The Vancouver Province is reporting today that the Vancouver Canadians, Short Season affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays since 2011, will join the Oakland Athletics system as a full season club when minor league play resumes – whenever that is. The Canadians, for their part, say that they haven’t been informed of any affiliation transfer. But it’s reasonable to assume they’re expecting one – rumours have been circulating for about a year and a half.
MLB has taken over the operations of MiLB in the name of cost-cutting and efficiency. Part of that streamlining involved moving affiliates around so that they made sense from a geographic point of view. With only one A-ball league on the west coast, MLB clubs there were at something of a disadvantage. Earlier this fall, we had heard that the San Francisco Giants, whose Low A club is in Augusta, GA, were in town kicking the tires on the C’s.
Watching C’s games at venerable old Nat Bailey stadium were a treat – never mind the obstructed views or the dive-bombing pigeons near the top of the old grandstand. With family in the greater Vancouver area, trips to visit them always involved a trip to Nat Bailey. We took four generations of my family to a C’s game in 2018, and sat in the next to last row under the giant awning along the 3rd Base line. I had no sooner gotten seated when I felt “plop, plop,” on my newly-purchased C’s hat. My alert nephew, who was there with a baby in tow, alertly reached for the diaper bag wipes to remove the offending droppings.
The walk across carefully-placed walkway steps on the way to the pressbox offered a view of the beautiful city that was unparalleled. The Toronto-Vancouver partnership was wildly successful, with four Northwest League titles, a slew of MiLB franchise awards, and attendance records along the way. The affiliation certainly helped Toronto grow its brand, and gave their prospects a brief taste of life in Canada.
So many big leaguers passed through Vancouver. Noah Syndergaard, Aaron Sanchez, Cavan Biggio, Ryan Borucki, Daniel Norris, Kevin Pillar, Marcus Stroman, and perhaps the biggest prospect of all, Nate Pearson, all toiled for the C’s. On the last day of August in 2017, I had a premium view from the Nat pressbox as Pearson lit up the radar gun at 100, and threw a 91 mph change up. A 91 mph change up.
There are some who are blaming Mark Shapiro for this, and while he is complicit to some extent, he knows how important the Toronto-Vancouver ties are, and the Blue Jays were very happy with their marriage with the west coast. If the Blue Jays brass had their druthers, they likely would have opted to keep the C’s, but that wasn’t going to happen. Short Season play has been eliminated as a result of MLB’s changes, and with two established full season clubs at that level in Lansing and Dunedin, there was no room in the Toronto stable for the C’s.
C’s fans had it great for nine seasons. They could come home from work, and because of the time difference, catch the last few innings of a Jays game on tv before heading out to The Nat. There was magic in the relationship. And Mark Shapiro knows that, but the majority rules. If there is a criticism of the Blue Jays CEO/President, it’s that he never actually made it out for a game, and many Vancouver fans were aware of that.
For baseball fans in Vancouver, they now have full season ball to look forward to, whether it’s High or Low A (that has yet to be determined). The weather in April and May is not the greatest in YVR, but when June comes, I still expect the stands will be reasonably full, the patio tables down the right field line will have occupants, and there will be a sizeable contingent of fans in the Hey Y’all porch seats in left field. If there’s another blessing, it will be that the people who work for the C’s will now have full season employment as well.
So, farewell, C’s. I’m sure I’ll still attend a game on my next trip out west, but it probably won’t be the same.