I grew up in St. Catharines – once home to the ‘baby’ Jays and (later renamed) the Stompers in the New York-Penn League – and I have now been living in Toronto for over ten-years. I have been on some good Canadian road trips, but none that have taken me to Canada’s western side. I’ve always wanted to drive across our country, and I still plan on doing that.
I have seen my share of baseball stadiums and I have watched some great minor league ball over the years, but I have yet to take in the sights and sounds of baseball from the Vancouver C’s Nat Bailey Stadium stands. But, I can’t complain because I live next door to the place we all call Dome, so I’m kind of lucky to be able to walk over on any lazy Saturday afternoon and catch a Jays game. But I do plan on visiting Western Canada and taking in a C’s game, that’s for sure.
I interviewed Doug Fox (a.k.a Future Blue Jays) last year and we talked a bit about the Blue Jays’ minor league stadiums and he told me that ‘The Nat’ was his favourite park. And since I don’t have first-hand knowledge of The Nat stadium experience, I thought it would be interesting to share what he had to say:
It’s an old park, set in a beautiful Vancouver neighbourhood. The amenities are not state-of-the-art, and there are obstructed views in the grandstand behind home plate, but you feel like you’re taking in some baseball history when you sit there. To get to the press box, you have to go up some narrow concrete stairs, and walk across some carefully laid patio stones, but the view of the downtown and the mountains to the north is one of the best views of the city I’ve seen.
And every time I read his description of The Nat, I kind of want to go and see it for myself. I also kind of wish that Earle Birney was alive and could write a lil’ baseball Vancouver C’s prose to help capture the spirit of The Nat and the great C’s fans who all hurry on over to the stadium for a Saturday ‘nooner’ – what the locals call an afternoon C’s game. So, if you’re within driving distance, or will be in Vancouver this summer, I think going to The Nat should definitely be a summer something circled on the calendar.
Now, it’s no secret that the C’s continue to break Northwest League attendance records every baseball season. And it’s no secret that the Blue Jays fan base extends from coast to coast in the Great White North. And it’s definitely no secret that the sea of blue that takes over Safeco Field when the good Birds of Summer play the Mariners is coming from the strong support the Blue Jays get from the west coast. Along with their love of the good Birds of Summer, west coast Jays fans also love their Vancouver C’s.
When the Toronto organization put a team in Vancouver it was definitely not ideal from a geographical perspective, but it made absolute sense to put an affiliate on the other side of our continent to grow the brand. It’s great for the players who can get a taste of all things Canadian and it’s great for the fans, as they get to watch Blue Jays prospects come through their city. And isn’t it kind of cool that Vancouver and Toronto, two fan bases that are historically antagonistic towards each other, can share an interest in the same franchise.
In 2017, the C’s won the Northwest League championship and the fans got a firsthand look at big Nate Pearson, who Mark Shapiro, Ross Atkins, and all Jays fans are gushing over. And over the years, a lot of talented players have donned the C’s cap, as was showcased in the Blue Jays/Team Canada game this past weekend, when 14 players connected to the C’s were present in Dunedin.
So, in December I contacted J.C. Fraser, general manager of the C’s, and asked him if he could connect me with pitching coach Jim Czajkowski for an interview. He was kind enough to do so and I greatly enjoyed doing that interview, as we talked a bit about his time playing for the Durham Bulls (while America was feeling the Crash Davis and Nuke LaLoosh buzz), player development, and, of course, Nate Pearson. It was one of my favourite interviews that I have done and it was great listening to Jim talk about the game. I probably could have sat on the phone with him all afternoon shooting the baseball breeze.
Now, I just recently did a fun little interview with the great Jesse Goldberg-Strassler, where we talked a bit about the Blue Jays prospects that we can expect to see in Lansing this year and I thought it would be pretty cool to do something similar for the Vancouver C’s.
So, I reached out to J.C. again and he put me in touch with Rob Fai, broadcaster and director of communications, who was quick to respond and help make this interview happen. We discussed some Vancouver C’s baseball, the possible C’s prospect road ahead, beer, and bacon…
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