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It’s hard not to be a cynic when it comes to major league sports in Toronto. We have lived here more than 15 years and the current Blue Jays run is the first time any of the Big Three – Leafs, Jays, Raptors – have legitimately contended for a championship run.

Sure, in 1999 and again in 2002, the Leafs made the conference finals: losing both times. But there was no genuine sense that those were championship teams. This year’s edition of the Blue Jays feels different.

It kind of sucks to live in a major-league city for this long without experiencing the excitement of a meaningful playoff run, and I mean that from the perspective of a dad with two sports-loving sons whose rooms were generously adorned with every manner of Toronto team swag, such as to assure Richard Peddie has a long and prosperous retirement.

As a family, we’ve endured more sporting rebuilding projects than Habitat for Humanity with precious little to show for it other than Mats Sundin posters and now-anonymous Raptors bobbleheads.

Until now. And now, we have Blue Jays Fever.

With Laura out in B.C. working for a few days, my evening routine has settled into GO Train >> Metro Supermarket >> BBQ >> spinach salad >> Blue Jays on in family room >> Blue Jays on in kitchen >> Stereo Loud >> texting with the boys at school as they watch too.

Last night was especially cool because Chris had tickets to the game – and not just tickets, but seats in the TD Fan Zone in the 200 level right behind home plate.

jays pano

Pad was sending me texts and Snapchats of him and his roommates in Halifax studying (not so much) and following the game (one roomie in the middle of the living room swinging at pitches from the Yankee hurler) and generally having fun.

Just like hockey in May, there’s something special about baseball in autumn when the games matter. The air is cooler, the shadows longer, and hope truly does spring eternal when Buck gets excited, which is on every. Single. Pitch.

As a parent, I was excited for Chris last night getting to attend that game because it was a game that mattered. He doesn’t know it now, but I think he will someday tell the story of this autumn to kids and grandkids with last night as an anchor. This is a real pennant race with a real team.

It’s too bad they lost, but he got to BOO A-Rod in person, so there’s that.

I’m a fair weather Jays fan but I’m on for the ride now and I hope for my kids’ sake they find some magic to carry them into October.

If you don’t live in this part of the world, I’ll tell you the city is besotted with the Jays right now. You can’t pick up a newspaper, surf to a web site, turn on the radio or watch the TV news without hearing all Jays, all the time. Adults are wearing Jays hats and jerseys to work. Kids are wearing them to bed.

This is what having a winner feels like. We just didn’t know and even those who knew had forgotten.

Never mind last night’s loss. Today is another day. It makes me think that if – IF, big big IF – the Leafs ever, some day, made a Cup final, southern Ontario would spontaneous combust from the energy.

So for now, Go Jays.

– – –

Still with baseball, if you want to read a book that will put you in a baseball frame of mind, pick up The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood.

It’s a warts-and-all telling of the Yankee legend’s life and it was an amazing life that left me wondering what the guy might have been if he hadn’t spent so much of his life dead drunk.

The story is meticulously reported and well told – there are grand swaths of glory and greatness amid the personal carnage of the man’s life.

And at its core, it’s still a baseball story. Seven World Series wins, three MVPs, the amazing home run derby with Roger Maris     in 1961.

It’s brilliantly written and meant to be read in the fall.

– – –

Life at the gym continues apace.

Tuesday was flop-sweat off my earlobes spin class – which I mercifully had to bail out on five minutes earlier to catch an early train for a meeting.

Some of us old guys are working very specifically on motion, balance and flexibility exercises, which means muscles that I didn’t know I have are getting a wake up call after a couple decades of lounging.

In the last week or so I’ve noticed an improvement in my running – pace, stamina, gait. I’m no Kip Keino but I’m finding my legs. I still hate running, just so we’re all clear about that.

We finished today with Prowlers – the prowler in a sled we push the length of the artificial turf surface in a relay race format. If you’re doing it right and hard enough, your heart will be trying to claw its way out of your chest and you’ll be looking for a bucket to hurl in when you’re done. It’s a great feeling.

Wrapping up the workout with prowlers gives new meaning to the words: “I’m done.”