Dear Toronto Blue Jays,
Welcome to your new season. With all the activity in the off-season, your fans have high hopes for a return to the successes of the early 1990s.
What you don't know is you have an added advantage this year, because you have an extra angel in the outfield.
My mother, Myrna, was one of your most dedicated and passionate fans. She knew all your stats, all your names, and read the sports page first every day until she got too sick to follow the game any more. She cut out the schedule at the beginning of every season, and watched every game. She worried and fretted about you like you were her own family. When young players with families were traded, she worried and fretted. When you were injured, she worried and fretted, and would call me to tell me you were fine again and playing. When you played badly, she worried and fretted. When you played well, she rejoiced. Did I mention my mom was 86?
Conversations with my mother during baseball season were peppered with comments like "I don't know what Cito was thinking..." "Jose played well tonight." and an ongoing stream of choice words and commentary for the time that Ricciardi was GM. I didn't follow baseball, but mom would tell me all about the game anyway. Sometimes, I handed the phone to my husband so she could have a cheerful talk with a like minded soul.
My mom floored her great-nephews with her in-depth knowledge and understanding of the game of baseball. She could debate the relative merits of the DH rule. She could call a ball and strike better than some umpires, and she knew that RBI and Earned Run Averages didn't matter a fig unless ball connected with bat or glove when it mattered.
We took mom to games in Toronto a few times, but she liked watching the game on television so she could hear the commentary and see the replays. Besides, the stadium music was too loud.
Last year, the skin cancer my mom had been battling started to win. Radiation triggered strokes that caused dementia. My baseball loving mom couldn't remember how to turn on the television, and if I left the game on, she often asked me to turn it off because it was too confusing to follow.
But she still read the sports page...until the very end, my mom read about her Jays.
I know my mom was only one of thousands of fans, but in the last year of her life, when everything was taken from her-her independence, her mind, her health, her dignity, her apartment, her privacy and ultimately, her life, the Toronto Blue Jays was one of the few constants that remained and continued to bring her joy.
My mom and dad were great baseball fans. They now have seats in the ultimate sky-box, and if there are a couple of odd deflections into foul territory, you can thank your angel in the outfield.