Attending a minor league baseball game in Canada is an experience that can’t be beaten, especially in Vancouver during the summer and even more so as a big (or small) fan of the great game. I spent a perfect, sunny afternoon at Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium, eating concession goodies, learning about the history of baseball in Vancouver and watching America’s (and Canada’s, depending on who you ask) favorite past-time.
“Daddy! That hotdog is the biggest you’ve had here! ” says the seven-year-old Danielle, dressed head-to-toe in Canadians gear. Her and her father Steve are here to see the fireworks display and Danielle let’s me know that she’s been here, “more times than you can imagine.” The Vancouver Canadians do a stand-up job of making this game exciting for not only kids, but the entire family. Parents can dine on sushi and Asahi beer before/during the game, and on the left-hand side of the park, there’s an entire section just for kids that houses a bouncy castle. The Canadians mascot Bob Brown Bear can be seen partaking in the fun that’s created by the youngest generation.
Just over the inside walls of this beautiful ballpark, there are images of some of baseball’s greatest players (Mickey Mantle, Roberto Clemente, Lou Gehrig, and Babe “The Great Bambino” Ruth, just to name a few) that greet you into the game. Vancouver sports artist, Jennifer Ettinger’s paintings are hung just underneath the
Nat Bailey Stadium sign and it’s almost as if the heroes of baseball’s past are waving you inside.
The best seats in the house are without a doubt in sections 1 and 10. Section 10 is known as the rowdy section of the stadium, being compared to the Southsiders section during Vancouver Whitecaps games. Those who sit in section 10 are here for the romance behind baseball and you can’t fault them for being loud when a home-run is hit out of the park.
During this particular game and in the sixth inning, the Canadians grounds crews comes out to make sure the grass and dirt around the bases are looking as good as they did when the crowds came in before the game started. The grounds crew put on a tremendously fun rendition of The Beegees “Staying Alive,” dancing around with their rakes and even in the crowd, the twentysomethings get up and move around to the classic song we all know the words to. This is just another exciting part of the night that the Canadians give to us all.
In the seventh inning, also known as the “seventh-inning stretch” the entire stadium erupts in song and arms are slung over friends/families shoulders as the words to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, “So it’s root, root, root for the Canadia-aaans, if they don’t win it’s a shame! For it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out at the o-o-old ball game!” is sang by those young and old.
If you’re looking for a bite to eat or a cold beer, right after the seventh inning stretch it the best time. To get the full Canadians concession experience, you’ll want to order the “Fungo Dog” . Vancouver’s own Big Lou’s Butchershop teamed up with the Canadians to create the two-foot hot-dog, a feat that only the most hungry of fans dare to try and I, admittedly could only have about half of it without feeling as if I was at the Thanksgiving table.
Even though the Boise Hawks took the game 5-4, the Canadians gave them a hell of a run for their money. The Hawks led 5-0 going into the ninth inning, but the Canadians loaded up the bases with no outs where Jordan Leyland hit a two-run double followed by an RBI single by Mike Reeves to make it 5-3. Another RBI by Justin Atkinson made the game 5-4, but Hawks pitcher Tyler Bremer struck out Andy Fermin. Bremer picked up his third save of the season. If some of that language is confusing to you at all, you’re not alone. There were some fans in the stadium tonight who aren’t interested in stats, it’s the passion these young ballplayers have that they come to watch.
The excitement you can almost see flowing out of both dugouts, eagerly waiting for their turn to bat, chasing the dream of one day playing in the Major Leagues beside those who’ve inspired them to get where they are now. It’s the same for the younger generation who are watching these players from the stands, those who bring their glove to the park (this is a must), who don’t ever miss a game, those who trade baseball cards at lunch or recess, who have Jose Bautista’s jersey on night and day. It’s a beautiful realization that can only be obtained by coming out to Nat Bailey Stadium and enjoying a night of baseball. If you come on any number of the nights that have a fireworks display, it’ll be an even better experience for you. “A great end to a great night,” says Jeff to his girlfriend Alexis, who are sitting beside me watching the sky light up. Truer words were never spoken, Jeff.