1. New Jersey to Toronto, Ontario
Less than three weeks after returning from our trip to Southern California, we headed out for our second baseball trip of 2006. The target, located north of the border, was Toronto, Ontario, to see the New York Mets take on the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Since the trip was expected to be less than eight hours by car, we decided to drive, rather than fly. Though the travel time was longer by car, the drive afforded us a view that we won’t see from the air, and we would have familiar transportation while in Toronto.
The drive started well, and before we knew it, we were stopping for lunch in central New York State. However, after that time, the combination of weather and traffic slowed our progress considerably. Our border crossing near Niagara Falls was painfully slow, and the mounting delays were threatening to make us late for the first pitch at Rogers Centre, slated for 707 pm.
After crossing the border, we faced an additional 60 to 90 minutes of driving before reaching the ballpark, which included a quick stop at our hotel in neighboring Mississauga. Unfortunately, the delays placed us squarely in the Toronto evening commute, during which our approach slowed to a crawl. Bumper to bumper traffic on Queen Elizabeth Way doomed our hopes of catching the first pitch, and now we were just hoping to see most of the game.
Dejected, we reached Rogers Centre near 730 pm, and luckily did not have much difficulty locating parking. To my great surprise, we caught some attitude from Blue Jays fans as we walked up to the ballpark, because we wearing our Mets jerseys. Toronto was the LAST place I expected to see behavior more closely associated with sports fans in the New York City or Philadelphia metro areas. We did our best to stay out of trouble that was clearly provoking us, and settled into our seats in the top of the second inning.
2. Rogers Centre
Due to inclement weather in the vicinity, the roof of Rogers Centre was closed. Like most MLB stadiums with retractable roofs, the ballpark looked huge with the roof closed. Despite all lighting banks operating nominally, Rogers Centre appeared dark. With no time to tour the ballpark, we got to our seats as quickly as possible. Still irritated by our late arrival, we were confronted with unruly Mets fans two rows behind us.
Two couples from the New York City area were behaving almost as badly as the Blue Jays fans outside the ballpark just minutes before. Loud, rude and obnoxious, these ‘fans” were acting as though they were at Shea Stadium in Queens, New York, not in Toronto. Calling Canadian money “Monopoly money”, we were embarrassed for them (and us). Doing our best to ignore the distractions, we picked up the game with the Mets at bat.
On the mound for the New York Mets was veteran Tom Glavine. At 10-2, Glavine was off to one the best starts of his storied career, leading the NL in wins. Casey Janssen was the starter for the Blue Jays, scuffling his way through a rough 2006 season. Mets third baseman David Wright slugged a three run home run in the third inning, adding to the early Mets lead.
Meanwhile, Glavine kept the Blue Jays offense in check, ultimately tossing seven innings and allowing just a single run. Clearly the ace of an otherwise unremarkable Mets starting rotation, Glavine was tasked with leading a team that was built to win now, supported by a stacked offense and good bullpen. He fulfilled his role admirably that night, turning over a sizable lead to said bullpen.
During the game, we studied the Rogers Centre from our seats. My initial impression, that the stadium was huge, remained with me. The first MLB Park with a retractable roof, it was, at the time of its inauguration, an engineering marvel, and more than 15 years later, remained impressive. Like many domed stadium, it felt as though it lacked character, though to be fair we saw only a small part of the stadium. Though not a sell out, there was a good sized crowd in attendance, which seemed to make the place feel a bit more intimate.
Glavine and a trio of Mets relievers kept the Blue Jays mostly in check, allowing the visitors to take the opening game of the weekend series. Leaving the ballpark presented no particularly problem, but we did get lost headed back toward our hotel (taking us straight through the heart of the red light district of Toronto). Upon reaching our hotel, we experienced the final surprise of our mostly forgettable day on the road.
Rather than stay at the Renaissance Hotel in the Rogers Centre (as the cost seemed exorbitant), I chose a cheaper hotel outside of the city. As we pulled into the parking lot, I realized I’d made a big mistake opting for the cheaper solution. Located in a dilapidated section of Mississauga, the environment was intimidating, and I seriously wondered if my car would still be in the parking lot in the morning. Being much too late to make other arrangements, we settled in and hoped for the best.