Parts of me wish that I could have had a century old cathedral ballpark to walk into for the first time. Parts of me wish that it was draped with retired numbers, dogeared photos of handsome 1920's men in baggy uniforms, and the certainty of passing a shared experience on to generations of Carrol's in the same location. But destiny doesn't work like that.
In 1985, when George "kiss my big purple butt" Bell dropped to his knees and Tony Fernandez gave him an awkward high-five in shallow left at Exhibition Stadium... as a 3rd Grader I was born again into Toronto Blue Jays fandom. The Baptism came in 1986 as I walked, nervous with excitement, through the runway tunnel of MY hometown Big League Ballpark. Seeing the gorgeous green expanse of the field nearly knocked me backwards.
What a sight.
Lloyd Moseby stretching. Jesse Barfield taking swings in the cage. Garth Iorg taking grounders. Jim Clancy warming up in the bullpen. Willie Upshaw on my program. MY eyes watching MY Blue Jays engaging in the orchestrated baseball dance. I took in everything in relative silence. I've actually tried unsuccessfully to remember who I was with at my first game but I don't recall. I do remember however being absolute enraptured inside myself by... baseball.
History doesn't speak well of Exhibition Stadium as a ball yard. It was clunky and misshapen. Horrid turf. Little apparent ambiance. It was designed as a football stadium so many seats didn't even face home plate. But I sat in those notorious right field bleachers, in the snow, eating crappy hot dogs every opening day and it was the time of my life. It was not only baseball... but it was MY baseball experience chosen just for me. That's how destiny works.
The stadium as I knew it is gone now. But this summer Krissy and I walked around it's remnants that have been constructed into BMO Field where TFC plays soccer. A warm bath of emotion flooded me. An "Inception" type seed that I intentionally planted in my memory came to life. Even at a young age, when I would be in a place I felt was significant and I wanted to last... I'd shut my eyes, clear my mind and then reopen them. I'd take a mental, permanent, picture of a time and place and make note of the sights, sounds, smells, and feeling that came with it. I'm glad it did it too.
Why is it #4?
To this day, walking into a baseball park floods my spirit with peace. It's like a 3 hour retreat from stress, responsibility, harshness. It's one of the only settings in life where I feel as if I can take a respite from my constantly twirling brain. It's where I experience Psalm 23 where David writes this about the Lord:
"He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul"
The dance is fluid, lush, big and green. The smells mixed with the unintelligible vocal buzz brings alive John Fogerty's lyrics in the song "Centrefield" that continue to resonate and unite men like me.
Well, beat the drum and hold the phone... the sun came out today.
We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field.
A-roundin’ third, and headed for home, is a brown-eyed handsome man;
Anyone can understand the way I feel.
In case you missed it:
- Honorable Mentions
- #5: 1000ft in the air over Accra