TORONTO – Sick days, last-minute vacation requests and reluctant ticket sales — those were just some of the options being considered by Toronto Blue Jays fans as the baseball team’s long-awaited playoff games were officially slated for inconvenient afternoon starts.
The timing came as a blow to many who’ve watched the team make an exhilarating second-half push to the post-season for the first time since 1993.
Game 1 on Thursday is set to begin between 3:37 p.m. and 4:07 p.m., while Game 2 on Friday starts even earlier with opening pitch scheduled for 12:45 p.m.
For Samantha Valters, who couldn’t take a vacation day at short notice, the times meant she had to put her prized tickets up for sale.
“This is the moment I’ve been waiting for over 20 years for, so it’s a real bummer,” said the 31-year-old. “It kind of ruins that high and excitement in the city when you can’t all get together and root for your team.”
Calling in sick wasn’t an option for Valters either because everyone in her office knows just how much of a Jays fan she is.
“I’m a super fan. I’m dressed in Jays gear right now. I have little bobble-heads at work on my desk,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve been at the World Series games when I was a kid and I’ve been looking forward to this for so long.”
Valters hopes she’ll be able to go to other playoff games, but notes she’ll likely only be able to make it if they are after regular working hours.
“At least they’re in the playoffs, and that makes me incredibly happy,” she said. “But you’d love to be there in that moment and feel that camaraderie.”
Afternoon games are a tradition on the playoff schedule, which is set by Major League Baseball. Several factors go into determining what time the games are played, including time zones and the number of other games on the day. On Thursday, for example, the other game is being played in the Central time zone in Kansas City. On Friday, there are four games scheduled with Toronto the only host in the Eastern time zone, making Blue Jays-Rangers the logical choice to kick off the play at lunchtime. Staggered starts also ensure that games don’t overlap for TV audiences.
Like Valters, Josh Elijah definitely wants to experience the games with friends.
The London, Ont., resident doesn’t have tickets to the games in Toronto but is determined to find a way to watch them on television with his buddies.
He has plans to leave work early on Thursday, but is still contemplating what he’ll do for the Friday game.
“I’m going to try to get out of work somehow,” he said, adding that he hoped his boss would be sympathetic. “I want to be with my friends to watch the game. This is the moment, this is the time all Blue Jays fans have been waiting for.”
The 30-year-old, who describes himself as an “avid baseball fan” said he’d certainly be burning a sick day for future games in the coming weeks if they are scheduled during the day.
Jacob Robinson is also considering time off work if more playoff games land in the middle of the afternoon.
The Delhi, Ont., resident will be at Friday’s game thanks to a well-timed day off, he and his wife won’t be able to make it to Game 1 — a situation that’s left him frustrated.
“It’s a bit of a gut punch to not be able to go to that first game, and having spent that much money to go,” he said. “It was the one I was really excited about because it’s the first time in 22 years.”
If future games are slotted for more afternoons, Robinson plans to ask his boss about possibly using some vacation time to go watch them because he feels the experience is worth it.
“This is kind of the one team I feel everyone rallies around, no matter where you’re from in Canada,” he said. “It’s not only just the team, but the excitement around it. I really just hope that the afternoon games don’t take away from that.”