It’s here, Mariners fans: the annual Toronto Blue Jays series at Safeco Field, when thousands of British Columbians inexplicably flood Seattle to root against the closest MLB team to them geographically. I have three predictions for this year’s circus:
The Mariners open a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays tonight at 7:10 pm. Safeco Field will swell with thousands of fans. If you haven’t gotten your tickets for any of the three games yet, it might already be too late.
It’s always a circus when the Blue Jays come to town, not because there’s any kind of fierce rivalry between Toronto and Seattle, MLB or otherwise, but because our illustrious neighbors to the North annually invade Seattle and SoDo to root for “Canada’s Team.”
Indeed, since the Montreal Expos became the Washington Nationals, poor Canada has but one MLB team. And in recent seasons, that team has been respectable, even feared. The combination of these eventualities gives the Blue Jays a passionate fanbase: literally all Canadians.
Since Seattle is relatively close to Canada, many Blue Jays fans make the drive down King George Highway and I-5 to see their team take on their southern neighbors. Canadians have reputations for being friendly do-gooders, but when it comes to baseball, they’re like any American fan: more dangerous in numbers, and a risk to get belligerent. Mariners fans don’t usually take kindly to the Canadian invasion every summer:
I find the Blue Jays – Mariners rivalry strange because of geography, but I can’t make people root for one team or another.
It will likely be an eventful three-game series at Safeco Field. Let’s predict a few of those events:
1. The Mariners will win two of three
First, a prediction for the action on the field. The Mariners are hot. A 2-1 loss to the Twins last night ended a five-game winning streak and put Seattle one game under .500. It’s been a long climb for both Seattle and Toronto into contention. The Blue Jays were all but finished at the end of April. Only their own hot streak has kept them alive.
The Mariners have improved since their April and May struggles, especially at home. Even though they will be playing in front of a Canadian crowd, they should win two games against a squad that just dropped two of three in Oakland. The Mariners will miss Toronto starter Marco Estrada, who, other than a pitfall in his last outing, has been effective much of the year. They will see Marcus Stroman, but the other starters, Joe Biagini and former Mariner J.A. Happ, are beatable.
2. Tensions at Safeco will run high, but there will be no reports of actual violence
Maybe I’m just being overly hopeful. Blue Jays fans have already accused Safeco Field and the Mariners of price gouging them. Whether it’s an intentional dig at our newest Northern rivals, an attempt to keep Canadians from the stadium, or just a smart business decision, ticket prices are indeed higher this weekend than other series.
I’ve seen reports of Blue Jays fans acting badly at Safeco Field. I’ve seen tweets suggesting as much from last season. But these tensions have yet to boil over into violence between fans. I’m sure Mariners fans can be just as obnoxious to those visiting Seattle to root for the Jays. I believe we won’t get on the national news for some awful incident at the ballpark this weekend. Baseball is supposed to be fun, remember? Badger the Toronto fans, sure, but make sure it’s all in good fun, please.
3. Jose Bautista will flip a bat on an out
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This prediction is what I’m talking about. I hope to razz a few Blue Jays fans with this.
Picture this, Mariners fans: Jose Bautista, recently awoken from his horrible slump to start the year, blasts a ball to deep center field. He thinks it’s a home run, and, feeding off the tense energy in the stands, flips his bat in admiration of his deep fly.
But Jarrod Dyson doesn’t give up on the ball. He climbs the center field fence, somehow getting leverage from a foothold only he can see, catches the ball a full arm’s length over the wall, and manages to not flip himself over it. The look on Bautista’s face: priceless. The quiet that falls with a smattering of cheers for the Mariners: also priceless.
If you’re going to any of the games this weekend, ask the Blue Jays fan sitting next to you to explain their patriotic love of a team based thousands of miles from them (they will probably be from Vancouver or the surrounding area) and try to convert them to the cause of a fellow Pacific Northwest team. They probably won’t budge. Canadians are extremely patriotic. But it couldn’t hurt. Remember that they are also rabid Seahawks fans, too.