Monday, March 09, 2009

Baseball Place No. 25: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame; Alternative Place No. 25A: SkyDome

You can’t go to a baseball game in Canada and expect what you’re used to in the States.

It’s that “whole different country” thing.

I don’t get why they have another country’s figurehead on their money and hanging in most hockey rinks. They just do.

Then again, Canadians might not understand some of our traditions, either.
So when you cross the border, you have to be open to doing some familiar things in different ways.

Josh Pahigian takes us to St. Marys for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame as spot No. 25 in the “101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out.”

Note, there’s no apostrophe in St. Marys. Remember, Canadians do things differently. And that's OK.

And the Canadian Hall does some things differently, too. Inductees can be folks who were born in the Great White North or played there.

So it’s nice to see former Mets Gary Carter, Ron Taylor, Tony Fernandez and Tom Burgess in there along with personal favorite Joe Carter. I’m starting a campaign to get Kelly Gruber inducted next.

But the Hall also inducts entire teams, such as the Beachville and Zorra amateur squads who played the first game there in 1838, the 1991 National Youth Team, and every Canadian who played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

The Hall has only been around since 1983, when it was a small display at Exhibition Stadium. It moved to St. Marys in 1989 in a small stone building, and plans call for it to move to a larger building next door.

Sounds like a neat place, but I’ve never been to it. But I have enjoyed another baseball site in Ontario. That would be:

Alternative Baseball Place No. 25A: SkyDome

OK, I know it was renamed the Rogers Centre in 2005 when the team was sold. But SkyDome is such a better name for the first stadium with a retractable roof – at least one that actually worked. Sorry, Expos.

I’ve been to three games at the stadium. The first was part of the now epic 1989 Glorious Baseball Road Trip with Rich and Mark. That was the year SkyDome opened mid-season, and we arrived a month after its first game.
Rich, Mark and I arrived just a month after SkyDome opened. We also tried to get a glimpse of the team's old yard, Exhibition Stadium. This is as close as we got. We also checked out the Hockey Hall of Fame, which was a much smaller operation than it is now.

I returned with my brother a couple years later, and then with my son in the late 1990s after the team won two World Series.

The difference is startling. It’s like no other stadium you’ve walked in to, seeming more like a mall than a ballpark. Concessions were a line of McDonald’s, long before you saw name brand food booths.

Stepping into the seating area, you immediately see two things: The massive roof – open all three times I’ve been there – and the spectacular CN Tower, which rises alongside the park.

Then you are drawn to the tremendous scoreboard surrounded by all the windows that are part of the hotel rooms and restaurants.

Note the World Series banners in place by the third visit. And here's a view from the Hard Rock Cafe.

There wasn’t a Seventh-inning Stretch, but there were perky people from some government ministry encouraging people to get out of their seats, singing the “OK, Blue Jays” song.

We’re used to retro yards with statues of former heroes. SkyDome Centre has funky statues of fans – loud and abrasive ones – showing what it must look like from a player’s point of view.

And the souvenirs were really fun, too. I picked up a couple quirky things, like my sweet 3-D official souvenir card that tells of the glories of the SkyDome. And another is an official International Time Zone Card, allowing me to tell the time anyplace in the world with just a few twirls of a little dial. It’s just good to know.

You have to trust me, it's 3-D, and really cool.

And the International Time Zone Card is a very handy tool.

So there are 28 other stadiums in the Majors where you can experience baseball the American way, plus that new Death Star rising in the Bronx.

And there is one across the border that’s a little different. Embrace it. But don’t make fun of the British lady on the money. Trust me.

1 comment:

RDOwens said...

I've never been to SkyDome, but I did see a game at Exhibition Stadium. It was definitely a football field with the RF-CF running across the 50 yard line. Funny.