Essay: The Little Things

It’s the little things that make baseball, to these eyes, the best damn game on the planet. Like Peter Bourjos catching a fly ball he has no business — none, whatsoever — getting to, one that his teammate, right-fielder Torii Hunter, dove for and missed. Or back-to-back nights of triple plays on the diamond, one a 4-6-3-2 effort, the other an amazing 5-4-3 number. Baseball, man, isn’t she great?

Tuesday night, I was up late on the east coast, watching the Blue Jays play the Mariners in Seattle, and I was struck by more of baseball’s little things. Like the taking over of Safeco Field by Blue Jays faithful from Vancouver, and other parts of beautiful British Columbia. The boisterous — but extremely polite — Canadians got Mike Carp’s attention Monday night:

We were talking about it in the dugout. I mean, it was getting annoying. This is our ballpark.

Sorry, Mike Carp, but not when the Blue Jays, and the #babesinwhite, are in town.

It’s officially on my bucket list, to watch Toronto play Seattle in Seattle. It must be experienced. And while I was watching Tuesday night’s contest between the fourth-place Blue Jays and fourth-place Mariners, I got carried away, which tends to happen, and got to thinking what Safeco Field might be like during a Toronto and Seattle American League Championship Series. I know, that would mean the Blue Jays and Mariners would both have to qualify for the postseason in the same year, which, at this moment in time, is completely outside the realm of all possibility. But I’m a dreamer, dammit, and I won’t stop dreaming. Because, boy, wouldn’t that be something? Safeco Field would be rocking, Canada vs. USA.

Actually, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure I’ll follow the Blue Jays on the road, no matter who they play, when Toronto eventually does make the playoffs. There’s nothing like rooting for your team — politely! — in the enemy’s house.

Back to the little things: In the first inning, after Aaron Hill’s home run scored himself and Canadian legend Brett Lawrie, Sportsnet’s cameras showed Lawrie and Jose Bautista celebrating in Toronto the dugout. Bautista, the best player in baseball, and the leader of the squad, has personalized handshakes with, it seems, everyone on the team. Now, I don’t know about you, but I love baseball’s personalized handshakes. They’re the best. They’re the epitome of baseball’s little things. And Lawrie, a Blue Jay for all of 12 days, has been welcomed by Bautista with not only a handshake, but with a handshake-slash-dance. It’s more of a jig. Yeah, let’s go with jig. They slap hands twice, down low, then each hop, twice on their respective left foots, then twice on their right, their right hands in fist-pump motion during the hops. It’s bloody glorious. Here, watch:

I haven’t done it yet today, the Bautista and Lawrie handshake jig, but I will. I must.

Finally, Tuesday night, and this goes back to the Canadian contingent that made their way to Seattle’s Safeco Field, there was the standing ovation for backup infielder, and all-around fantastic human being, John McDonald, who pinch-hit for Yunel Escobar in the 9th inning. John McDonald. He of the career .268 wOBA, and career 58 wRC+.

The McDonald love-in — there were ovations, plural — was like nothing I’d seen before. Don’t get me wrong, McDonald’s loved in Toronto for his magical fielding prowess, but for him to get three separate, and loud, ovations, on the road, well, it was beautiful is what it was. One set of applause for when McDonald was announced as a pinch-hitter. Another for the single McDonald roped into right field. And, finally, a third, as Johnny Mac jogged off the field, called out at second base on Eric Thames’ fielder’s choice. Bravo, west coast Blue Jays fans. You did good. You did great.

I say it religiously, every afternoon: I can’t wait for tonight’s game.

Image credit: Dean Collins. GIF credit: @james_in_to.

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Navin Vaswani is a replacement-level writer. Follow him on Twitter.

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