The State of the Franchise event for the Toronto Blue Jays is a season ticket holder event. This year the brass at 1 Blue Jays Way extended an invite to the Back in Blue team and a few other Blue Jays bloggers and websites to take part in the nights festivities. As seen in the wrap-up video from 2011, the night may include a chance for fans to ask General Manager Alex Anthopoulos, team President Paul Beeston and head coach John Farrell questions regarding the current ‘state of the franchise’, a meet and greet session, free food and beverage, team memorabilia and a surprise appearance by Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar. So what did 2012 behold?
To start off BIB Producer Brad James and myself headed toward Toronto early in the afternoon to secure an early arrival and hit up the Real Sports Apparel store and the Jays Shop. I was on a personal mission to get a Team Unit t-shirt to support the efforts of JP Arencibia, Brett Lawrie and others. The drive was smooth and we were at the clothing rack in no time. After a few seconds of deliberation I settled on a shirt with Lawrie 13 across the back and my decision was based solely on the fact that he is Canadian.
From there Brad and I braved the nasty wind and walked down the road to the Jays Shop to take advantage of a 50% discount they were offering. This time the both of us were on a mission to purchase custom jerseys with our number and ‘BACKINBLUE’ across the back. Fifty percent off later and with the jersey on my back it was finally time to get into the Skydome to see what this thing was all about. We entered and received a pamphlet with a brief review of the past few months and it was off to experience the night freely.
First thing on the list was to shoot an opening segment for the video package so we quickly got that out of the way. Just as quick as we shot the opening we had already met a couple of BIB fans and had a chance to chat. There seemed to be lots of beer, wine and free food flowing to everyone and that’s pretty much what filled the time while mingling until the Q&A period.
As the MC for the evening Buck Martinez welcomed us to the event we were greeted by a video package highlighting the change back to the original Blue Jays roots. So what happened during the Q&A period?
Some fans were frustrated, some seemed angry and many were very happy with the current direction of the organization. First off we listened to a fan who displayed both frustration and anger with what seemed like a lack of effort in signing big time free agent Prince Fielder.
Some asked more questions about roster moves, more specifically about the projected batting order and one guy even stood up to declare his love for the Blue Jays while wearing a DETROIT TIGERS shirt. Rightfully so GM Alex Anthopoulos called this man out for his apparel choice which was one of the highlights of the night. The entire Q&A session lasted about an hour and some fans were left disappointed because there was not enough time for everyones questions.
With about an hour left in the night we were hoping to get an interview with someone, anyone really. With this in mind we looked around for AA, Farrell and Beeston but had lost track of where they went. Twitter follower @Bam_86 appeared and he agreed to a quick chat. He gave us his opinion on some of the things that were said and his general opinion of the event while showing the almost $800 worth of Blue Jays gear he had purchased (not including 50% off).
Soon after we found where the media scrum was taking place and gathered around to try and listen in to what was being said. With so many people around it wasn’t possible to hear what was going on but we had been told prior to the event that we could possibly receive an interview from one of the 3 men if not all of them.
AA finished with the media and before I realised what was happening I was interviewing the General Manager of a major league baseball team. The following 2 minutes flew by but what a highlight and honour it was to end up having the only exclusive interviews from him and Paul Beeston.
AA declined the option to give himself a letter grade on this past off-season instead choosing to grade himself after the season based on having yet to see the players on the field. He told me what an honour it was for him to be the General Manager for Canada’s only MLB franchise and as predicted he answered the BIB ‘who were you a fan of’ question by saying the Montreal Expos.
Next up was the team President and again we waited around while the media jockeyed for camera position. Before I knew it the light was in my eyes and I was talking to Paul Beeston. I started off by asking him our fan question and he told me how he was a Detroit Tigers fan growing up as he would frequent games with his father, often going to the see the New York Yankees featuring Mickey Mantle. Next I asked him to grade Alex Anthopoulos’ performance over this past off-season. Beeston expressed that this is not a quick-fix situation and it needs to be more long-term and must be sustainable. He said he believes his young GM has done a terrific job building a young talented team while creating a good nucleus of players.
I couldn’t believe what had just happened! While Brad and I tried to get our senses straight we quickly reviewed all of the audio to make sure I didn’t mess it up. After a brief scare we heard what we needed to and the worry was gone, we had just interviewed 2 of our 3 targets.
Unfortunately we missed out on talking to John Farrell as he had quickly retreated to his office upstairs but as far as we were concerned the night was more than a success. We had another chat with @Bam_86 before heading back to the car for a nasty drive home.
My overall impression of the event? I think it is a great thing for fans to be able to go and directly ask questions to team executives while mingling with other season ticket holders. It seemed some were disappointed with the lack of a ‘meet and greet’ time that I had seen in the previous years video but the 50% off and free food and beverage helped make up for it somewhat. Unfortunately there was no surprise appearance either but is it really a surprise when everyone is expecting someone?
The past two days have been crazy for me as I have moved and been busy since we left the Skydome. I don’t think the fact that I received those interviews has quite sunk in. Add to it the fact that I talked to Kelly Gruber on the phone today for 30 minutes and this may just be the craziest week of my life.
Brad and I can’t say enough thanks to the Toronto Blue Jays organization, Paul Beeston, Alex Anthopoulos and the people who were involved in setting up the interviews. It was a great night overall and of course one last big thanks has to go out to… @Bam_86.