On Friday, July 20 I was invited up to the press box of Nat Bailey Scotiabank Stadium to watch a Vancouver Canadians baseball game and was having the time of my life. I was to discover this would not be just another day at the park, as I found myself in the company of a real, honest-to-goodness Hall of Fame writer, Andrew Forsyth. The Canadians are the defending Northwest League Champions, but I knew right then I would not be writing about the game handily won 4–1 by the home team. For me, it would be about the lesson I was about to learn.
The day began dark, raining, windy, and even looked as if the game could be rain delayed—or worse, one of very few rainouts in team history. But by game time the clouds had cleared off, the temperature had risen, and the fans began arriving. The attendance was recorded at about 4000 people, but a few fans may have been scared off by the weather.
There are disdainers who say that since the days of collective bargaining and all-out player strikes dating back to the ’80s, baseball is no longer a team sport but instead a game of numbers for the superstars while the rest are left in their dust. But sports politics aside, when I watch the Canadians play I see sports entertainment at its best.
This stadium has a unique draw as it directly shares its parking lot with many other top-end sports facilities. You can arrive in the morning, send the kids to the indoor pool while you hit the hot tubs, watch a makeshift hockey game in the same building used for curling during the 2010 Winter Olympics, or walk across the parking lot to watch the Canadians play ball. And yes, they have a BBQ pit, serving hot dogs, burgers, and beers for the fans. The owners have a long-term lease and have set it up to stay.
I was perched in the press box just down the hall from veteran broadcaster and voice of the Canadians, Rob Fai, and the visiting broadcaster behind his sound proof wall, another sports writer, and the media representative, Andrew Forsyth, who was helping me at every opportunity. None of this mattered to me, though, as I was tuned into every word the pros were exchanging about the game. Before I knew it the final score was being announced.
Post-game I found myself next to the locker room interviewing champion outfielder, Nick Baligod. Recipient of last season’s Fan Choice Award, Baligod wears number twelve on his jersey and happens to be a good interview.
Baligod is now 24-years-old, and even Rob Fai says 24 is pushing it in the minors—he has to get on his game now. It turns out that’s just what he’s doing, and he said the key to learning is improving both his fielding and dominance in the batters’ box. Number twleve was named player of the game the following match, though it was an 8–6 defeat to those same Spokane Indians.
Most sports fans are aware that many players in the minor leagues are either eager youngsters hoping to make it to the big show, or seasoned professionals sent down to sort out whatever issues they may be having. Baligod has been making the best of his time by watching the professionals and following the advice of his coaches.
Right then I realized I was in the same position. I may have been in the position to interview big names in Canadian sports and had a few journalistic successes, but each time I learned something, I found I had more to learn. I knew how the younger players felt, and I am twice their age. I’m hoping that I can learn as much as the players are learning from their mentors.