Fowles: Father's Day at the ballpark

Stacey May Fowles
June 17 2016 12:16PM

R.A. Dickey and family
Anne and R.A. Dickey in Dunedin with their children: Eli, 9; Lila, 13; Gabriel, 14; and Van, 5. Photo credit: John Lott

I oddly remember the exact moment when my dad sat me down and explained how a player’s batting average was calculated. I was just a kid at the time, my love of baseball in its very early and mostly ignorant stages. He patiently walked me through all those weird numbers next to my favourite sluggers’ names, going over simple stats in a way that was easy for a child to understand.

“So if a batter comes up to the plate ten times…”

In retrospect, my dad was probably still learning about the game himself. As a British transplant who immigrated to Canada in the late seventies—incidentally the exact same year the Blue Jays became a team—he started going to the ballpark out of an interest in his new North American home. As baseball enthralled and unfolded for him, he imparted his increasing wisdom upon me from the time I was a toddler, until I was old enough to read the rulebook for myself.

I know it’s stereotypical and cliché, but it’s nearly impossible for me to watch Father’s Day go by without thinking about how my love of baseball was nurtured by my dad. He was my very first (and still favourite) teacher and seatmate at the ballpark—beginning on Exhibition Stadium’s shiny silver bleachers, with their haphazardly spray-painted black numbers, and then at the newly minted Skydome, with its then awe-inspiring amenities (“The biggest ever video scoreboard!”) When I became an adolescent, my dad was the reason I got to see the Blue Jays through exciting playoff runs and two victorious World Series, and how I still get to brag that I was in attendance for Devon White’s legendary catch . During my angst-ridden teen years and distracted early twenties my interest in the game ebbed and flowed, but I still always enjoyed the time spent with him in the stands.

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Fowles: Why doesn't Toronto have Pride at the ballpark?

Stacey May Fowles
June 09 2016 08:00AM

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Tonight, before the Toronto Blue Jays face the Baltimore Orioles, Rachel Lauren Clark will become the first openly trans person to throw out a ceremonial pitch for the team. The Pride Toronto Board Secretary, who has been a baseball fan since the eighties, sees the moment as a way to convey to young people that the ballpark can and should be a safe place for all fans.

"I'm very pleased to represent the LGBT community and especially transgender and genderqueer people, for whom which going out to the baseball game is not always accessible,” Clark said in a Pride Toronto media release. “I hope this historic moment will send a message that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity will, as Robert Frost once eloquently put, ‘never feel more at home than at a ballgame.’"

It’s a certainly buoying and notable event during what is Toronto’s (and Canada’s) first ever Pride month—an expansion from previous years to more than thirty days of programming, “designed to unite and empower people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.”

This year’s roster of Pride events includes the return of the internationally popular parade, the Trans March and the Dyke March, myriad talks, panels and conversations, and a first ever Family Pride Day at Centre Island. High profile personalities like George Takei, Margaret Atwood, and Rufus Wainwright are involved. Institutions like the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Luminato, Second City, and even Canada’s Wonderland are hosting events. All in, Pride Toronto boasts a robust, diverse, and unprecedented offering that, at least on paper, seems to have a little something for everyone.

But with all the many festivities, and in light of Clark’s celebrated first pitch, I find myself asking the same question I do almost every year. Where is the Toronto Blue Jays Pride Day at the ballpark?

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Fowles: It’s Grilled Cheese Time: Getting to know Jason Grilli

Stacey May Fowles
June 03 2016 10:01AM

OK, I’ll do what I’ve always done. I’ll ride the wave where it takes me I got knocked off the horse, but I’m gonna dust myself off and keep doing what I do best.

-Jason Grilli, Player’s Tribune

Every time the Blue Jays acquire a new player, my immediate instinct is to do two very important Google searches. The first is to find out whether or not the player in question has ever committed a crime (hey, it’s becoming a real fan issue in professional sports,) and the second is whether or not he has a pet. In the case of our recently required reliever and brand new hope Jason Grilli, the answers are “nope,” and “yes, an adorable dog named Glover,” respectively.

I’m one of those fans who can find it hard to cheer for a player I know too little about. Just because he’s in my team’s blue and white jersey, doesn’t mean I’m default invested. I enjoy personalities, and subsequently mine for details that will endear him to me every time he takes the field—what kind of music he likes, the initiatives he cares about, where he came from, and what adorable things he’s said or done. That lengthy moment Grilli took last night to tie his shoes and catch his breath was certainly a start, but I wanted more, and went down an Internet rabbit hole to get it.

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Fowles: The Ballad of Josh Donaldson and Adele

Stacey May Fowles
May 27 2016 12:58PM

Josh Donaldson
Photo Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

Last fall, when the Blue Jays were having their now distant memory of a playoff run, I saved a Spotify playlist to my phone. “Designated Hits” generously offered the walk up music of almost every player on the roster, and I’d cue up tracks to play on my subway ride to work, to dinner dates, and of course to all those late season games in question. (If you’re wondering, Macklemore and Pitbull definitely get much easier to listen to when you win the division.)

Though the top picks of my favourite guys didn’t exactly align my tastes—

sadly, nobody walks on to Morrissey—I genuinely enjoyed the pleasures of an auditory connection to my team via ear buds. I liked to idly wonder why Dioner Navarro liked “Wavin’ Flag” so much, if Troy Tulowitzki really thought of himself as “The Man,” and what exactly “Dancing In The Moonlight” meant to Kevin Pillar.

Our musical tastes can offer a tiny window into who we are, and because we all like to get to know our favourite baseball players, it’s tempting to decipher their personalities based on their song choices. I mean, choosing to take the long walk to the mound while the Game of Thrones theme is endlessly blaring certainly says a lot about RA Dickey, just like Drake’s “Trophies” gave us a pretty good idea of where Jose Bautista’s head was at last year.

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Fowles: Baseball's shameful code of retribution has no place in the modern game

Stacey May Fowles
May 17 2016 10:05AM

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Photo Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The game of baseball is defined by being a “non-contact” sport. It’s rules mean that players barely touch each other, a fact that only becomes truer with time. The powers that be have been actively trying to eliminate bodies violently colliding, instituting the new slide rule, and measures to avoid leg-breaking home plate collisions. Baseball actively looks to avoid the brutal blows and body checks of the hockey rink, and doesn’t have the same concussion epidemic as its NFL counterpart. In fact, so many fans I know come to this game precisely for that reason—because it doesn’t evoke injurious combat, or cash in on gratuitous damage.

It’s because of this that violence in baseball, whether executed on the field or off, always feels entirely jarring. When Chase Utley injures Ruben Tejada with a hard slide into second, Jonathan Papelbon chokes Bryce Harper in the dugout , or an on-field brawl breaks out in Globe Life Park, we (should) generally feel uncomfortable and unnerved by the whole thing. That’s not why we’re here, we think. This is supposed to be a slow, meandering, civilized game. We’re supposed to exist and cheer under the illusion of widespread gentlemanliness.

I certainly won’t claim that baseball fans are universally a bunch of empathetic pacifists (you only need to look at my Twitter mentions to dispute that naïve idea,) but explicit direct hits, like the one we saw care of Rougned Odor on Sunday night, always feel alien in a game predicated on players only ever lightly touching each other. Sure, they get emotional, they get “hot headed,” but they don’t come to Roadhouse -style blows, right? The Game is better than that, right? It’s civilized, and intelligent, and above all that, right?

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