Monday, August 8, 2011

The Vancouver Canadians Experience at Nat Bailey Stadium


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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.

10 comments:

  1. Hah, I immediately thought of Labatt Park when I saw that first photo. Go Majors. Though I somehow doubt Labatt Park carries sushi.

    That's great that you got to see Nicolino. A trip to the low minors is a risky proposition in terms of seeing real prospects.

    Looks like a great trip. Someday I'll make it to Vancouver, and when I do this is certainly high on the list.

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  2. Great post and photos, Ian! Glad you saw Nicolino, and I'm glad the weather was good the day you visited. Summer sunsets at the Nat are always gorgeous.

    They do indeed do a good job of making the whole experience friendly and neighborly. Not sure if you noticed the "get a little kid to conduct 'Take Me Out'" bit they do during each stretch, but the 8-9 year-old kid sitting in front of us on Saturday's game was picked for it. He was nervous at first and his dad gently nudged him into doing it. He "practiced" by waving his hands for a couple of innings, then did a great job when his moment came. He walked back to a big ovation from those of us sitting in his section with a big grin on his face. "That was AWESOME", he told his dad who'd been taping the whole thing. He was right.

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  3. Great post, so glad you enjoyed the experience. I run "The Dugout" our team store in Nat Bailey and notice it didn't make your mentions. Let us know what we could be doing better.
    - Rich

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  4. Great ball park. Definitely miss a lot of things about Vancouver living out east, and going to see the Canadians is high on the list.

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  5. Xave, yeah ... it must've been the trees in the background that reminded me of Labatt Park. Not sure what concessions are available at Labatt Park, but interestingly enough I've heard that they don't serve beer at London Majors games. Kind of odd for a ballparks that's namesake is after a brewing company down the street.

    Contrasoma, luckily the weather held out - I was afraid it was going to rain that night, but it was mostly clear that game. I really like how they got the kids involved, and another thing I forgot to mention was they gave out balloons for folks to blow up and let go after the seventh inning stretch. It was neat to see them all fly off at once into the air ... again, another cool touch at The Nat.

    Brandman, I took a peek through the store as well - sorry I forgot to mention that ... I was putting this post together pretty late once I got back off the plane, so there were a few things I missed.

    The only suggestion I have for the store was I couldn't find an adjustable red cap with the basic Canadians logo in the Dugout. I saw a few folks with them in the stands, but didn't see them in the store or the online shop. I'll take a peek around, but if you have any suggestions please let me know. Thanks!

    QJays, I really enjoyed the Blue Jays tie-ins out there as well. The relationship is very prevalent, and even if the Canadian's weren't an affiliate, I probably would've checked it out anyway, but just made me appreciate the experience that much more.

    And also, interesting Canadians tidbit: Scott Richmond's half brother Brandon Kaye plays for the Canadians as well.

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  6. Thanks for posting the pics and your review, Ian. I had no idea that the Jays had a minor-league affiliate in Vancouver. Looks like a great park and a good game experience - I'll have to check out a game next time I'm out west.

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  7. Roberto, thanks for the kind words. To be honest, up until the Blue Jays announced their affiliation with the Canadians this past off-season, I had no idea there was a team out there either. It's a beautiful ballpark and definitely a great place to check out if you're in the Vancouver area.

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  8. Great review, Ian. Enjoyable read.

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  9. That's cool about the balloons - I've never seen them do that, though I know that's a tradition at some Japanese ball parks during the stretch (I know the Hanshin Tigers do it), so I imagine that might be a tie in with the Japanese Heritage celebrations which were going on that day.

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  10. Contrasoma, it was very neat to watch, but from where we were sitting from behind the fence, I was wondering where the balloons were going to go, since they could only go up about 10 feet before hitting the fence. But I guess that made it pretty easy for cleanup!

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