Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Baseball Hall of Fame: The Canadian Way

At the end of July, my dad and I will be attending the inductions of Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox, and Joe Torre into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.  We've been to an induction weekend once before, but that was very specifically for Robbie Alomar.  This year, despite a few Toronto connections, there really isn't any specific reason to go.  Other than to go to both Canadian and American baseballs halls of fame in the same year.

We've been to St. Mary's once before, but just to visit the Hall.  Having now been for an Induction Day, if you've done one, you absolutely must do the other.

This is the first year that the Jays have sponsored the weekend's events, so the main street of St. Mary's looked like this:

Local shops1 opened their doors at 9 am, and the special guests began to be set up.

We were first pleasantly surprised that the Fergie Jenkins Foundation was there - we met Jesse Barfield in Cooperstown while he was signing for the Foundation.  This time, though, Fergie himself was actually there - we had missed him in New York - as was fellow Chatham native and former MLB pitcher Bill Atkinson.  Now, here's my funny story about Bill Atkinson:

I wanted to get a bobblehead, but they weren't signed.  I asked someone at the booth if Fergie would signed it if we bought it.  He said, "Yes".  I said, "I'll take two", as dad wanted one.  This person at the booth was not some intern at the foundation.  It was Bill Atkinson.  Bravo, me.  I apologized to him later in the day.

Anyway, there was a ton of stuff available for, by far, the most reasonable memorabilia prices you're likely to see.  As such, our pockets were a little lighter rather quickly:

He was also kind enough to pose for a picture with my dad.2

After lunch, and a personal sidetrack to buy Jonah Keri's book Up, Up, and Away and get it signed by the author, we got in line for the event of the morning:
Duane Ward - who seemed quite flattered when we mentioned how much we enjoyed him on the Jays broadcasts - Devon White - who looks like he could still play - and George Bell - who...doesn't - all signed autographs and chatted with fans for an hour.

Once the morning wrapped up, we made our way "across" town to the Hall, where we saw, the moment we walked in, 2014 inductee Tim Wallach.  Just hanging out.  As it turned out, "Just hanging out" is certainly a theme of a Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction weekend.

For example, Pat Gillick was just hanging out.  So was Paul Beeston.  And Paul Spoljaric.  The inductees, including Wallach, were probably the least accessible of all the people there, and even they were waving and chatting with people as they filed into their seats.

Seats, by the way, which are within feet of the inductees.  For the record, in Cooperstown, you're not within a football field of anyone outside of media members kind enough to make eye contact.

Rod Black MCed the event, Michael Burgess sang the national anthems, Bob Elliott gave an update on the last year in Canadian baseball and a parade of former players, managers, politicians, welcomed friends, fans, and family to the event.  Truly, Canada's Baseball Hall of Fame is the most inclusive hall in sports.

This was ultimately confirmed after the ceremony, when each inductee, as well as other present members, signed autographs for a grand total of $10.3 It was definitely a walk down Canadian baseball memory lane, and really reminds you that professional athletes (and executives, and media members) really are just out to have a fun Saturday at the ball park.

Canadian baseball fans, if you have the ability to get to St. Mary's at any time, but particularly for an induction weekend, get yourself there.  I venture to say that it, even more than Cooperstown, will make you fall in love with baseball all over again.

Onward to New York.

1 - And by the way, if you have a chance to look through St. Mary's proper, you'll be very pleased
2 - I got mine taken with Ace
3 - We got in early as newly minted "Elite" members of the Hall

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