I've been there before. I've been up close with professional athletes before. I've sat in a car with my parents and Meaghan for several hours before. But, somehow, on the weekend of July 23-25, those things combined into something completely brand new.
The populations of Toronto, Minneapolis and Puerto Rico were significantly lessened as they, and many others, found themselves in Cooperstown, NY for the Hall of Fame inductions of Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven and Pat Gillick. While I greatly appreciate the contributions to the game of both Blyleven and Gillick, we went to see Alomar become the first player enshrined wearing a Toronto Blue Jays cap.
There are many places where you can find blow-by-blow recaps of the actual ceremony, and while it certainly deserves to be written about, I'm not going to go into it here. What I will say is that television personalities are rather outgoing - autographs were procured from Harold Reynolds of the MLB Network, and Gregg Zaun and Jamie Campbell of Rogers Sportsnet, and both Campbell and Arash Madani were kind enough to give us several minutes of their time chatting - and that the field at the Clark Sport Center is unquestionably the sunniest place on Earth when there are no clouds in the sky.
What I will write about instead is the odd and inspiring sense of community that the love of baseball seems to engender. The wearing of a cap or t-shirt was often enough to elicit at least a head nod, and there was usually a chance to chat about baseball generally, or Alomar specifically. In fact, it didn't matter what player you were there to "see", as long as the conversation was about baseball (or, possibly, the drive to get there), there was a conversation to be had.
And the players that were just around town! Outside of the Hall of Fame, we came within feet of several Hall of Famers - including Dennis Eckersley and Yogi Berra - and George Brett and Robin Yount signed autographs for an adoring crowd for 10 minutes. My dad and I both got autographs, had pictures with, and spoke with former Jay Jesse Barfield, and we walked right past Pete Rose on Main Street.
After just two days, our heads were simply swimming with the overwhelming baseballiness of it all. And this was all considering we hadn't even been into the Hall of Fame yet, which had a wonderful new exhibit called One for the Books, all about statistics and records, which had me quivering from the moment I heard about it.
To top the entire weekend off, my dad and I became members of the Hall of Fame, Meaghan procured several Travis Snider and JP Arencibia rookie cards1, I found an Under Armour shirt, we got tons of pictures, and then, finally, we got horrendously rained on as we headed home.
As my birthday always falls on Induction Weekend (well, I guess not always, technically), this may quickly become a Fish/Simpson tradition, even though there won't be another player inducted as a Blue Jay for a long time, methinks.
1 - I bought, essentially, about 3,000 baseball cards in the form of four complete sets