TORONTO — A rally towel is resting on every seat at Rogers Centre. A spot has been cleared above the large video board for the unfurling of the East Division championship banner. Blue and white bunting is hanging throughout the stadium.
After a 22-year drought, the Toronto Blue Jays will make their return to the post-season Thursday afternoon against the Texas Rangers in Game 1 of the American League Division Series.
If the crowd noise is anything like the last few weeks of the regular season, ear plugs may be a good idea for those in attendance. Expect all the bells and whistles for the pre-game festivities: player introductions, stirring national anthems, and a charged ceremonial throwing of the first pitch.
October baseball is finally back in the Ontario capital.
“We’ve submitted anthem singers and things of that nature to the league for approval as we are required to do,” said Stephen R. Brooks, the Blue Jays’ senior vice-president of business operations. “We’re not in a position yet to make those announcements but suffice to say, we hope to have a few nice touches and surprises in there to celebrate the fact that here we are in the post-season.”
Fans are being encouraged to be in their seats a half-hour before the 3:37 p.m. Eastern Time first pitch.
“It’s been new for a lot of us,” said Brooks, who has served in his current role since 2011. “We’ve heard about the planning that goes into the playoffs and post-season for some time. Now here we are finding ourselves in the midst of the planning and now in the midst of the execution of it. So it’s been a lot of fun.”
Toronto ace David Price will get the start for the host side. The West Division champions will counter with Yovani Gallardo.
The Blue Jays haven’t been to the post-season since 1993 when they won their second straight World Series title.
“It’s been great for staff that have been here for a long time, through years of not winning,” Brooks said. “Now to finally have it all come together so to speak has been extremely rewarding personally, extremely rewarding to see staff who have waited a long time and great for (GM) Alex (Anthopoulos) and absolutely tremendous for (president) Paul (Beeston) to see this come to fruition this year.”
Beeston will retire at the end of the month. He’ll be succeeded by Mark Shapiro, who spent the past 24 years in various front-office positions with the Cleveland Indians.
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press