rogers centre
Fan Follow Friday puts the spotlight weekly on one of my readers, as they share their favorite ballparks and baseball memories. Hope you enjoy hearing their stories!! This week we go to the great white north and hear what Toronto is all aboot from Mike Hallihan, a Blue Jays fan:

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Name: Mike Hallihan

Age: 33

Hometown: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Favorite team: Toronto Blue Jays

Twitter: @MikeHallihan

How did you get into baseball?

Well, being from a tiny town (shout out to Miramichi, New Brunswick, Canada) that didn’t have a professional baseball team, or any professional sports for that matter, it was challenging to keep up with baseball. Sadly, my youth was really pre-Internet, so I didn’t have access to anything like we do now. So I got “into” baseball the best way possible… by playing. I was lucky enough to be a part of a couple of very good teams and winning a  Provincial (I believe you’d call it a “State” in the south) Championship title. Winning certainly helps you gravitate toward certain things.

As for watching Major League Baseball, I, of course, was a Toronto Blue Jays fan growing up. I had to support one of Canada’s two teams at the time, right? I got to enjoy the ’92 and ’93 World Series victories as a kid, staying up late. It was incredible. When my family finally ended up splurging on one those big, honkin’ US satellite dishes, my love for baseball grew and sort of shifted from the Jays, to a singular player, a guy named Ken Griffey Jr. You might have heard of him. So for the next 15-ish years, I was a huge Mariners fan. But please understand that this whole “switching teams” thing does go against my life’s moral code, so know that I do not take this kind of thing lightly. I hate when people just switch teams, especially to bandwagon hop. I still carry some leftover shame for doing so.

With Griffey in his twilight and with me moving to Toronto in 2010, I decided it was time to come back to the Jays and be ALL-IN! There’s something about literally living down the street from the ballpark that makes your fandom much easier. At times I felt like I had the Rogers Centre all to myself.

Check out my condo at the time:

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Favorite Ballpark:

Residing “north of the border,” traveling to ballparks is a bit more challenging. Although, Alicia, you certainly proved that it just takes an impressive level of determination and of course, proper budgeting to get where you need to go.

Up to this point, I’d have to say my favorite park is Fenway Park in Boston. The tradition, the antique-ness (yes, I’m making that a word) and even the smells. That place literally just “smells” like baseball in there. Underneath the stadium among the concessions, it smells like hot dogs, onions, fresh grass and just, well… BASEBALL!

To be able to see The Green Monster in person and listen to those Boston sports fans with their thick accents, give diatribes about the team and the city, was amazing. I ended up sitting out by the Pesky Pole and narrowly missed nabbing a home run ball! I predicted a Big Papi home run just a minute before he actually hit one. And well, just to see Justin Verlander as a rookie, pitch against David “Boomer” Wells, that was gravy.

Everything about Fenway and the lore it carries exemplifies BASEBALL. I loved it and would recommend the trip to anyone.

Least Favorite Ballpark:

Only having been to a handful of parks, I’d say my least favorite would be US Cellular, home of the White Sox. I really wanted to get to Wrigley Field, but had to settle for the South Siders home field. To be honest, there was just nothing memorable about US Cellular. It’s a nice park but didn’t have much in the sense of tradition. Now, I know the Rogers Centre is nothing to brag about these days, but at least we have two World Series banners hanging from the rafters and of course, the game’s first retractable roof with the amazing CN Tower high above.

Top Ballpark Memory:

I have a few favorite memories:

    • Brett Lawrie’s insane tantrum game, where I was only a few feet away (if you look close, you can spot me sitting behind the dugout at third base, just under the “3” on the score with the white hat.
  • Kelly Johnson handing me a ball. Not an “in the park” memory, but because my balcony overlooked the Rogers Centre (yes, I could literally watch the games from there), I was able to catch most of the Justin Verlander no-hitter, on the first day of the season that the roof was open.
  • Any of the home openers (they are so much fun).

But my favorite ballpark moment, especially because I’m a big fan of his (he’s a fellow diabetic too), was Brandon Morrow throwing a complete game, 1-hit, 17 strikeout game against the Rays. He was so dominant and the crowd was so engaged that I thought the roof was going to come off the place as he mowed down Ray after Ray. And, he lost the no-hitter with 2 outs in the 9th inning! Evan Longoria slapped a fairly weak grounder to the right side and Aaron Hill just couldn’t come up with it in time to throw him out. I still maintain to this day that it should have been ruled an error. And I would know, my seats were directly beside the dugout, next to the field. Overall, I’ve never seen the building THAT electric.

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Advice for fans visiting your home ballpark?

As great as the live baseball is, my advice would be to go beyond the baseball and enjoy the surrounding attractions. At one time, the Skydome (renamed the Rogers Centre in 2005) was a state-of-art park with the retractable roof and cool new features that some cities have never seen, but it’s now 25 years old and most teams have now surpassed them with the technology aspect. So once the Jays wrap up a win, go out and enjoy sites like the CN Tower (which almost touches the ballpark, so definitely take a ride up), the brand new Ripley’s Aquarium, or many of the very cool/trendy bars and pubs in the very close by area (I recommend the GIANT screen at RealSports down the street).

****Would you like to be my next Fan Follow Friday?? Just email your responses to the bold questions and a couple of pictures to me at aliciambarnhart@gmail.com. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a baseball blogger, just a baseball fan!!!

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