Monday, August 8, 2011
The Vancouver Canadians Experience at Nat Bailey Stadium
By Ian Hunter
It's an organization shrouded in history. It's where small town atmosphere has big city ties. Last week while on vacation in BC, I visited one of the Toronto Blue Jays affiliates, the Vancouver Canadians.
Upon arrival at the ballpark, the first thing I marveled at was the location. Nat Bailey Stadium backs upon beautiful Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver. I found it was especially gorgeous inside the stadium looking out beyond the outfield where trees are very prevalent.
Admittedly, I'm not very well versed in my minor league ballparks, by the closest thing I can compare the overall look too from the stands is Labatt Park in London, Ontario. Not necessarily the ballpark itself, but the view it provides of the outlying surroundings.
Throughout the concourse, there are a wide array of food options; from your traditional hot dog to chicken fingers, to even locally made sushi. There were also a few small things they do at The Nat which you won't see at your typical ballpark.
For one, having Spitz sunflower seeds and Cracker Jack for sale were a couple of small touches I really appreciated. Given, you are allowed to bring your own food into the Rogers Centre, but to me it just makes sense to sell those things at a Blue Jays game. Luckily, the Vancouver Canadians had that all taken care of.
Another small touch I appreciated at Nat Bailey Stadium was they those cardboard trays where you could place your food in the middle, along with a couple of drinks on each side.
It's a genius idea, and I can't count how many times I've been walking around the concourse at the Rogers Centre trying to do a balancing act with a hot dog, peanuts and a tall boy.
If you travel to the corners of the concourse, there are several historical displays along the walls. It tells the story of which organizations have been affiliates with the Vancouver Canadians, as well as some displays with old baseball cards, jerseys, and a wall featuring some Canadian baseball history.
You can also journey to The Dugout, where there is Vancouver Canadians merchandise for sale. They have a wide array of caps, jerseys, shirts and other merchandise ... including Blue Jays affiliate gear as well. Or for those who can't make it to the Nat, you can always check out the Vancouver Canadians online store.
As far as the game itself, it was a very close affair the entire way through. I was very fortunate to see one of the Canadians big up-and-comers throw five innings, Justin Nicolino. He came exactly as advertised: 5 IP, 0 ER, 5 K, 1 H.
I noticed that the outfield wall at The Nat was quite high (maybe 15 feet), which means hitters really have to get a hold of one to send if out of the park. There was one well-struck ball during our game which was about 3-4 feet short of clearing the wall, but an impressive feat nonetheless.
Another thing that was very prevalent at The Nat was the amount of promotions that take place during a Vancouver Canadians season. We were there for Japanese Heritage Night, and during every C's homestand they feature former Blue Jays during their "Superstar Series Appearances".
Ed Sprague was the last Blue Jay to participate last week, making a cameo at the Canadians game. Sprague even went so far as to ask fans what to do for fun while in Vancouver. Having narrowly survived the Capilano Suspension bridge, I suggested that.
Overall, I really enjoyed the Vancouver Canadians experience at Nat Bailey Stadium. They truly make a concerned effort to ensure fans not only have a great time at the game, but that they come back again to enjoy another Canadians game.
The couple that sat next to us at the game were greeted by almost all the ushers at some point during the game, which really reiterated the community atmosphere the Canadians are going for.
It made for a very friendly environment, which every fan looks for at the ballpark. In today's sports culture, I think fan appreciation is a forgotten art that's fallen by the wayside, but the Canadians keep it alive and well.
If you're ever in Vancouver, I highly recommend taking a trip to historic Nat Bailey Stadium for a Vancouver Canadians game. Even if you're on Vancouver Island, it's definitely the right price to go inland to see the Canadians.
From what I've heard from folks on Twitter, a Vancouver Canadians nooner is an absolute must to see. So if you're there for an afternoon game, it's reminiscent of those classic day games at Wrigley Field.
Nat Bailey Stadium is a beautiful ballpark with an incredible amount of history, and you'll really enjoy the small town atmosphere at the ballpark. It's a must-see for any Blue Jays fan or baseball enthusiast.