Baseball is back. And, after two years in the wilderness, the Blue Jays are finally ready to open their season where they belong.
BASEBALL. IS. BACK.
That's it. That's the tweet. #NextLevel pic.twitter.com/KJUxho6U5U
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) April 8, 2022
This evening's game versus the Texas Rangers is pretty much sold out, and it's understandable why. With young stars like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, big things are expected of this year's team. Many commentators think that they have a great chance to win it all for the first time since 1993. That's a good enough reason to sell out the Rogers Centre!
But tonight's excitement is about something more. It's a celebration of how, after nearly two years away from home, the Toronto Blue Jays are really the Toronto Blue Jays. Not playing in Dunedin, Florida or Buffalo, New York.
Let's get all of you sports fans ready for a year that has the potential to be awesome!
Last September, the Toronto Blue Jays came within a single win of making baseball's playoffs. So. Close.
It was an amazing turnaround from a team that had been through a lot of difficulty in the first half of the season. Because of border restrictions due to COVID (which meant that players could not cross the border), the Blue Jays' 'home' games were played in two places. Their spring training facilities in Dunedin, and at the home of their minor league team in Buffalo.
Not only were these not typical major league ballparks in terms of size, they were also closer to the homes of many of the Blue Jays' opponents than they were to Toronto. This meant that despite being the home team, they were often being booed by fans in their own stadium. As baseball's only Canadian team, they were the only club that had to go through this.
Finally, in late July, they were given permission to return to Toronto. The team's fortunes changed immediately, turning the Blue Jays into one of the league's best teams from that time onward.
Home to stay
Now, the Jays are thrilled about the chance to have the same advantage every other team has, all season long. Home fans.
And Toronto is clearly thrilled, too. Tickets are flying and the city is a buzz about this team.
As the team's manager, Charlie Montoyo put it, "I think if we're playing at home all last season, we win one more game." In other words, he feels that they would've got that one extra push to make the playoffs. But sometimes—in baseball and in life—things happen for a reason.
Because all that time spent playing in Florida and New York meant that these players had to learn how to rely on each other for support. And did they ever!
The funnest team in baseball?
Everyone thinks their own friends are the most fun. So maybe we're biased here. (There are a lot of Blue Jays fans in the Owlkids office, just saying!). But boy, oh boy, were the Blue Jays ever fun last year.
There was dancing in the dugout. Practical jokes, like the time that Guerrero Jr. was taped to the bench during his day off by teammates. Or when Vladdy imitated closing pitcher Jordan Romano's unique windup during a game in Atlanta.
And then there was the home run jacket! This tradition started as a way to bring the team closer together during their time away from home, and became a huge part of the team's multicultural identity.
Here's star outfielder George Springer talking about what the jacket meant, as well as why the team was so much fun and the joy of coming back to Toronto.
And great news, the jacket—and that sense of fun—will all be back in 2022!
The best team in baseball?
Now that is what is the whole season is about. Who is the best team in baseball?
Ultimately, there's only one way to find out. But experts have said that they believe that these Blue Jays are at least Top 5 going into the season. They have great pitching, great hitting, great fielding. They're fast and athletic, young and exciteable. But they also have just enough veteran experience to lean on when the going gets tough.
And above all, they really pull for one another. Here's brand new third baseman Matt Chapman talking about what he's noticed about his new teammates.
"It seems like everybody's kind of pulling for the name on the front, not the name on the back."
Matt Chapman spoke to @ArashMadani about how much has changed since last season and how the @BlueJays team has a shared vision on winning. pic.twitter.com/Guh6O9wIks
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 7, 2022
So we suppose that all is left is to play some baseball! It's a long season—162 games—but with a team this fun to follow, we bet it will all just fly by.
Here's to warmer weather and a great baseball team!