Opening Day in Toronto: Part I

Giancarlo Stanton

The last time there was baseball, or baseball that I cared about, was back in October in Game 7 of the ALCS. When the Yankees’ season ends, it’s saddening. When the season ends one win short of the World Series, it’s depressing. But now the depression is over. Real meaningful baseball cures it.

There’s no better feeling in the world than baseball being back. No better feeling. And after the way last season ended and the way this season is expected to go, it felt necessary to head north of the border for the first two games of the season. So I told Brittni to pack her bags, we dropped our dog Charlie off at my parents and made the trip to Toronto for Games 1 and 2 of 2018.

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The Baseball Gods weren’t happy about Major League Baseball’s decision to start the season so early in March to incorporate more off days into the schedule. And they let it be known as they made sure it poured in the hours leading up to Opening Day. Of course there were no cabs available because for some reason there aren’t a lot of cabs in Toronto (and for another reason they are all different colors), and because Uber at the time was even harder to come by, it meant a mile walk from the hotel to Rogers Centre. Brittni wasn’t happy.

Normally, I hate the cold. I’m as soft as can be when it comes to the cold. I’m Jacoby Ellsbury when it comes to the cold. Well, my fingers are as soft as can be when it comes to the cold. The rest of my body is fine, but fingers aren’t, and once the cold hits them, I’m ruined. The coldest I ever was was at the Rangers-Islanders Stadium Series game at Yankee Stadium back in January 2014. The first period was fine, but once the Zamboni hit the ice for the first intermission, it was all downhill. After that game, I stood in the corner of my shower in my apartment on the Upper East Side, which was one-third the size of a regulation-sized shower, trying to hide from the hot water causing burning sensations in my hands and feet. It wasn’t that cold in Toronto on Thursday, but it was getting there and the rain was enhancing the cold. But it didn’t faze me. Baseball was back! Brittni, on the other hand, stepped in a Lake Ontario-sized puddle early into the walk, soaking her feet, and I tried my best not to make direct eye contact with her as her teeth chattered because I figured she might not just leave the walk and Toronto, but also me.

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Rogers Centre is a much better dome experience than Tropicana Field, but I guess that’s like saying the . The roof of Rogers Centre is incredible in real life, hovering what seems like miles above the field. It would have been nice to have one game with it opened and one with it closed, but the Baseball Gods coupled with it being March 29 and 30 in CANADA(!) made sure that wasn’t going to happen.

My first look at Aaron Boone as Yankess manager was of him bringing the lineup card to home plate. Ten years earlier, I watched Joe Girardi in his Yankees managerial debut take the field at the Stadium to “JOE GIR-ARDI” chants (that was the first and last time he would ever hear those chants) only to have the game be called due to rain, so this tenure and season was already off to a better start.

Brett Gardner opened the game with a line drive to Curtis Granderson that the Grandy Man dropped. Aaron Judge made the first out of the inning and as Giancarlo Stanton stepped up to the plate for thr first time in a Yankees uniform, a man who hadn’t missed a meal in a long time made his way to his seat directly in front of me. I stood up to change my viewpoint just as Stanton swung and connected. The ball kept carrying and carrying and carrying over the right-field fence, which didn’t seem like a possible result after such an effortless swing. Yeah, I think I’m going to like this guy on this team with this lineup.

From that moment on, the game felt over. Luis Severino showed up as the ace, dominating the Blue Jays lineup each inning for this line: 5.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 7 K. Stanton added an RBI double as well as a second home run that might have hit our hotel if the Rogers Centre weren’t enclosed, Gary Sanchez had an RBI double as well and Gardner showed off his power with a solo home run. Brittni got her beer and her hot dog and made small talk with the surrounding Canadians as she awaited her own Opening Day with Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers later that night. It was a near-perfect Opening Day with the only blip of the game coming in the eighth inning.

The first pitch of the season thrown by Dellin Betances was turned around for a Kevin Pillar solo home run. Clearly, Pillar was sitting on a first-pitch fastball from Betances, he got it, and didn’t miss it. It was a shocking moment, considering how Betances finished last season and all the talk in the offseason about how he would rebound, but I don’t think anyone thought he would go to his breaking ball on his first pitch of the season, and apparently, Pillar didn’t either. I’m the biggest of Betances fans, and always will be. He’s a native New Yorker and homegrown Yankee, who was the only consistent bright spot and star for the organization from 2014 until June 22 of last season. I believe he will return to his pre-June 22, 2017 self and once again be the most dominant member of the Yankees’ bullpen. I’m not at all worried about Dellin Betances.

Betances retired the next three batters he faced and Aroldis Chapman pitched a perfect ninth, striking out Steve Pearce and Kendrys Morales to end the game.

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I missed that feeling after a Yankees win. I hadn’t had that feeling since leaving the Stadium following Game 5 of the ALCS when the Yankees finally solved Dallas Keuchel en route to a 5-0 win. That was back on Oct. 18. I hadn’t had that feeling in 162 days.

I didn’t care that it was still pouring outside Rogers Centre. Luis Severino’s dominance and Giancarlo Stanton’s unbelievable power had me dreaming of what this season and future seasons might hold. Sure, it was only one game, but for now that’s all I have to go off of.

Brittni and I made our way down Blue Jays Way and to Wayne Gretzky’s, and it might have been better than the game. A restaurant and bar lined with memorabilia from The Great One’s life took me back in time and made me forget about the Yankees’ win momentarily. A few Coors Lights, nachos, a grilled chicken sandwich and being surrounding by the presence of 99 was the perfect end to the perfect start of the season.

Part II of my two-day, two-game trip to Toronto coming tomorrow.

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