Wow. What a day for baseball. First you have one of the greatest players I have ever seen, Ken Griffey, Jr., announce his retirement from the game to which he's given 22 amazing years of his life. I know every baseball fan around the age of 8 wanted to be him growing up, especially seeing how bad @$$ he was in Little Big League. That over the wall catch was great, but the one thing I remember from that movie is how awkwardly tall Randy Johnson is jumping after they clinch the division.
Anyway, the other big story was the near-perfect game thrown by Armando Galarraga, who was completely bushwhacked by umpire Jim Joyce. Everyone has handled the game well after the fact, but we have yet to see what Bud Selig will do. He's supposedly considering overturning Joyce's safe call on the 27th out, and there is in fact precedent for this in MLB. But knowing Selig, he'll probably screw it up somehow.
Well, I began my Northeast leg yesterday by flying to Toronto, which my dad said is supposedly a cleaner version of Houston. It's definitely a sprawling city because it was gonna cost me $100 Canadian to get from my hotel near the airport to the Rogers Centre and back, so I opted for the $6 round trip using the bus and subway public transit combo. It took me an ice age to get there (nearly 2 hours), but I guess I can say I'd rather have the $94 extra Canadian dollars in my pocket. Or maybe not. Isn't this stuff play money? Just kidding. I love Canadians.
Location: If you're in downtown Toronto, the location is great. If you're not relatively close, it's a pretty big hassle to get there. I took the bus from my hotel for about an hour and fifteen minutes, then a twenty minute subway ride, then a ten minute walk from Union Station to the Rogers Centre. The area around the Rogers Centre is great - it's right on the edge of downtown with lots of urban development and skyscrapers. I think the sprawling layout of Toronto and the city's effective use of subway/bus routes has me convinced something like this can work in Houston.
Here's my idea: one major rail hub downtown that runs express along the major freeways in Houston to Loop 610, then again to the Beltway. So that's 2 stops per freeway both ways, and I'm thinking on I-10, I-45, and 59 are my prime targets. Then within 610 you have shorter routes that can stop every so often, creating like a wheel and spoke system. One route going along Memorial stopping at 610 on either Woodway/Memorial, where buses await, another going South (wait, that's the original line, isn't it?), one going north with stops I don't know where, and one going all the way east to Hobby airport. I think it could work.
And for people who say Houston is too close to sea level - I'm not buying. Manhattan is an island and has one of the most successful subway systems in the world.
Enough with the aside.
View down the skywalk from Union Station to the Rogers Centre
Ballpark: Since Rogers Centre is a multi-purpose facility, it's tough to give it any special amenities that make it spark and flash. The blue seats did really pop out at me, though. I couldn't get any pictures from outside the stadium because the weather was ABYSMAL, so you're just gonna have to deal with what I had inside. It opened in 1989 and was formerly known as the Skydome, and has some pretty sweet memories from when the Blue Jays used to be good. Its construction cost $600mm (CAD) and was financed by a group of federal, provincial, and municipal governments, along with a consortium of corporations. Bon Jovi is playing 2 concerts here in a couple of weeks so you know it's a good venue.
The field turf was a lot better looking than the turf I saw at Tropicana Field, but as an avid baseball game watcher, the rest of the stadium just suffers from the fact it is a multi-use facility, and for that I have to dock it.
Behind the plate
Jeff Niemann, former Lamar Redskin
The Bullpen - literally 10 feet from my front row bleacher seat
View from my seat
Respectable scoreboard, especially with Crawford's mug
Food: The food was pretty good. I had a set of wings that were real good, and they had your typical baseball fare plus a Mediterranean stop for some healthy eating, BBQ, a carvery, and others. I'd have to say the food is the best part about the experience at Rogers Centre. The SCPI was $15.50 CAD, which equates to $14.88 American, by far the most expensive of the trip thus far. I didn't get the dog so I don't know if it was worth it, and they didn't even have Molson to wash it down with. MLB must pay them good money to keep American beers as the main staple.
Decided to try the local bottled water, which wasn't even a twist off. Never again.
Game: I don't know where to begin. The attendance was miserable (official was 13,517, but was probably less), the fans weren't into the game, the usher next to me would yell loudly right in front of me (video at the bottom), there was a heckler who was AWFUL at heckling Carl Crawford (who is a fellow Houstonian)...just an atrocious experience. I don't know what's more embarrassing than a heckler who can't heckle. He was making some weird references that often didn't make sense to Crawford being gay. I have video of it, but I won't play it it's so damn awful.
To top it off, the Jays, who were playing really well most of the game, completely took off the 9th inning and cost me my 10-game win streak. I'm not happy about it. Also, I was tired from my early wake up and monumental commute to the park. Probably the worst game experience I've had thus far. Period.
View into the bullpen before the game. #28 is Shawn Marcum, the starter.
Summary: The game experience just drops the Rogers Centre down here, plus the fact that it doesn't really offer much. It's a good looking stadium in a good location with good food, but no one really cares about the game there, so this specific experience was one of the worst I've ever had. Blame Canada.
Watching "Sportscentre" later that night was quite funny. Lots of "aboot"s, "soory"s, "agane"s, etc.
Giveaways: Still 5; didn't expect anything from the Canadians. I feel like I got hosed everywhere I went. An expensive trip.