In the spirit of the first game of the season at Skydome, I thought I’d share my experience of the first time I ever attended a game there. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been a fan of the Blue Jays, but having grown up four hours from Toronto, it wasn’t until I was 14 years old before I actually got to attend my very first game at Skydome.
Much of my Dad’s side of the family lives in Guelph, so we used to drive through Toronto on the 401 two or three times a year. So in those days, the Toronto I knew was reserved to the part of the city I could see from the 401 as we sped on through with the tens of thousands of other motorists. Back then, as you can imagine, I had little sense for that city, like where to find Maple Leaf Gardens, or what Toronto looked like from the CN Tower, or even what it was like to enjoy a ball game from inside Skydome. Whenever we drove through Toronto on our way to Guelph though, I was always mindful to scan the horizon for the CN Tower. It was always something that made me feel good to be the first in my family to spot it, even though I was probably the only one looking for it in the first place.
That fateful day when I was to attend my first ever Blue Jays game at Skydome (August 18, 1995 in case you’re wondering), unlike those countless other times I’d been on the 401 on our way through Toronto, this time we weren’t heading to Guelph. This time we’d be getting off at the Yonge Street exit and then head south on Yonge all the way downtown to Skydome.
The only problem was, back in those days, we drove a beat-up old Ford Aerostar van. I was surprised it had survived as long as it had. I guess it would have been just before we got to the Yonge Street off-ramp that the Aerostar started to crap out on us. Before eventually breaking down on the actual off-ramp where my Dad managed to drive the car up on the curb and onto the grass where we waited for our tow and wondered if we’d even be able to make it to the Blue Jays game. Apparently the baseball Gods weren’t going to make this journey an easy one…they were going to make us really work for it.
The tow truck finally did show-up, the van was fixed up back at the shop, and despite a 3-hour delay, incredibly we still had enough time to get ourselves downtown and make it for the start of the game. I have no idea where that auto repair shop was located in Toronto, but after leaving the shop, we eventually ended up on the Gardiner Expressway heading east towards Skydome. I’d never been to a city the size of Toronto before, so even the littlest of things was blowing my young impressionable mind. I remember it so vividly, as we continued along the Gardiner, I saw those advertisements adjacent the highway that are made of some kind of bush or plants. For me, this was something new and spectacular, I had never seen anything quite like it before.
Back in those days, all those condominiums that are now just west of Skydome weren’t even there, which meant you had an uninterrupted view of Skydome with the incredible skyline in the background for miles as you approached on the Gardiner. As for the Toronto skyline, talk about making my jaw drop. Up until that time, I had only ever seen the CN Tower from the 401. Now here I was on the doorstep of downtown Toronto with the skyline immediately in front of me. Do you remember that scene from Gladiator when Russell Crowe and his buddy see the Coliseum for the first time, well that was me with the Toronto skyline.
After all that happened to us that day, the game itself between the Blue Jays and Royals was sort of anticlimactic. The Blue Jays lost and couldn’t come close to touching Tom ‘Flash’ Gordon, and our seats were so high up that it wasn’t like when you sit in the 100’s, or my now preferred 200’s. My experience that day became about so much more than just a baseball game. It was about visiting a major urban centre and experiencing so much of all that for the very first time. For someone new to that type of environment, it was sensory overload, but when the game finally started, like when so many ball games begin, it was simply time to decompress, relax, and enjoy the beauty of getting to watch live baseball.