Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Arnold Schwarzenegger recaps the Blue Jays 2012 season

Started off well enough in spring training, looked at least passable until the all-star break despite the injuries, and then...

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

West Coast trip 2012 - Safeco!

Recently I took a trip west to visit friends and family, which I timed to coincide with the Blue Jays road trip to Seattle. I also made sure to work in a game at Nat Bailey Stadium in Vancouver to see the Vancouver Canadians play (against the Volcanoes, I think they were). If you're a Jays fan, you probably know the Blue Jays were swept in Seattle, so while I may not have enjoyed the losing game, I did get to experience a phenomenal baseball stadium which I'll share my thoughts on. (The Vancouver Canadians, incidentally, won their game, which was pretty great. Pitching looked solid, and a couple home runs didn't hurt either.)

I glided into town on the light rail "LINK" train from Sea-Tac airport. The LINK is excellent by the way, I strongly recommend it if you're travelling on a budget - it was only $2.75 to get all the way into downtown Seattle, and this is actually the same kind of light rail train that will be implemented on several Toronto routes in the near future. In some cases above ground, in others below, and also in dedicated separate lanes on the street. Totally smooth ride, fast, and affordable. If you're going directly to Safeco, the LINK actually stops right near it, and riding by I caught my first glimpse of the park. I had to restrain my enthusiasm however, as I had 5 hours until game time and wanted to take in some obligatory tourist activities (I'll spare you my photos of the Space Needle).

Instead I got off at Westlake station and walked a few blocks to the Experience Music Project (EMP), formerly the science-fiction museum, which still has a large sci-fi component. There were some cool exhibits, and the Seattle monorail (more of a tourist attraction than an actual transit option, as it has never been extended beyond a few blocks) goes right through it. I wasn't sure if it was worth the $20 I paid, but on the other hand I'm happy to support something like this. 

Rather than take the LINK or a bus back to Safeco, I decided to walk across town, which took me through Pike Place market (photo at top) and past several landmarks, with a beautiful view of Puget Sound. I had been to Seattle as a kid, and through as part of a touring band, but not recently. 

Finding the ballpark was easy, since gradually the neighbourhood takes on a "sports" feel, with themed bars and apparel shops, not to mention hundreds of fans wearing jerseys walking in the same direction. In this case, they were mostly Blue Jays fans, I assume from Vancouver.

I walked around the entire park once and snapped photos of the exterior. Jays fans everywhere!

The roof of Safeco is quite different than at the Skydome. This one functions more like a giant umbrella and does not enclose the building, so on a cold or windy night, it stays cold and windy. Both to the benefit and to the detriment of the game, it can get get very uncomfortable, or so I'm told by my Seattle friends. The roof rolls back and forth on huge tracks that are actually outside the stadium and are over train tracks down below.

Once inside, I was in awe. The park really is designed to be a beautiful baseball stadium, not of course a multi-use stadium as the Kingdome was (or the Skydome is).  Thankfully in Toronto we have a retractable roof as well, so at least in the warm summer months it can feel like a proper baseball game, unlike what I imagine the Kingdome-goers must have had to put up with every day and night.

I walked all over the park, top to bottom, and got some great views of the field. There's not a bad seat in the house. My Seattle friends told me that in the Kingdome there was not a GOOD seat in the house.

 Watching BP, almost entirely Jays fans.

 I got a clip of one of the few good moments of the game for Jays fans - Brett Lawrie hitting a 2-run double. The crowd reaction made it feel like a home game, which was pretty surreal.

Another one of the things that Safeco offers over the Skydome is much, much better food options. At Blue Jays games if you want to get stadium food it often feels like you are being asked to empty your wallet in order to scrape the sludge out of the bottom of a deep fryer. (One of the many reasons I always bring my own food.) At Safeco, there are a multitude of restaurant options to choose from, and they even have gluten-free and vegetarian items. I had a veggie burger (locally made, and very tasty) and garlic fries (also pretty darn good). I got a kick out of the baseball double-entendre restaurant names, like the "High Cheese Pizza" and the veg/organic place "The Natural". It really shouldn't be so difficult to provide at least a few non-garbage options in the 500s, eh Rogers? I know the main concourse at the Skydome has a few, but it's still mostly crap compared to Safeco's comparatively gourmet offerings. My only regret about all the food choices at Safeco was not having more money, stomach space or time.

Another very cool aspect of Safeco is that the bullpens are right beside a spectator area. You can walk down and stand right beside the pitchers warming up. 

At the conclusion of the game, we got a group shot. My friends were happy the M's won, I was taking it all in stride with a joking mood. (Guess which one is me.)

In Vancouver I headed to the Vancouver Canadians game, which they won rather handily. Nat Bailey is a fantastic little stadium with a very "old baseball" feel to it. Even it has better food options than the 'dome in Toronto, and really nice design. EH, ROGERS?!?

 I also did some entirely non-baseball related stuff like biking from the Swartz Bay ferry terminal on Vancouver Island into Victoria and back, visited some beaches, saw lots of friends, went to a punk show and saw some friends' bands, biked all over Vancouver  and enjoyed the sunshine.

(This is the Lochside Trail from the ferry leading into Victoria.)

 All in all, an excellent trip!