TORONTO— Over the course of a 162-game season, it’s easy for each individual game to feel more like a daily ritual than an entertainment event.
That’s especially true when the home team isn’t in contention or the ballpark is less than half full - or both. It’s easy for a baseball season to become a mundane march of indistinct days. For those who love the game that can provide a kind of comfort. For baseball agnostics and atheists, it can be awfully monotonous.
The feel at Rogers Centre the last couple of years has been like that - each game another episode in a long-running, but mediocre reality TV show.
New life and new light has arrived for the Toronto Blue Jays, starting with Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s debut on Friday. A grim period in the franchise’s history is not over yet, but a new chapter has undoubtedly begun.
“As he walked into the clubhouse yesterday, and seeing him here just put a massive smile on my face,” GM Ross Atkins said. “I think that’s what it means for so many.”
Make no mistake, this is a monumental moment. Atkins summarizing the bare bones of the Vladdy Jr. tale, even outside of his insane talents, puts the scale of it in perspective.
“We have a Canadian-born Dominican baseball player son of a Hall of Famer that is coming into Canada to play for this great city and country. It’s such a good baseball story.”
Vladdy did not shy away from the story in the slightest, wearing his father’s Expos jersey to the ballpark.
“It was more to honour my dad,” he said through an interpreter. “Since I was a kid I was running around in the clubhouse in Montreal and I wanted to bring that back today.”
Vladimir Guerrero Sr. - especially if his Twitter account is to be believed - will be watching carefully. The Hall of Famer’s advice for his son was not dissimilar to what any loving father might say.
“He’s very proud of me,” Vladdy Jr. said. “He just told me to go out there and do my best and things are going to be fine.”
That “good baseball story” filled the Blue Jays’ media room to the point that its climate was rainforest-like - a distinct change for a room that’s often actively cold and populated by just a handful of reporters.
Atkins was asked if he’d ever seen anything like Friday and he was so sure of the answer he uncharacteristically interrupted the question before its conclusion.
“No. I never have. I was fortunate enough to be at Stephen Strasburg’s debut, which was somewhat similar. But this is like nothing I’ve ever seen. CC Sabathia was a great player - and still is - Francisco Lindor is a great player. I was there for his debut, I’ve seen a lot of great players transition, but I’ve never seen anything quite like this.”
That’s the dialogue of the moment before he takes his first batting practice, let alone his first at-bat. In most cases that kind of hype would be a step too far. Almost no one could live up to the expectations that Friday’s circus indicated.
If someone can, this is the guy. He’s already projected to be one of the best hitters in baseball despite the fact he just turned 20, hasn’t stepped into a major league batter’s box, and has played just 38 games at Triple-A.
There are so many reasons to be excited about this debut. It’s clear Atkins and the Blue Jays are, as anyone with even the faintest interest in this franchise should be.
Of course, for Guerrero Jr., it’s just baseball and he’s treating it as such.
“I’m just going play hard and give my 100 percent for the team to help the team win, and whatever happens, happens.”
Whatever does happen on Friday night, this will be one to remember. The Blue Jays have been around for 43 years and they’ve never had a debut like this. They may not have another.
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