As the Blue Jays take batting practice, Nicholas and Nathanael Elsasser lay their Lyle Overbay bobbleheads and their baseball cards out on the dugout roof.
“They’re in first place,” Nicholas, 11, points out.
Were you expecting that?
Does this mean they’re going to win it all?
There’s the enthusiasm of youth for you. That might also describe the Blue Jays team, a group of surprising overachievers who’ve leapt out to a 10-4 record early in the season, good for first place in the American League East.
The playoffs are a distant five months and 148 games away, but the Jays have created a growing buzz around a town starved for a winner.
“No matter where I go, people are talking about the Jays. That hasn’t been the case for a while,” said team president Paul Beeston. “The fans have gotten to the point where they’re hoping. They haven’t crossed over into believing we’re going to do it yet.”
At least they’re paying attention. After several years of early stumbles, the fast start has local fans thinking baseball, instead of turning their collective mind to playoff hockey.
“I never really gave up on them,” said fan Gregoire Picher. “I’ve just lost my interest in the Leafs.”
Yesterday, the Jays teased the Oakland A’s in a tight 1-0 victory. Their strength thus far has come mainly from faces that are probably unfamiliar to the casual follower: Yesterday’s winning pitcher, Ricky Romero, young sluggers Adam Lind and Travis Snider and surging veteran Kevin Millar.
Snider said he got a sense of the town’s renewed interest for the first time on Saturday, when he went out to dinner with friends.
“People recognized me, were coming up to me saying `Keep it up,’.” the 21-year-old said. “We all realize it’s early, but it’s good to see people excited.”
This was supposed to be a rebuilding year, which only sweetens the taste of this run of early results.