Popcorn, hot dogs and a sea of blue-and-white.
It was an unusual sight for January when Toronto Blue Jays fans came early to lineup outside the Rogers Centre Saturday morning. They had been starved of baseball for too long. Once admitted inside, they galloped down the stadium stairs like animals in a mad dash for the field.
It was the Blue Jays’ first Winter Fest, a baseball fan’s heaven. Attendees had the chance to take pictures with World Series Trophies, check the speed of their pitches and throw off the bullpen mound. They also had the opportunity to sign a one-day contract with Jays president Mark Shapiro and become “A Blue Jay For a Day.”
Blue Jays fan Dave Lock was one of the lucky people in attendance to get his contract signed by Shapiro.
“Growing up I played some baseball but never thought the Jays would take a chance on a guy like me,” Lock said.“You know, it feels good. I’ve got the intensity of a Marcus Stroman but the skills of a Josh Donaldson.” He said he signed his contract for seasons tickets and unlimited free hotdogs.
Shapiro said he’s never signed so many contracts in one day before, and he was impressed by the fans that came out to be part of the event. “Seeing people with sweaters and hats in the middle of January, and lined up outside the stadium, it’s inspirational,” he said.
Ryerson alumnus Jamie Campbell had a big part in the event, hosting two game shows throughout the day. The game shows featured Blue Jays alumni, current players and top prospects. Campbell graduated from Ryerson in 1989 with a bachelor’s in applied arts in radio and television. Normally he works as a host of Blue Jays Central on Sportsnet, but on Saturday, Campbell took on a lighter role as host of the “Blue Jays Feud” game show.
It was a spinoff of the TV show Family Feud, featuring Jays players facing off against each other in teams. The goal: to try to match the answers given to survey questions asked to groups of people.
Campbell said he thought the game show was a success, despite initial nerves around how the players would respond.
“I honestly did not know what to expect from the players, but once they got the hang of it, and once they got over their nerves off from being up there on stage and having to take part, I thought they did a masterful job of being open and fun and having a great time,” Campbell said.
He said he was happy to see the great turnout of people that showed up to engage with the players and to show their support for Canada’s only MLB team. It’s estimated that there were as many as 15,000 fans in attendance.
“I loved it,” Campbell said. “It’s an old concept with other teams, but it’s a brand-new concept with the Blue Jays. I really enjoyed taking part in the things that I was able to take part in. From my vantage point it was quite a success.”
Campbell was happy that he had prior knowledge of both of the game shows that he hosted so he was more prepared.
“Luckily, I’ve seen that show [Family Feud] frequently when I was young, and the second show I did was a variation of ‘Heads Up’ which I had played with my family, so I was pretty well schooled on how each game was,” he said. “It’s not the kind of position I’m put in very often, to be the host of a game show, so obviously I was a little on edge to start. But once things got rolling I had no problem with doing it.”
“I think the overall event gives the fans the ability to be able to connect with the players, the team, the organization, at a time of year when they’re usually just waiting for pitchers and catchers to report,” said Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro. “My hope is this becomes part of the tradition.”