Sports Baseball

Jays-Mariners series in Seattle revives dreams of Vancouver MLB team

By Torben Rolfsen

Toronto Blue Jays' Josh Donaldson hits a two-run home run off of Seattle Mariners' starting pitcher James Paxton during the first inning of a game at Safeco Field on June 11, 2017 in Seattle, Wash. (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

Toronto Blue Jays' Josh Donaldson hits a two-run home run off of Seattle Mariners' starting pitcher James Paxton during the first inning of a game at Safeco Field on June 11, 2017 in Seattle, Wash. (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

The Toronto Blue Jays annual series in Seattle against Mariners took place this past weekend, replete with the yearly fan invasion from British Columbia.

Whether they came for the baseball or to legally ingest treats they can’t get at home with a fake doctor’s note, such as toasted grasshoppers, doesn’t matter.  It provided our neighbour to the south with their largest crowds of the year and a good time was had by all.

The attendance was even better than last year, though the circumstances were different.

When the teams last met at Safeco Field it was in the heat of the pennant race last September but the series fell on a Monday through Wednesday.

This year they got a spring weekend so, although the two squads are merely trying to get to .500 at this point, the crowds were bigger, including Saturday which was the Mariners largest of the year.

The growing rivalry features two clubs intertwined in numerous ways.

They were expansion twins in 1977, and each of the three Jays who homered Saturday had spent time in the Mariners organization.

Seattle’s Sunday starter James Paxton whose nickname “Big Maple” sounds like a syrup consortium was born in Richmond and played youth ball in North Delta.

As the chants of “Let’s go, Blue Jays!” reverberate throughout the ballpark on a picturesque afternoon, it’s easy to get caught up in the romance of the moment, and there was no shortage of people speculating if this weekend fling could turn into a marriage.

One prominent eastern media member went so far as to ask: “Maybe Vancouver should have a MLB team?”

This fantasy seems to get floated every year or so, but it’s not happening due to a number of reasons, most prominently lack of a ballpark and potential corporate backing, and the fact that most Vancouverites don’t have any money left over after their monthly rent or mortgage payments.

BC Place Stadium was conceived in the late 1970s for a large part to try to attract a MLB franchise.

It was the end of an era when teams played baseball in giant concrete marshmallows.

In the 2020s, you would need a modern, state-of-the-art, baseball-specific facility with a retractable roof, like Safeco Field.

Also, at one point, Vancouver was the largest city in North America not home to a Fortune 500 company’s head office, so its growing reputation as a resort town as opposed to a centre of business doesn’t help once the calculators come out.

Besides, the Vancouver Canadians are doing just fine, thank you, and have cultivated their own special summer scene in the cozy confines of Little Mountain.

The Blue Jays short-season single-A affiliate has featured early-career stints by star players, such as Marcus Stroman and Kevin Pillar, and sells out regularly.

In the cool light of a Monday morning, the Jays-Mariners border war is great for baseball and the region, but don’t read too much into it.

24 Hours' Torben Rolfsen has been nominated for Best Vancouver Sports Columnist by the 2017 Paul Carson Broadcast & Media Awards, which will be held this Friday, for his work in this paper. Rolfsen is also heard nationally on TSN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @vanguy.