Bob Elliott's Opening Day diary

By: Bob Elliott

Canadian Baseball Network

The first 40 years are the most fun for an expansion franchise.

From the ground up to back-to-back World Series in 1992-93. 

The Blue Jays opened their 40th season (without snow like in 1977 when Bill Singer faced the Chicago White Sox) Friday night at the Rogers Centre.

Despite coming off their sixth American League East title the Jays took a franchise mark of 3,080-3,117 (.497 winning mark) into their home opener against the Boston Red Sox, whose 40th year as a franchise was in 1941.

The Jays were 262-316 (.453) lifetime against the Red Sox entering a night full of presentations, pomp, circumstance and some waving signs before 48,871.

It was such a special Rogers Communications boss Guy Laurence made guest appearances in some sky boxes.

Previously the Jays had their home opener against Boston losing in 1991 when Roger Clemens beat Dave Stieb 6-2, 2005 when Bronson Arroyo beat Dave Bush and 2012 when Scott Atchison got the win over Sergio Santos.

The Jays only win came in 2008 when Shaun Marcum beat David Aardsma 6-2.    

How the day unfolded ... 

11:53 AM _ Newstalk 1010 plays a clip of manager John Gibbons on the “let’s wear dresses” issue from Wednesday at Tropicana Field as he says “I understand there’s an uproar, I don’t get that, and I never have, that’s not the way I think. I tried to inject a little humour into kind of a tense situation, that’s kind of who I am. No ill intent. But I do think we need to lighten up in the world.”

Next up after the news is Mike Bullard, who rants about women invading “his” floor, the men’s floor at The Bay on Queen and eating his poutine. 

12:15 PM _ Brett Cecil is the best guess as the first Jay to arrive for the 7:27 start. 

12:47 _ Seven TV and radio trucks are lined up outside the dome.

12:53 _ Reaching the elevator an attempt is made to go to Field Level. Am told I have to go to the 100 Level to have my bag checked ... “sir, a lot has changed since last October.”

12:59 _ The first two pigeons are spotted walking the asphalt near the Red Sox dugout. They’ll likely escape the great indoors around late May or early June.

1:02 _ The elevator doors open to the Field Level and there is a new felt mural, showing from left to right Russell Martin sliding, Troy Tulowitzki swinging, Alex Sanchez pitching, Marcus Stroman screaming, Jose Bautista flipping, Edwin Encarnacion trotting, Kevin Pillar diving and finally Josh Donaldson’s back. Stroman and Bautista are larger, in the middle and the focal point.  

1:07 _ President Mark Shapiro does a TV interview on field.

1:09 _ Josh Donaldson arrives wearing a red hoodie. Will he play or won’t he play?

1:32 _ Hazel Mae, star of Sportsnet, arrives.

2:20 _ Melissa Couto, one of Canada’s best baseball scribes, is working the game. People read her stories from coast to coast, but don’t often see her name. Cuoto, a former Toronto Sun intern, does not always get bylines working for The Canadian Press and her stories are carried from Prince George, B.C. to Gander, Nfld. 

3:11 _ Sari Schiff, who describes herself a “baseball fan at large” emails: “I wanted to comment on the John Gibbons statement and say it was not offensive. He was being funny and not trying to offend anyone. We all need to get our sense of humor back instead of having an axe to grind. He was upset and tried to use humor.”

4:03 _ Michael Saunders is riding a stationary bike watching opening ceremonies at U.S. Cellular Field as the Chicago White Sox arrive riding in the back of convertibles. “We should do something like that,” Saunders says “except maybe we should ride in on horses ... like Mounties.”

5:02 _ Jim Kaat, 77, moves around the batting cage with the grace he displayed for 25 years pitching for the Minnesota Twins, St. Louis Cardinals, White Sox, New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies. Kaat, who should be in Cooperstown, was with the Phillies from 1976-79 and for the final two years shared Jack Russell Field in Clearwater with George Bell. Bell was claimed by the Jays in the Rule V draft, on Bobby Mattick’s suggestion. Bell earned the 1987 AL MVP and was presenter on opening night. He was told to keep his speech to under 15 minutes. 

Kaat was here as part of MLB Network’s A team along with Bob Costas and Tom Verducci. When I start my baseball magazine the first two hires will be Ken Rosenthal and Verducci.     

5:20 _ In the Boston dugout are two former GMs: Dave Dombrowski, one-time GM of the Montreal Expos, Florida Marlins and the Detroit Tigers plus Ruben Amaro, former boss of the Philadelphia Phillies. Dombrowski was interviewed by the Jays in 2001 after Gord Ash was fired and again Aug. 14, 2015 by Rogers Communications at the Park Hyatt in downtown Toronto. Rogers hired Shapiro Aug. 31. 

Amaro went from the ivory tower to coaching first base and has lost a bunch of weight. He’s lost so much he’s half a missing person. 

5:44 _ Jim Fregosi, Jr. in the press box sporting a bauble on his right ring finger than could choke a an overweight Clydesdale. The son of the former late, great Blue Jays manager, Jim Jr. scouts for the Kansas City Royals and was wearing his 2015 World Series ring. Royals players were presented their rings Tuesday before playing the New York Mets. On Wednesday morn, GM Dayton Moore, who always does things first class, brought in the pro scouts to present them with their rings.

The KC logo in the ring is made from custom-cut blue sapphires, outlined in yellow gold and the diamonds are on a set of 14-karat white gold. The sides of the ring are based on the team’s crown logo on 14-karat yellow gold with a gold satin finish with 30 round white diamonds comprising the top of the crown, while a row of blue sapphires sits behind the crown.

7 _ As Donaldson makes his walk to the carpet in front of second, three rows of fans in the Westjet flight deck wave MVP signs. Bell presents the 2015 AL MVP trophy in front of second base to cheers. 

7:01 _ A History is Now video is shown as Bautista and Hall of Famer Robbie Alomar unveil the Jays AL East champions logo and the 40th anniversary logo on the centre field wall. The 2015 AL East champion banner was unveiled in October when president Paul Beeston and GM Alex Anthopoulos were still in power. 

7:05 _ The Sox are introduced along the first base line with manager John Farrell getting the most boos and David Ortiz the most cheers. David Price, along with the extras are not introduced.  

7:10 _ The Jays starting lineup, extras and clubhouse personnel are introduced. Donaldson, Encarnacion and Bautista receive the most cheers. Gibbons is cheered as well.  

7:17 _ After the anthems, the unfurling of a giant Maple Leaf, former Jays president Beeston, with grandson Max Falconer, seven, leading the way head in front of the mound. Beeston threw a Welland strike to Bautista for the ceremonial first pitch. 

A moving tribute put together by Marnie Starkman featured the likes of Joe Carter, Duane Ward, Lloyd Moseby, Devon White and Bell and current players saying ‘thank you Paul.”

Beeston returned as president of the Jays in 2008. The year before the Blue Jays wore black uniforms and had drawn 2.36 million fans. In Beeston’s final year the Jays drew 2.79 million, reaching the playoffs for the first time in 22 years. The proud Canadian brought affiliates to class-A Vancouver and triple-A Buffalo, as well as helping the game grow in Canada with the winter tour, the Jays Baseball Academy and Tournament-12, which brings together the best high schoolers from coast to coast, with Jays Care and fund raising by Alomar keeping costs down.  

7:27 _ Marcus Stroman throw the first pitch of the game. 

7:28 _ Mookie Betts swings and misses at a 2-2 change.  

7:29 _ Dustin Pedroia swings through a 0-2 pitch. Quite a pace. 

7:42 _ Encarnacion flies to centre to bring home Pillar who had tripled. Is it an optical illusion of did it look like Pillar was running faster on the dirt infield.

7:57 _ Brock Holt doubles, one of three hard-hit balls in the second to score Boston’s first run, tying the score 1-1. Pillar helped out Stroman firing a strike to erase Hanley Ramirez.  

8:19 _ David Ortiz doubled off the wall to put the Sox ahead 2-1. 

8:58 _ Darwin Barney singles to right evening the score.

8:52 _ Pillar is plunked by a Kelly pitch with the bases loaded forcing home Martin.

8:53 _ Acting like a reigning MVP should, Donaldson hits the first pitch to left for a grand slam and score calf and all tours the bases.

9:33 _ Gibbons removes Stroman with one out and the bases loaded for Jesse Chavez. Holt gets Chavez out of a jam by hitting a slam to right on an 0-1 pitch in the sixth. Ortiz and Ramirez single in runs off Brett Cecil in the seventh to take a one-run lead in the seventh

10:15 _ Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants faces Ross Stripling of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Anthopoulos’ new team at AT&T Park.

10:51 _ Michael Saunders flies out to right, Boston wins 7-6 and the Jays fall below .500.