Thursday, June 14, 2012

"Jays Care" Indeed!

Lawrie, Bautista, Romer-o my!
Yesterday, while I was on the balcony taking the pictures that turned into a blog post, I noticed some activity down on the ball fields in Stan Wadlow Park, below us. Specifically, I saw a couple of trucks and a sort of electric scaffold thing that can be raised up and down like a cherry picker (yeah, I'm so not a handyman kind of guy) parked behind the arena near the diamond with the new lights. It's the time of year when the school next to our building usually has an outdoor play day, so I just assumed that the field was being set up for that activity and didn't think any more of it.

More permanent Jays' signage at Stan Wadlow
However, when Sarah came home from yoga around 8PM she told me her instructor had mentioned that some of the Blue Jay players were over at Stan Wadlow Wednesday evening to help celebrate the 60th anniversary season of the East York Baseball Association. I had no idea anything that interesting was going on just a couple of hundred metres from our home; even with the windows open I couldn't hear any cheering or ruckus of any kind - and believe me, we hear everything here. So Sarah and I headed over to the far end of the park to see what was happening.

Lucky kids and their instructors: I think that's Jose Cruz Jr.
And what was happening was an instructional clinic being run by the Blue Jays and the Jays Care Foundation for local baseball-playing youth. I had no idea this event was going on last night and I'm stunned that I didn't hear about it before it took place, as big a Jays fan as I am. But then I also didn't know that the lights were provided by the Jays Care Foundation in the first place, nor that on May 23rd the Jays sent their grounds crew and office staff to Stan Wadlow to perform a full "makeover", including resurfacing the playing field and painting the bleachers.

Blue Jays pennant at Stan Wadlow Park
And because I didn't know any of that, I didn't get over to the park in time to see Ricky Romero or Drew Hutchison of the current Blue Jays, or Dwayne Ward or Pat Tabler or the other Jays alumni that were there as well (although I think that might be Jose Cruz Jr in the picture above). The Jays had an afternoon game yesterday against the Washington Nationals and then these gentlemen headed across town to participate in the "official unveiling" of the new lighting and signage (the lights have been on for over a month but the signage, as far as I can tell, was brand-new as of yesterday). There's a terrific article on the Blue Jays website which describes the events of last night and includes the thoughts of Romero and Hutchison. It sounds like it was a huge thrill for the kids of the area. I will admit I am a little skeptical of the future of some of the "permanent signs" as they are quite accessible and could very easily "take a walk" some dark evening; however, the giant Blue Jays pennants - like the one pictured here - are well up the light poles and should stick around for quite a while.

One of the "stations" at last night's clinic
Luckily for these kids - and many others just like them all across Toronto - Toronto City Council waived the fee hike for city fields this year, which saved the East York Baseball Association $53,000, a charge that they had been hit with out of the blue. (Ford wants to take credit for the one-year reprieve, but since it was his motion to raise the fees such a ridiculous amount in the first place, that doesn't really wash with me.) It would have been a disgrace if the newly-renovated fields - thanks to the Jays Care Foundation - had been left devoid of children this summer because they couldn't afford the new user fees. This is not one of our city's most affluent neighbourhoods, to say the least.

But I have no intention of ending this post on a sour note. Sarah and I, having missed the more "illustrious" of the Jays' personalities, nevertheless immensely enjoyed our time wandering from diamond to diamond, watching the kids having a blast, eating our barbecued sausages, strolling through the hastily-constructed (and never-before-seen) "beer garden" near the clubhouse, taking pictures and, eventually, grabbing a twist cone from the truck you can see in the last photo above. Then we walked back home in the cool twilight of a perfect June evening. All Wednesdays should be this pleasant.

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