Matthew Taylor: Ballpark franks aren’t the answer in Toronto

I can’t watch the Orioles play in Toronto without thinking of my trips to see games there in its pre-2005 SkyDome days. Both of those visits were memorable in their own right - I’m sure I’m not the only one who has neglected to convert kilometers to miles upon first driving into Canada. However, it was the latter adventure some nine years ago that nearly landed me in a Major League Baseball video.

The purpose of my trip to the Great White North was to attend an academic conference. I was a graduate student at the time about to finish up my degree, and the conference provided an opportunity to begin my job search. It also offered a convenient excuse to sneak away to the ballpark. Priorities.

Together with a fellow baseball fan and our significant others, we wandered from our nearby hotel to SkyDome to pick up tickets for that evening’s game with the Cleveland Indians.

As we searched for the ticket office, a woman approached our group and asked if any of us were Blue Jays fans. It felt like a set-up. She may as well have been a retail associate asking if she could help us find anything; our reply was a rough equivalent of “I’m just browsing,” something along the lines of “Sorry, we’re visiting from out of town.”

Still, she persisted. She was working on a video about baseball’s best ballparks and needed a man on the street to interview. I would be that man on the street.

“Have any of you been to SkyDome before?” she asked.

My admission that I had was the equivalent of standing in place while everyone else around you takes one step back. It’s volunteering by default, and I had just done it. I became the expert of the group who would go on camera to discuss the relative merits of SkyDome. As the interviewer would soon find out, my relative expertise was thin.

I should explain here why an interviewer would select someone from out of town - out of the country, even - to effuse on camera about the home ballpark. It was a weekday game in early August. The Blue Jays were on their way to losing 94 games. The visiting, post-Jim Thome Indians would fare better but still ended the season with a losing record. In other words, the game wasn’t a big draw. As much as I’d like to tell you they targeted me for my good looks, the truth was they were desperate. Isn’t that how all great relationships begin?

After receiving assurances that there were no right answers, I began the interview and bragged on a ballpark that was about as familiar to me as the metric system.

“All of these other ballparks nowadays are going with a retro look. SkyDome is different. It’s more like the ballpark of the future,” I said.

That answer seemed every bit as bad coming out of my mouth several years ago as it does now while I write it down. The interviewer offered a reassuring nod and a smile and continued her line of questioning.

Then we got to the question where I proved that there was in fact a wrong answer to be had.

“What do you like to eat when you come to SkyDome?” I was asked.

“You can never go wrong with a dog and a beer,” I replied.

My answer was as American as apple pie. The problem was we were in Canada. There was no reassuring nod this time nor even a forced smile. Rather, a quizzical look and a terse follow-up question.

“Anything else?”

“Nope. Just a dog and a beer.”

The interview ended, but my curiosity lingered as we entered the stadium and traversed the concourse: How do you botch a question about ballpark food? What exactly was I supposed to say?

As we settled into our upper deck seats behind home plate, I stared out across the emerald artificial turf. The correct answer stared back at me from the outfield walls, which were plastered with the words Pizza Pizza.

Pizza Pizza, Ontario’s largest chain of pizzerias, is headquartered in Toronto. It also happens to be a Blue Jays sponsor.

I watched Kevin Gausman stare in to get the signs from Matt Wieters last night, and a familiar name stared back at my from the green screen behind home plate: Pizza Pizza. I can only hope my interview from years ago - my slice of fame, or infamy as the case may be - ended up on the cutting room floor.

Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. His ruminations about the Birds appear as part of’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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