I don't really miss covering baseball, which I did for the Star for six years. But I do miss the thrill of opening day; the pennants and the flags and the promise of perhaps a surprisingly good season; the smell of a good hot dog.
The Jays kick things off in Texas at 2 p.m. Monday, and it would be a fine place in April I think. Hotter than Hades in summer; my goodness. But lovely in spring as I recall.
Today's USA Today has a nice list of 10 great places for a baseball trip, written by a chap named Graham Knight, who runs a website called www.baseballpilgrimages.com.
He's got information on major league parks - more on that in a minute - but what I liked most was his take on minor league facilities such as the stadium in Buffalo, as well as the home of the Casper Ghosts (what a great name) in Casper, Wyoming and the oddly-named home of the Toledo (Ohio) Mud Hens; Fifth Third Field. It's definitely worth checking out if you're a baseball fan.
I always enjoyed the stadium in Texas, mostly because I like the heat. But Baltimore's Camden Yards was my favourite; the first of the retro big league parks. (Knight points out that Buffalo's field predated Camden for several years, so props to Buffalo for starting a great trend). Camden always had a warm, intimate feel, with lovely architecture, a city skyline in the background, Boog Powell's barbeque in right field and a seventh-inning stretch that included a rousing rendition of "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" by John Denver. Tons of fun in a nice little city with a renovated waterfront and great crab cakes. The old Metrodome in Minneapolis was great for girl-watching; I don't quite know why. Milwaukee had awesome bratwursts in the old ballpark and almost certainly has them in their newish one. Kansas City had a gleaming ballpark and is in a city I always tell folks is a lot nicer than you might think. The Country Club Plaza region, in particular, has wonderful, Spanish-style fountains and architecture and fine shopping. There's also great barbeque all over town.
I scrolled through Knight's site and found a detailed entry on our not-so-beloved Rogers Centre. He was, to my mind, overly nice. He talked about the surrounding cityscape, which is a lot nicer than the area around Yankee Stadium or the parking lot that surrounds the stadium in Oakland. He praised the roof, which is fair game. But he also made a bizarre point about how the old SkyDome is "dwarfed to the point of being quaint by its surroundings inside and out." He was referring to the CNTower, which I suppose does make the Rogers Centre seem somewhat small by comparison. But he's gotta be the only person in the world who's ever labelled our ballpark as "quaint."
Still, it's Opening Day and Obama's tossing out the first pitch in D.C. and the Jays are only a half-game out of first place on Monday morning. Management seems committed to improvement. So let's be hopeful.
The Jays game in Texas starts at 2 p.m., which is make it hard for me to catch the first pitch as it's the time Tiger Woods is supposed to start his press conference in Augusta, where he's making his first tournament appearance since his marital troubles emerged, and isn't that a nice understatement?
It's gonna be fascinating to watch Woods, who's on the cover of the Star's golf magazine this year. The magazine, which I have the good fortune to put together each year, comes out Thursday. But it's only being given to subscribers of the paper in the GTA. Some copies will be at the Star building at 1 Yonge St., and some copies will later go out to golf clubs that are members of the Greater Toronto Area Golf Association.
JAZZ STEPS IN FOR SKYSERVICEThis looks on paper like a win-win situation. Thomas Cook Canada and Jazz Air have signed a deal for Jazz to operate flights to the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America on behalf of Thomas Cook's tour operator Sunquest Vacations.
The agreement, conditional on the usual regulatory approvals, is effective November 1st, 2010, to serve the winter vacation season of 2010/2011 and may extend for up to five years, openjaw.com reported.
Jazz will operate a fleet of up to 11 B757 jets from gateways across Canada and will be branded as Thomas Cook Airlines from January 2011.
Jazz currently flies to more than 80 destinations in North America - more than any other carrier in the country. It has a commercial agreement to operate flights on behalf of Air Canada across Canada and into the United States.Through the Thomas Cook Airline brand, operated by Jazz Air LP, Sunquest will be able to offer service from a wider range of Canadian communities to sun destinations
It should give Sunquest customers a pretty solid feeling knowing they've got a reliable airline to fly on. And it's certain a good deal for Jazz and Thomas Cook....
You might look at the political protests going on in Thailand and think it's a bad time to visit. But often the best time to get a deal in a city is when there's been negative publicity.
If you don't mind having a bit of disruption and some extra hotel security, it sounds like there are some good deals to be had in Bangkok right now. Chances are you can get pretty good deals for travel a little later in the year, too.