Hopes were high among Toronto baseball fans. The Blue Jays were fresh-off their first World Series win, and poised for another. Their roster was star studded with names like Alomar, Olerud, Hentgen, and Carter. The city was in an absolute buzz.
But that was long ago. The baseball market in Toronto has hit a major downfall since the 1993 World Series. The 22 year playoff drought has seen an entire generation grow up without witnessing a competitive club.
The Blue Jays’ recent success has changed the narrative entirely.
The Blue Jays have captivated an audience of college students who have never witnessed competitive professional baseball in their city by putting a winning team on the field.
“I’ve been getting into it recently. After all, the Blue Jays have been doing well,” says Alec Buenaventura, first year student of the architectural technology program at Humber College North campus.
Interest in baseball at Humber goes beyond the Blue Jays, as the number of players trying out for the men’s varsity team has been increasing each year.
“There’s been an increase the last three years,” says Denny Berni, head coach of the Humber Men’s Varsity baseball team.
“The last three years we’ve probably had about 60 to 70 kids, which is a lot different from the first few years we’ve done it.”
Along with the quantity of tryout participants, the quality of play has increased as well.
“A lot of kids probably would have tried out, but I think people now know that all the players that make the team actually played some serious baseball in the summer,” Berni explains.
“In the past we used to (get) 10 to 15 kids that never really played before. We don’t see that anymore.”
The Blue Jays have not only attracted fans to their organization, but the game itself. Several Humber students say they are interested in attending a men’s varsity game this season.
“I actually would (go),” says Buenaventura. “I actually like baseball now. It’s one of my top sports to watch.”
One devoted baseball fan says he is very interested in watching the varsity team play, but transportation is his primary obstacle.
“I wanted to (go), but it’s just way too far,” says Adam Guadagnoli, first year student of the architectural technology program at Humber College North campus.
The growing interest in baseball extends outside of Humber’s campus walls. Children and young adults across the Greater Toronto Area are enrolling in baseball programs in increased numbers.
“I run a baseball school, Pro Teach, and our summer camps are at an all-time high this year. There is no question it is because of the Blue Jays,” said Berni.
A hockey-focused city is starting to see signs of balance. With youth participation rates already trending upward, a deep playoff run could see rates sky-rocket next year. Berni is optimistic that youth baseball hasn’t peaked.
“Without a doubt I think the Jays will have a positive effect on the membership of baseball next summer,” he said.