It’s been an up-and-down start to the season for the Toronto Blue Jays, and Friday’s much-anticipated home opener was more on the down side. The prelude to the game may have been the highlight of the night: there was a rousing tribute to our troops, freshly returned from a 12-year mission in Afghanistan, with dozens of soldiers taking to the field to unfurl an enormous Canadian flag. Also on hand were several of our Olympic and Paralympic athletes, in gold, silver, and bronze medal regalia. Included in this contingent were speed skater Denny Morrison, mogul skiers the Dufour-Lapointe sisters, as well as members of the Canadian men’s and women’s curling teams. Second Lieutenant Scotty Newlands delivered a powerful rendition of the American and Canadian national anthems before yielding center stage to Roy Halladay to throw out the first pitch. Two-time Cy Young Award-winner and Blue Jays legend Halladay got a standing ovation from the sold out crowd. With the game that was to come, some were left hoping that he would suit up and actually pitch some innings.
The problems began early: starting pitcher Dustin McGowan went through nearly the entire Yankees batting order in the first inning, allowing two runs on five hits. Melky Cabrera got the Jays on the board in the bottom of the first with a solo home run off Masahiro Tanaka, and the Jays would go on to score two more in the second, taking a 3-2 lead. But the pitching woes continued in the third, with McGowan giving up another pair before being pulled in favour of Aaron Loup. The Home Opener rally flags that were handed out at the gates turned out to be very necessary as the Yankees added 3 more runs over the course of the game – but the Jays never did rally, losing 7-4. The offensive flurry in the second inning was hopefully a sign of things to come for the Jays, but one hopes that McGowan’s abysmal start was just due to Home Opener jitters.
Everybody’s favourite baseball abhorrence – the opening day streaker – was a welcome distraction; he barely made it 20 strides before being tackled by security, but promptly received a standing ovation to rival that of even Roy Halladay. Indeed, the fans were what made this game special. Despite the lacklustre performance, the sellout crowd, hearkening back to the early 90s, seemed to be delighted that the Jays are back for another season. It may not have been a win, but it was a Home Opener for the ages. Here’s hoping for more sellout games and a memorable 2014 season.
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