Let's Go Blue Jays: Canadian Musicians Share Baseball Memories and Their Hopes for Toronto's 2024 Season

Arkells, Hannah Georgas, PUP, Japandroids and the Sheepdogs brace themselves for the MLB's return

Photo: Nathan Nash

BY Paul DikaPublished Mar 27, 2024

There are few events that signify the end of a long dark winter like the beginning of the baseball season.

Major League Baseball 2024's season, which technically kicked off last week in Korea, gets fully underway this Thursday (March 28), with the Toronto Blue Jays beginning their season in Tampa Bay as renovations at the Rogers Centre are finalized. 

The Jays' 2023 season ended poorly, with the team getting bounced from the playoffs two days after they started. And despite an intriguing start to the offseason, where it appeared (for a day) the team had signed Shohei Ohtani, one of the best players in the history of the game, their pursuit fell short and the remainder of the offseason was relatively quiet. 

However, hope springs eternal. With the start of the season, Exclaim! checked in with some Canadian musicians to understand the genesis of their love for baseball, their expectations for the Jays, and what they enjoy about taking in a game. 

What are your formative memories of becoming a baseball fan, and of following the Jays specifically? 

Hannah Georgas: My parents put me into a baseball league when I was around nine or 10 and I really loved it. I started playing competitively in my teens and that didn't feel as fun. The parents of the kids on the teams were too outspoken and kind of mean. I loved watching the Jays win the World Series in '92 and '93 — it was a magical time, and I think that's when I first started getting excited about them. 

hannah-georgas-blue-jays.jpgPhoto courtesy of Hannah Georgas

Max Kerman of Arkells: My first sleepover was watching Joe Carter hit the World Series-winning home run in '93. My dad coached my house league baseball teams at Christie Pits, and I later coached there as a teenager. I have memories of taking the Spadina streetcar down to the Dome with my friends Tim and David Lawrence, and sitting up in the 500s. David is now the Blue Jays' team doctor! 

Ryan Gullen of the Sheepdogs: Some of my earliest memories were watching the Jays with my Dad — '92 and '93 are some of my earliest baseball memories, which is a pretty great era to get hooked on baseball. I lived in a small town in Northern Ontario, so before we moved to Saskatchewan in 1993, my Dad took me to Toronto to see a game, which was pretty special.  Another huge memory was when I threw out the first pitch in 2015, which was very terrifying — but I actually threw a strike, so that was a huge sigh of relief. [Announcers] Buck [Martinez] and Pat [Tabler] even talked about it on the broadcast. Mark Buehrle caught my pitch, so it was amazing to meet him and lose my entire arm in his big mitts with a handshake.

sheepdogs-first-pitch.PNGPhoto courtesy of Ryan Gullen

Steve Sladkowkski of PUP: Baseball, and Blue Jays baseball specifically, forms a core of my childhood memories. One of my earliest memories, full-stop, is Joe Carter's World Series-winning home run against the Phillies in 1993. I was five years old, wearing pyjamas modelled on the Jays' uniforms, watching along with my Eastern European grandparents in Toronto's Junction neighbourhood. Shortly thereafter, I started playing competitive baseball, first at Annette Community Rec Centre and then at High Park, until graduating high school and devoting my life to the guitar.

David Prowse of Japandroids: As kids, my brother and I were obsessive baseball card collectors. I'm the younger brother, so of course I thought my brother was the coolest person in the world and always tried to copy him, so when he got into baseball cards at nine or 10, I got into them when I was six. It was a great time to get into the game in the late '80s, early '90s. I remember the trade of Robby Alomar and Joe Carter for Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez trade like it was yesterday — what a fucking blockbuster! At the time I was shocked! How could they do the Crime Dog like that? Obviously it worked out pretty well for us in the end...

How often do you try to go to games during the summer? What are your favourite aspects of seeing a game live?

Nick Dika of Arkells: I live in Toronto, so I can just hop on my bike and roll over to the Rogers Centre. I usually see around 10 games a year in person. Like a lot of things in life, the best part is who you do it with. My favourite thing about going to games is hanging out with friends and family. I got to take my little nephew to a game last year and that was fun to get to see him take it all in.

nick-dika-nephew.jpgPhoto courtesy of Nick Dika

Gullen: I would go to all of them if I could. I still usually make it to 10–15 games. I think my favourite part of the game live is the laidback pace. It's not just constantly in your face, but instead you can really settle in. Feels very social where you can really enjoy the game, talk about it with whoever you're with, and rip some beers.

Sladkowski: I try to go as often as I can, whenever we're in town, with friends or family. Something about seeing baseball up close provides further appreciation of the nuances and extreme difficulty of the game. Also, beer and snacks really hit the spot!

steve-pup-blue-jays.JPGPhoto courtesy of Steve Sladkowski

Prowse: Vancouver's Minor League team is the Jays' Single-A affiliate and the stadium is low-key one of the greatest places to spend an afternoon in the entire city. I go to multiple games at Nat Bailey Stadium every summer. Minor League Baseball is a whole different thing. It's cool seeing some young players on their way up the ranks, but mostly a Canadians game is about entertaining the audience with all kinds of non-baseball stuff. There are huge fireworks shows, people dress like different sushi items and race each other around the bases. It's a whole thing.

If you could choose one Jays batter to use your music as their walk-up song, which player and which song would you choose? Why?

Georgas: I'm going to pick Vladimir Guerrero Jr., because it was his birthday recently and I like first base. He'd walk out with my song "Naked Beaches."

Prowse: Dave Winfield, obviously. It would require a time machine, but it would be worth it. 

Dave with his Winfield Autograph.jpgPhoto courtesy of David Prowse

Kerman: Bo Bichette would be fun. He's an international man. I like his style. I like his hair. As far as the jam, the opening bars to "You Can Get It" would feel pretty good.

Gullen: I feel like you have to go with the guy who looks the most like he'd also be in your band, so I have to go with Justin Turner — but I want him to bring back the long flow that he chopped off! Special mention to Joey Votto — I'm very much hoping he sticks around, and it would be unreal to have him walk up to one of our songs. The Jays used our song as their victory song in 2015 and 2016, so as a longtime fan it was pretty mind-blowing to hear it every time they won. Made those wins feel even better. 

Sladkowski: Surely if Joey Votto makes the team he'd love to use "DVP," right? Right!? He's from the east end of Toronto! That's where the goddamn parkway is! It writes itself!

Do you or any members of your band excel at playing baseball? What positions do you play?

Georgas: We've never all played together, but they are all pretty sporty, so I think they would excel! I love playing shortstop or first. I was often put in the outfield because I was told I have a decent arm.

Gullen: Ewan and I both played baseball. Ewan is built more like a baseball player and he definitely excelled more than I did when we were kids. I like to think of myself more of a decent utility guy. I had a good eye at the plate and could put the ball in play with some speed on the base path.

Dika: Me and the other guys in the band met in university and all played on an intramural softball team together at McMaster. We certainly weren't getting drafted, but I think we did win our intramural league one year. Max and Mike like the infield, and I like the outfield as long as there's lots of action out there. If not, stick me in the infield, too.

Kerman: Yeah, Nick plays regularly and is very good. I get text messages all the time asking to sub in for a co-ed softball game, and I just say, "Text Nick. He'll do it." And he does. I love to play, too. I'm a bit of a shortstop hog. I like being in the action. Lead singers, man.

Sladkowski: I played competitively for many many years, primarily as a first baseman and sometimes as a pitcher. And for a while there I played a lot of beer league softball in Toronto, but the band keep a busy enough schedule that I had to sacrifice the softball — but not beer.

For a day, it looked like Shohei Ohtani was becoming a Blue Jay. What are your hopes for the Jays this season? 

Dika: When you lose out on Shohei Ohtani, anything else that happens is going to be a letdown, and I don't think the Jays did anything to make us feel differently. I'm personally a little surprised they didn't do more to shore up the offence, especially considering they lost Matt Chapman and Brandon Belt while the Yankees and Orioles tooled up with Soto and Burnes. That said, a lot of the analytics projections seem optimistic enough, so hopefully they can still contend and they make it back to the playoffs.

nick-dika-blue-jays-tv.jpgPhoto courtesy of Nick Dika

Gullen: I would love to see some guys live up to expectations and have some breakout seasons all together. Vladdy [Guerrero Jr.] getting back to 2021 form with everyone else excelling would be amazing. Most importantly, I want to see Joey Votto play at least one game with the team so me and everyone else can get that Votto Jays jersey!

Sladkowski: I expect them to finish with similar numbers to last year, in terms of wins and losses, but also expect that the game-to-game viewing experience will be more enjoyable than it was last year. Which is to say that I think the hitting will be better and the pitching will probably be worse. Also, I'm not sure what you're talking about with Shohei Ohtani. I certainly didn't participate in any mass hysteria that derailed my ability to focus on Literally Anything Else for Two Days. That was probably someone else you're thinking about.

Georgas: I hope they play well and have fun! 

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