By Bob Elliott
KANSAS CITY _ Keira Fine’s first day on the job was one to remember.
Ditto for Heather Humphries, who was “elated” to show to work.
It was Monday afternoon April 4, 1994.
Fine looked down at the green carpet from the first base line of the 500 level while Humphries watched from section 130-B on the third base side of the SkyDome along with 50,484 fans.
American League president Dr. Bobby Brown and Blue Jays general manager Pat Gillick presented 1993 World Series rings to Devon White, Robbie Alomar, Paul Molitor, Joe Carter, John Olerud, Ed Sprague, Pat Borders and other players (21 in all), plus staff and coaches.
This was before the Jays knocked off the Chicago White Sox 7-3 on opening day.
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Bob Nicholson, vice-president of business, mapped out the excursion to deliver World Series rings. Compared to a year ago.
Assistant GM Gord Ash flew to Baltimore to present reliever Mark Eichhorn with his ring and then on to Syracuse for the triple-A home opener, where Ash will see Rob Butler, Willie Canate, Shawn Green and Huck Flener. Then Ash is off to Norfolk, Va., to meet up with Doug Linton.
Gillick headed to Cleveland, to give Jack Morris his ring; then Cincinnati, to see Tony Fernandez; and Milwaukee, where Turner Ward is. Gillick will be in Vancouver next week to see Luis Sojo.
President Paul Beeston headedto Buffalo to give Domingo Martinez his ring.
Vice-president Bobby Mattick returned home to St. Louis to give Ken Dayley his ring.
Manager Cito Gaston is responsible for presenting Rickey Henderson with his diamonds when the Jays headed to Oakland.
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Day 1 of being a SkyDome usher was a good day, a dream job for the two who used to go to ball games with their fathers: the excitement of seeing the World Series champs receiving their rings plus the building was full and alive.
“I was a Blue Jays fan since I was a little girl watching Buck Martinez play at Exhibition Stadium when my father (Donald) used to take me to games on weekends,” said Fine from Toronto on Thursday. “It was so exciting,”
Fine and Humphries were two of the first employees hired after Joe Carter went deep.
The Jays had won in 1992.
The Jays had won in 1993.
And now opening night 1994 these little blue boxes from Tiffany and Co. being handed out.
What a place to work ...
“I thought that they had a really good team, it was really disappointing when the strike happened,” she said. The Jays were 55-60 16 games behind the first-place New York Yankees after Sprague homered leading off the 13th inning to give Toronto an 8-7 win over New York in 13 innings.
Yet it wasn’t the 1992-93 place type of place to work on a nightly basis until this August ... then September, the first round against the Texas Rangers and then the Kansas City Royals.
And now the Jays are two wins from the World Series.
Now, supervisor of game operations for ticket takers, Fine has never seen this type of excitement at the building known as Rogers Centre.
“The atmosphere is like nothing we have experienced in the last number of years, making the playoff was a huge bonus,” said Fine. “I’m shocked and surprised to be a part of it in a small way. I’ve noticed fans are extremely excited entering the buidling, they scream and yell walking through the doors.”
Humphries has not missed a game in 16 years and is the Cal Ripken of the Rogers Centre crew ... 1,302 and counting, now one of eight ushering supervisors.
She inherited her work ethic from her father Harold who worked for Ford Glass in Toronto and was a huge ball fan. Humphries favorite player was catcher Alan Ashby at Exhibition Stadium and got to tell him when he returned as a broadcaster, but in 1994 it was Molitor.
“Going into work has been a joy,” Humphries said, “it’s so exciting the staff, the fans are so happy to be there. You can feel the electricity. There’s so much energy, good energy. It’s a fun place these days.”
Humphries says she gets butterflies coming into work, although she see little of the game being in her second floor office on field level.
Whether it is a Jose Bautista or Josh Donaldson homer or a Troy Tulowitzki fans tell her what is happening.
”We have the TV on in the office, but there is a delay by a few seconds, we hear the horn, or the roar of the crowd first, telling us something good is happening,” she said.
Both have been given words of wisdom from fans who experienced the post seasons of 1992-93 and it is “enjoy every moment, celebrate it, have a great night, take it all in.”
Long-time fans are happy for Fine and Humphries that they are getting to work and experience the post season.
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Fine, who grew up in the Yonge and Eglington area, and now lives in the Distillery area, says that some nights in the playoffs there are close to 45,000 people in the building prior to the game even starting.
“The city is craving a championship team, I know the Argos have won and the Toronto Rock has done well, but this is our first of the major sports to go this far,” said Fine. “We had a sellout every night, September baseball used to be dead.”
Now with many college students back to class the Jays staff has had to find new ways of staffing games.
For Fine the original Jays job was a summer job as she finished classes at Humber College before working at CITY-TV and work for ACTRA. Fine now works for the Toronto Film, Television and Digital Media Office.
Former SkyDome staff Fine met her first few years, from 1994-96 who she still sees, give her consistent comments “have a great night, take it all in, enjoy it.” Fine said “they’re happy we’re getting to experience it.”
Was Game 5 the end of this year’s romance or is there more?
“I am cautiously optimistic, we have Game 6 coming, David Price did very well his last start and this team has shown it can come back when faced with adversity ...
“This city would go crazy if they made the World Series again.”