I attended the Curve Ball for the first time this year and I have some mixed feelings. I'll just preface this by saying Jays Care is a great cause and it's not a situation where I'm thinking "give me the money back."
This was cool. No doubt. I did it in homage to the MVP and the MVP noticed via social media. I'm not sure how he found it because I didn't @ reply Donaldson. It's magic.
The only issue is that this is the closest I got to him. It's the closest I got to any of them except Russell Martin, who chatted with me very briefly and likely because he remembered me from the Baseball Canada event, an event where I was one of maybe six women. A brief conversation with Martin is all I required.
(I also accidentally flashed him with my phone. It's probably the reason everything felt weird. I had taken pictures of the turf (which is seriously bizarre) and left the flash on by mistake. I accidentally hit the button as he was turning his face, getting pictures with someone else. I now know how it feels when one tries to steal on Martin. The look of disgust and disappointment at my life choices appeared right before I dissolved into a puddle of desolation and regret. I deleted the picture, but if it wasn't part of my shame, it'd be pretty funny. His face was perfect.)
So my issue is this: I thought the point of the event was to buy a ticket (which was not cheap) and mingle with ball players. Friends of mine who were veterans of a few Curve Balls said the vibe of this event was off. The cocktail hour was on the concourse, which felt like a mosh pit, rather than on the infield like past years. Spreading people out is not usually a bad idea. Players were not relaxed, some were hiding and staff told people to stay away from them. I understand things were busy and I understand about not asking the guys to sign while the dinner was happening, but what was the point if the final result was to appreciate them from a distance? They aren't zoo animals. But I didn't want autographs or even pictures. I had a few goals- I wanted to say hi to Edwin Encarnacion, I wanted to show Donaldson my hair and ask about Vikings, I wanted to shake Dickey's hand and I wanted to take and tweet pictures of shoes (I had requests.) Each player interaction would last under a minute. It's stupid fan stuff, but it's what I wanted. I didn't even get to see the clubhouse.
People who were not executives of some sort or otherwise known were treated like lepers. Donaldson was closely guarded, I saw Dickey very briefly on the big screen and I never saw Encarnacion at all. I get being shy and I get not wanting to talk to people. I hate talking to strangers for the most part, but I do manage to get it up long enough if I have to do it professionally. Yes, they have a lot of pressure on them and yes, a lot of people want a piece of them. But it's the price of success. The organization from top to bottom need to prepare for it, and I'm including staff members with that. They also have to be very, very careful about alienating the fans that stuck with this organization for 20 years of middling success and one man shows.
I didn't pay to hear Jamie Campbell talk or eat food though both aspects were fine. It was not completely disastrous. I sat with people who were both interesting and funny. My favourites were a couple, a vintner (him) and a lawyer (her). And I had a long and interesting talk with Russell Martin Sr. at the end of the evening about many things including Cam Newton being afraid of fastballs.
Miss Sealee, the Rookie League coach who was invited to talk, was also fantastic. And was like so many women from the West Indies- somehow regal, gentle and tough as nails simultaneously. Also, the little boy she brought on stage who nodded along with her story of his Rookie League experience, like "Yeah, I wasjerk."
But I might've been better off volunteering my time (which I did last year and will likely do again) or cutting them a cheque and taking my totally awesome hair back to my room to watch the Jackie Robinson documentary on PBS. Which is what I felt like doing about half way through.
They made 1.4 million dollars that night, which is amazing and basically guarantees everyone will think this was a success, but I know a lot of people were very disappointed.