A resurgence in the Toronto Blue Jays is beginning to revive the team’s fan base not only in Canada’s largest city, but right across the country – including Saskatchewan.
At a two-day Jays baseball camp at Regina’s Optimist Park, dozens of fresh faced youngsters decked out in Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion jerseys eagerly fielded grounders, shagged fly balls, and belted wiffle balls off tees.
One of the instructors was former Jays pitcher Duane Ward, who was part of both World Series teams.
“You’re starting to see a lot of people converting over to Blue Jays fans again and so that’s always good for the organization, it’s good for grassroots baseball and it’s good for us going around this country doing all these camps,” he outlined.
Twelve-year-old Cameron Sullivan signed up to be part of the camp, getting to learn from Ward and Devon White, another former Blue Jay. Sullivan’s favourite team is Toronto and the team’s recent success is helping to fuel his passion.
“They just got a good defence and the good batting,” he explained.
“They just can’t lose.”
Ward said he’s noticing registration up among youth. He also sees an increase in those participating in camps compared to previous years. A lot of that has to do with the fact the Jays are the hottest team in the majors after trading for superstars like starting pitcher David Price and shortshop Troy Tulowitzki this year and for third baseman Josh Donaldson this past offseason.
New players and winning are poised to bode well for a fan base that hasn’t seen the team win since 1993. That was also the last year Toronto made the post-season.
“I think it’s going to have a huge impact. It’s gonna be great for baseball across this whole country,” said Ward.
Players don’t just play for the city of Toronto, he said, they play for the entire country. In turn, the entire country, not just the city, supports the team.