The outlook wasn’t brilliant

To Howard Starkman VP, Special Projects  and Paul Beeston, CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays, it might seem like a trifle that there were no programs available for Sunday’s Opening Weekend game. To them it might register as a pesky detail that fans like Your Working Girl who invited a friend, carefully selected our seats, and spent $160.50 on tickets, could not review the team’s 2011 line-up and keep score of the game. 
Maybe they would think it overly sentimental to place such importance on what is, after all, only paper; Possibily they view it as old-fashioned to use the program as a means to survey the promise of a new season when anything is possible.  
They might chortle at the silliness of baseball fans like me who bought a new “baseball scorecard eraser” to keep my scorecard less messy this year and arrived 45 minutes early to “get organized”.
Well, Dearest Most-Wonderful Gentle Readers, I have a message for the Messrs Starkman and Beeston, and all those in the Blue Jays organization who bleed fans to death with a thousand little cuts like this one:  I love baseball.  And I like the Blue Jays.  As a mere slip of a thing, I spent many games watching the team from the bleachers in Exhibition Stadium, learning about the game, watching the plays, the strategy and how high the outfielders wore their socks.  In the off season I kept company with great baseball writers like Roger Angell and Roger Kahn.  I had lunch with Willie Upshaw for Chrissakes! (See my very first blog.)
But baseball broke this Working Girl’s heart.  The strike of 1994/95 outraged and sickened me so much that it ruined the game for me.  The debacle which culminated in a year with no World Series showed that major league baseball cared nothing for the fans.  And fans thumbed their noses at baseball by staying away in droves when the regular season opened in 1995.  I personally responded by not watching or attending a baseball game for 12 years.   Baseball has never really recovered from that time.  But in the last couple of years, with a few tentative steps, Your Working Girl came back to baseball, bought a few tickets, checked the box scores and followed the progress of the home team. 
Time, after all, is supposed to heal all wounds . . . and, just to be on the safe side, many people who worked in baseball during the strike had retired.  And when, during last year’s National League play-off, the Giants’
Tim “the Freak” Lincecum dueled with former Blue Jay and now Phillies’ starter, Roy “Doc” Halladay, my heart fully embraced the calculus of the game once more.  This year, I decided to dive in and attend the Blue Jays Opening Weekend.  Like patching it up with an old friend, I was eager to get started. 
But guess what, Gentle Reader?  My old friend wasn’t interested my fanship.  He hadn’t changed his spots at all.  While I could buy a Blue Jays hat for $30, I couldn’t buy a program.   I walked around Level 1, then around Level 2 of the Rogers Centre checking in at all the guest services.  I stopped a well-dressed man with important-looking ID tags on his waist and a cellphone in his hand.  “Do you know where I might get a program?” “I’m not with the “Blue Jays organization itself”, he said and cheerfully offered that “about 20 people have asked me the same thing.”   There were no programs to be had.
“How can you run out of programs on Opening Weekend?”  I asked as I pleaded with the guest services clerk in disbelief.  My anticipation of blissfully scoring the game as it ebbed and flowed on the field was quickly evaporating.  How could this be?  She made a call.  “Well, there are more people than expected,” she said when she put the phone down.
“More people than expected?” 
“So the Blue Jays are all out of programs on opening weekend?”
“Because they didn’t know how many people to expect?”
Hell hath no fury . . .  and clearly scorned, Your Working Girl registered a formal written complaint while standing at the Guest Services booth in Section 236 of the Rogers Centre, missing the second and third inning.   I have since written a sternly-worded email to Paul Beeston and Howard Starkman (both of whom were, incidentally, working in baseball during in the strike and have not retired).  I will keep you, Gentle Reader, posted on any response. My friend began to refer to me as The Devil Lady.
For people who run a team in a game that adjusts a pitcher’s earned run average according to the qualities of his ballpark and his league, but runs out of programs on opening weekend, says one of two things:   We are idiots or we don’t give much thought about the actual people attending the game.    

If we view baseball as a prism through which to view life (and I assure you many fans do), the symbolism of Sunday’s game was poignant.  It was the bottom of the ninth, the score was 4-3 Minnesota, two men on base, two men out, Jose Bautista himself at the plate.  Fans are on their feet.  Bautista walks to first.  Bases are loaded.  The crowd is wild.  Adam Lind hits a curveball on the first pitch.  It was scooped up rolling down the first-base line.  Game over. 

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  1. How ridiculous – the Blue Jays front office are morons! I wonder if the many advertisers who bought space in their program know that thousands of fans who could have been reading their ads were instead fuming?I've attended hundreds of baseball games, many in Toronto, and never once been unable to buy a program – from Cincinnati to Boston to New York to San Francisco to Miami and more.Wake up Blue Jays!

  2. Bill almost said it all – Blue Jays front office are morons. The other part is that they're pinching every penny of profit and the customer experience be damned.Hey Jays Management, you're the leading contender for amateur hour! Grow up, print programs (especially for the opening weekend, duh!) and don't think you can buy off your fans with bobbleheads.Go get 'em, Gail. And have them call me; I'll really let them have it.

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