Saturday, January 25, 2014

A very good day, indeed

Life is a journey, not a destination. That famous quote has been turned into a cliche over the years, but it was particularly relevant to me this past Friday. I was fortunate enough to attend the 4th Annual Vancouver Canadians Hot Stove Luncheon that day, thanks to the generosity of HarbourCats owner John McLean and GM Jim Swanson. The main purpose of the lunch is to raise funds for the Vancouver Canadians Baseball Foundation and to allow children who come from low-income families to experience the joy of playing baseball. The luncheon was wonderfully supported by the Toronto Blue Jays, the parent club of the wildly-successful Canadians. The Jays, who are keen on spreading their brand from coast to coast, sent a star-studded cast of Fred McGriff, Hall of Famer Robby Alomar, Paul Beeston, Alex Anthopolous and Kevin Pillar to the get-together. It was truly a must-see event for any Canadian baseball fan.

The best jerseys in the minor leagues
To my surprise, the affair wasn't even the highlight of my day. Oh sure, it’s hard not to be charmed by the upbeat personality of Fred McGriff, especially since he was the only man in the fairly extensive Q & A session who gave answers that were even remotely candid. It’s not every day that you get to be in the same room as a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame either. Then there was the unveiling of the impressive new Vancouver Canadians uniforms, a quaint baseball-friendly proclamation by Mayor Greggor Robertson and the release of good news regarding the endangered UBC baseball program. All in all, it was a pretty darn good luncheon.

To be honest, the best part of my day wasn’t spent inside the Fairmount Hotel Vancouver, site of the Hot Stove Luncheon, but inside of a van and on a ferry. The real fun on Friday was hanging out with seven great baseball men on the journey to and from Victoria: John Wilson, Trevor Strandlund, Fraser Campbell, Steve Sinclair, Brad Norris-Jones, Jeff Fisher and Jim Swanson. For the majority of the trip, the baseball stories --  some accurate, some slightly exaggerated -- flowed like lava out of Mount Vesuvius. Sinclair, who pitched for both the Jays and Mariners, shared many a story about his days in the minor and major leagues. Swanson and Strandlund have been involved in the game their entire lives, and they only scratched the surface of some of the baseball adventures that they have been on (barnstorming to raise funds for old Negro League players? Really?? I gotta hear that one some day). Needless to say, the laughs just kept coming all day.
My new favourite ex-Phillies player

It’s easy to put a price tag on the day -- just add up the cost of the tickets, ferry, van, food and any additional charitable contributions. But what was it worth to those of us who had a chance to travel to Vancouver and back together? To those of us who reconnected with old friends and made new ones? To those of us who got to briefly escape our predictable middle-aged lives and feel like an eighteen-year-old joker again? That, dear reader, is priceless.

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