Why baseball and the Expos matter to me

My Gary Carter jersey

My Gary Carter jersey

Bear with me all you non-sports fans—there will be good stuff for you here. I know several of you don’t “get” my interest in sports, but to me, the world of sport teaches participants and spectators life lessons hard to find anywhere else. 

This weekend, the Toronto Blue Jays will play two games against the New York Mets at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. The event has been dubbed “Expos Weekend” even though the Montreal Expos no longer exist—except in people’s hearts, souls and dreams.

These days I’ve been writing a story about the comeback of the Montreal Expos. Some might call it a fantasy piece; I prefer to call it “planning ahead.” There are enough people out there saying “It can never be.” If I have a role to play, it is to balance that out and say, “Wouldn’t it be fantastic if . . .”

My father is at the root of my connection with the Expos. He was the original Expos fan. He watched every televised game and listened to the others on the radio. If a game lasted late into the night, and he didn’t want to disturb the family, he went to the car to listen to the game there. Many a night my father sat outside in the car by himself in the dark listening to Dave Van Horne. 

We made family trips to Jarry Park to watch the team. We always got lost driving in Montreal (who doesn’t?), so the trips were an adventure. My parents left plenty of time though, so we arrived early enough to be rewarded with encounters with heroes like Rusty Staub.

In 1981, on what would become known as Blue Monday, I sat in the TV lounge of my university residence watching Rick Monday hit the home run that ended the play-off dreams of the Expos. I cried. The other girls in my residence couldn’t understand why I was so upset, but I was thinking of my father, and how crushed he would be at the moment. Far away from home, I shared that heartbreak with my father. (Truth told—I’m crying now, remembering.)

In 1994, the Expos had the season of their lives. They were on a roll. They were exciting to watch. They were the best team in baseball. Then, a baseball strike shattered the dream.

My father died in 1999, so he never lived to see the Expos franchise end. In 2005, the team became the Washington Nationals. 

We played baseball as kids. I lived on a farm, so our field was the cow pasture and our bases were pieces of board or dried-up cow patties. We had a huge Louisville Slugger bat that was way too heavy for me to swing. My father taught me to choke up high on the handle to make it work for me.

My son plays baseball now. He’s pretty good. Here’s a picture of his first at-bat. See the name on the T-shirt? Expos. I have to confess to having some tears in my eyes at that moment, too.

first-at-bat

When I watch him play now, when I see him run down a fly ball in left field or strike out a batter, I think: “If only Dad could be here to see this.”

ben-learning

I’m a sports fan, generally. I love the Ottawa Senators, Roger Federer and any Canadian curling team. But baseball is the sport of my soul. It resonates with me. Here’s what I have learned from the game and the Expos:

  • Do whatever you have to do to enjoy the things you’re passionate about.
  • If you get lost, keep going. You’ll get there eventually, and the rewards will be worth it.
  • Sometimes you can do your very best and be oh-so-close to success and still not make it.
  • Sometimes you can do your very best and be oh-so-close to success, and some outside force crushes your dream.
  • If you don’t have everything you need, improvise. You’ll probably end up having more fun that way anyway.
  • If something feels to heavy for you to handle, look for help and learn to adjust. When you make the changes, swing away. You might just make contact.
  • An end is never an end; it’s a transition to another form.
  • Even if a person isn’t physically with you in the room or in the bleachers, a person can be with you anyway.

When the Toronto Blue Jays came along, my father cheered for them, too. They were in a different league, so that was okay. This weekend it will be the Blue Jays, not the Expos, playing at Olympic Stadium.

I don’t know what you think, but I think my father will be along the third base line enjoying the view. 

 

 

Mama Mia!: Open to the unexpected gifts of the universe

New York - Mama Mia

New York – Mama Mia (Photo credit: PeterJBellis)

The musical Mama Mia! was in its gestation period 14 years ago when my husband and I spent a week in London, England on an anniversary trip. We landed there when the show was still in previews. We bought cheap, last-minute tickets on the aisle, row W.

We took our seats, and the house lights dimmed. After the curtain rose, two people slipped into the seats across the aisle from us. We didn’t pay them any attention. As the show progressed though, we noticed that when the audience reacted (positively or negatively) to something on stage, the two men scribbled furiously on notepads. We took a closer look and realized we were sitting directly across from Benny and Bjorn of ABBA. taking notes on how to make their show better before opening night.

An unexpected gift of the universe.

A few years ago, our family joined another family at a Toronto Blue Jays game. We bought tickets to ordinary seats and then joined a line-up to buy pizza and drinks before we sat down. As we stood waiting, a Rogers Centre staff member approached and asked if we would like to sit in the TD Comfort Zone. Sign us up! At that time, the big, cushy green chairs sat in the first row along the first base line, so we took our seats hollering distance from the legendary Bobby Abreu, playing first base, and José Bautista in right field.

An unexpected gift of the universe.

Those are just two of the moments in my life when the universe cracked open and delivered up more than I expected. I ponder sometimes, what led to those moments? Was I doing something to help bring them about? I don’t know for sure, but I do know that in both cases I was in a “ready for anything” kind of mood. Mama Mia! hadn’t opened anywhere yet and hadn’t been reviewed. We didn’t know what to expect. It could have been corny and horrible, or brilliant. (Let’s face it—with ABBA it could go either way.) We were ready for anything. The Blue Jays that day faced the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Angels line-up overflowed with big hitters with high batting averages. The game could have been a disaster for the Jays, or brilliant. We were ready for anything. “Bring it on!” we said, and the universe delivered.

I wonder what today will bring? Bring it on!

It was so big I couldn’t see it

Our family went to see the Toronto Blue Jays play this summer. To avoid downtown parking and traffic, we left our car in the suburbs and took the GO train to Union Station. We walked along Front Street, enjoyed fresh tortillas from the Lone Star Texas Grill (love those fresh tortillas), then headed to the Rogers Centre. As we approached the stadium, which stands right next to the base of the CN Tower, my husband said, “There`s the CN Tower.”

My son looked all around. We were standing so close to the base of the tower, all he could see was a large cement wall. “Where?” he said.

My husband pointed to the sky. “There,” he said. “Look up.”

“Oh.” My son looked sheepish. “It was so big I couldn`t see it,” he said.

It reminded me of the Indian fable by John Godfrey Saxe, Six Blind Men and the Elephant. In this fable, six blind men come upon an elephant. Each one in turn touches a different small part of the very big animal, and draws an incomplete conclusion. The first man touches the broad side of the animal and says that an elephant is like a wall. The second touches the tusk and says an elephant is like a spear. The trunk feels like a snake, the knee like a tree, the ear like a fan, and the tail like a rope. The moral of the story is this: any one of us can only see a part of a very big animal, so we should not draw incomplete conclusions.

So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

Sometimes things are so big, we just can`t see them.