The Blue Jays first attempt at a winter festival in over two decades was a hit for the fans in attendance; for media who were trying to provide coverage, it was not so much.
Over 15 000 fans came (and, one suspects, they could have sold twice that many tickets) to get their photos taken with Jays stars, have their kids play ping-pong with a prospect, or watch Buck and Pat attempt a talk show. Access to players for anything beyond that was very tightly controlled, however.
To be fair, this was not really a media event, which Blue Jays new VP of Communications, Sebastian Gatica, made clear in an email earlier in the week The Comms department, of course, has undergone a drastic makeover since last fall, and getting a timely response from the short-staffed group was a challenge.
Arriving at the event, a blogger had to vouch for a long time Toronto media member, who still covers the team in retirement. The young PR staffer handing out credentials, who was probably not even alive when this gentleman was covering the team during its World Series years, clearly had no clue who he was, but handled the situation gracefully.
Those media who were hopeful of getting to speak to some of the team’s prospects, who are often half a continent (or more) away were limited to one group interview with Ryan Borucki and Danny Jansen, which was not finalized until late in the week. There seemed to be the possibility of speaking to some of the minor league hopefuls earlier in the week, but that did not materialize.
On the playing field, however, it was a much different story. Fans lined up for tours of the Dome’s roof, the clubhouse, and the press box. The tours were all full by early in the afternoon, however. But the club had to be pleased with the positive PR that was generated, as well as by the jerseys that were flying off the shelves, and the food consumed at the concessions.
To be honest, I didn’t spend much time at Winterfest – I’m not one for lineups. The baseball fates had their revenge, however, as late-night construction on the 400 north of Vaughan created a huge traffic tie up that stretched for miles.
All in all, it was a great event for the team, and for baseball-starved, winter-weary fans.