Apr 28, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; Fans of the Toronto Blue Jays display a Canadian flag with a Blue Jays logo during their game against the Seattle Mariners at the Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays beat the Mariners 7-0. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
I was around 18 at the time. It was the summer of 1992 and Blue Jays fever was at an all time high. 4 million in the seats. A team you knew was a winner. There was no pessimism. It was pure, unadulterated optimism not seen in these parts since the Argos of the 70’s.
I was sitting at a slightly uneven table in a restaurant in Etobicoke. Today was another in a long line of monthly Blue Jays luncheons with the Blue Jay of the day being Devon White. He as a pleasant and affable guy who ran down fly balls that seemed destined for the corner with graceful ease. Described as petulant while with the Angels we were able to see the true athleticism of a genuine great ball player. My brother and I were stoked to say the least. My Dad had known the owners of this establishment and was able to finagle a meeting with Devon.
He was very shy. He wanted to be just another cog in the team wheel towards a championship. I couldn’t blame him for looking like he wanted to be anywhere else. It can be tough to be universally admired by millions of people. No really.
I had been accepted to broadcasting school and wanting a career in sports broadcasting. I wanted to be Tom Cheek. In my mind as a 19 year old I had it figured out that by the time Mr. Cheek was ready to retire I would be there to take the mic and run with it….well that was the goal anyway. As luck would have it Tom Cheek happened to be the MC for these events and when he walked in my jaw dropped a little.
His booming cadence lends itself to memories of many nights listening to games with my radio under my pillow. Listening to Tom paint the picture of each game with an ease that astounded me. No music in my car when Tom was on. He was a voice I had been hearing almost all my life. A guy who was always there and helped me fall in love with baseball.
I am 6’4″ and I was looking slightly up at this tall man with the WC FIelds nose and a demeanor that commands a room. I held out my hand and he gripped it like a vice and looked me dead in the eye. I asked how a lad like me could get started in this business. He was very adamant about following your gut and your heart to lead you and nurture you to your destined place. That meeting changed my life for the better and all it took was 2 minutes of his time to nail it for me.
I am honoured to have met the man, however briefly. He was legendary and truly a baseball man who has finally shone bright enough in the eyes of the Hall of Fame to now include him as a part of history. So deserving for a truly great man.