Looking at the calendar, I’ve realized that we’ve moved into November and I did some researching and found that I started the original Blue Jays from Away on November 1, 2012. That means that I’ve been writing this blog for just over a year now and I think it’s time to share some of the highlights of the past year.
First of all, one year ago, I was living in Berlin, Germany. I didn’t know where my life was going in the long-term (still don’t) but I knew that I’d be returning to Toronto at the end of November 2012. Since then, I’ve come back to Toronto, finished my PhD (feel free to call me Dr. Blue), returned to my summer “career” as an umpire, and continued to write this blog.
We started out humbly. I took my Blue Jays cap with me to a few places in Germany and the Netherlands (the photo in the “About” page was taken in Amsterdam).
I was always interested in the Blue Jays’ minor league teams. In Germany, I’d start my day looking over the box scores of the previous day’s minor league games and pore over the stats. After starting the blog, I summarized the prospects for each of those teams in the Blue Jays system and wrote about developments that I saw.
Amazingly, people started reading, especially after the 2013 baseball season started and I was writing my daily minor league reports. The folks over at Jays Journal noticed and asked me to join their crew and I have continued to maintain my work at both Journals. Shortly after that, I decided to start the Blue Jays from Away Podcast, which necessitated a change in how I was doing the blog. We left Blogger and came to our very own domain and site and here we are.
In getting here, I’ve had a great summer following baseball and writing about it. I’m glad that the blogging community has become so well developed. In my travels this summer, I haven’t heard of anyone use the term “blogger” as a dirty word (particularly by print journalists). Many of them have started to blog as well (probably mandated by their employers) and the Blue Jays blogging community is an extremely friendly and open one. I’ve been fortunate to meet compatriots like Minor Leaguer, Jared Macdonald, Chad Hillman, Brian Crawford, Michael Wray and Travis Bateman at games in Toronto, Buffalo and Lansing.
I’m also extremely thankful that the Toronto Blue Jays, as an organization, and their minor league affiliates are so open to bloggers covering the team. Thanks to this state of the union, I’ve been able to obtain press credentials to closer cover the teams in Bluefield, Lansing, New Hampshire and Buffalo. Also, thanks to the L.A. Dodgers organization and the folks at the Great Lakes Loons for getting me credentials to cover the Lansing Lugnuts on the road.
I think that the big reason people come to this site is because, through the openness of these clubs, I’ve been able to peel back the curtain a bit and get some insider information to share with you all. I’ve been able to interview players, coaches and front office personnel, talk to scouts, media and general fans. The “scouting” trips that I’ve gone on have definitely made up some my highlights to the season, even if the major league club was scuffling along for most of it.
Highlight 1: Blue Jays Spring Training
Ok. I got really lucky with this one. My parents were really generous when I (finally) finished my PhD and offered me a graduation present. I got to cross this off my bucket list and head down to Dunedin, Florida for about 9 days to watch and enjoy Spring Training. I saw games in Dunedin, Sarasota and Clearwater and was really happy to have been able to get to Spring Training in Dunedin while they’re still there. The real highlight for me was the minor league complex where I could watch the minor leaguers go about their business, trying to make the cut. I also met BP writer Zach Mortimer who sat down for an interview which helped get the word out about Blue Jays from Away.
Highlight 2: The first Lansing trip
The warmth and friendliness of all the staff at the Lansing Lugnuts really made the whole experience enjoyable. It’s a great stadium in a nice part of town and the other bloggers who hang out there really helped get me settled and feeling comfortable going into the clubhouse and interviewing the players. Lansing’s easy-going interview policies also made things easy getting some great content for the Podcast. Feel free to go through the Podcast Archives to hear from some of the great young ballplayers themselves.
Highlight 3: Freezing my ass off in Buffalo
Is this a highlight? Well, I headed down to Buffalo for a double header in early May and boy was it cold. Minor Leaguer was there and we met and chatted about baseball. I watched the game, took pictures and he counted the fans as the crowd significantly thinned out by the end of the double header. I saw Dave Bush and Miguel Batista pitch and got my first real glimpse of Anthony Gose in person. Fun Stuff.
Highlight 4: New Hampshire
My second trip was to check out the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and, once again, the folks at the club were most helpful. I enjoyed the fact that I could really feel that there was a difference between a Double-A team there and the Single-A team in Lansing. The players were older, more savvy and determined because they could see the big leagues just in front of them. It was here that I got some great interviews with Adam Loewen, Kevin Nolan, Marcus Stroman and Sean Nolin and even talked to pitching coach Tom Signore.
Highlight 5: A return to Lansing
I finally got to see Daniel Norris pitch. I had had some pretty bad luck concerning timing with pitchers but I deliberately scheduled a quickie trip to Lansing to check our Norris. I also got to see 2013 6th-round draft pick Matt Boyd. I talked to Norris briefly the day after his start and interviewed Boyd the day before his start. I also spoke to Ontario native Eric Brown and pitching coach (and former Blue Jay) Vince Horsman. You can hear those interviews from the Podcast.
Yes. I met Tim Raines. And co-interviewed him for 20 minutes or so. It was pretty great. I also spoke to Paul Quantrill and some of the Jays’ minor league front office. This was all on a trip down to Bluefield, West Virginia, which was a pretty great trip overall. My girlfriend’s parents live in Virginia and she was heading down to visit for a few weeks. We decided to drive down together and then I’d drive her into Virginia to meet her parents before heading back to Bluefield. I brought her to a couple of games in Bluefield and actually managed to see five games overall because rain had necessitated two consecutive double headers. It just so happened that several Blue Jays scouts, roving instructors and minor league brass had come down that weekend.
There’s something special about Rookie Ball. That Bluefield team was incredibly talented and the opportunity to watch some of the most raw Baby Jays who are just starting their climb through the system was pretty exciting. I also got to meet and interview several players, thanks to Trey Wilson, the media director and really enjoyed my overall experience.
Highlight 7: Interaction on Twitter
It’s great to write about the Blue Jays but it’s even better when I get a chance to talk to other baseball and Blue Jays enthusiasts on Twitter. If you’ve been tweeting at me (@Jaysfromaway), keep it up! If you haven’t, why not? Let’s talk Blue Jays baseball!
Highlight 8: A new lens
My dad picked up a new lens for his DSLR camera (which I’ve been using since my first trip to Buffalo) this summer and I think you can all tell the difference in the quality of the photos I’ve been taking. The stuff I shot in spring training was on my own point-and-shoot camera. I quickly realized that it just wasn’t going to cut it if I wanted to have some quality visuals on this site. With the DSLR’s normal lens, I could get great shots, but I had to be pretty close, or crop a photo really closely. My dad got the new lens shortly before I went to Bluefield and that was where I tried it out. Wow. When I got to the photo bays, I could get some terrific angles and shots. There were even better vantage points available in Lansing, Midland and Buffalo and I hope you can all see that there are some pro quality photos there. There are a few personal favourites scattered through this post.
Well, it’s been a year and things are still going strong. In my first post, I wrote:
“What can you expect from this blog? Ummmm Blue Jays? But basically, I’m not a professional sportswriter, so I don’t have access to anyone important. Everything that I write will be my own interpretation of information that I’ve gathered from other freely available sources. Profound? Maybe. Maybe not. A bunch of stuff to read to pass the time? Sure! Will it be well written? Hope so!
What else? If you’re looking for some SABR rattling here, you probably won’t get your fill. Head on over to Beyond the Box Score for some great numbers crunching. I appreciate (and even understand some) advanced metrics and will probably throw around acronyms like FIP, OPS, OPS+, ISO, WAR, etc., but I’m not a numbers guy.
There may be profanity. Especially if players and/or management do things to anger me. Beware. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.
Finally, I’ll try to write fairly regularly. And tweet. I’ve got a brand-spankin-new Twitter account that you can follow (@jaysfromaway). Again, profundity not guaranteed.
Aside from that, sit back, enjoy and let’s go Blue Jays!”
I don’t think I can say it much better. Happy Birthday, Blue Jays from Away. Here’s to Year Two!