The new ESPN deal requires that every MLB team gets at least 1 game on the schedule. So Toronto was given an early-season midweek game against an opponent that is invisible.
That being said, the ESPN people did their best to make Toronto, Ontario, and Canada look good.
Adnan Virk is a former TSN on-air personality that now works for ESPN. Of Pakistani descent, Virk was born in Toronto and grew up near Kingston, Ontario. Virk was assigned to do play-by-play for the game. This was Virk's first regular-season play-by-play call.
Virk supplied the telecast with plenty of Canadian flavour. Knowing that Yonge Street is the longest street (we saw the street via time-lapse photography. We saw several shots of downtown Toronto in sunlight, dusk, and after sunset.
We got a look back at Joe Carter's 1993 World Series walk-off home run, complete with the Tom Cheek radio call. Virk noted Cheek's significance in the history of the Blue Jays.
Virk's best line of the night was the way he described the reaction of the fans when Carter's blast went over the fence.
"Fans across Toronto chomping on their poutine and going wild when they saw Carter hit that home run."
Virk being Canadian made this more funny than anything else. Not sure poutine is the food I would eat in a nervous moment. Easy to spill if you get excited. Still, a damn funny line.
We saw more time-lapse photography. Virk pointed out that Toronto is hustling and bustling with friendly people. He noted that Toronto is often called the New York of Canada and the Chicago of Canada. Also, Karl Ravech back in the studio admitted to being a big fan of Toronto.
Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista were the more recognizable names plugged at the beginning of the telecast. Cabrera is off to a great start. Bautista is the pinnacle of consistency. And Jose Reyes is injured at the moment.
ESPN2 ran a graphic about how Jose Bautista was 2nd in HRs since 2010 with 25+ HR in each of last 4 seasons and a 4-time all-star. And how Bautista should be on TV a lot more. Well, ESPN has some power to make that happen.
Virk also noted that Keith Olbermann says Edwin Encarnacion is one of the most underrated players with the 3rd most HR since 2012. Yes, these players should get more publicity.
Unfortunately, the roof was closed. Temperatures were in the upper 40s, and while the sunshine was beautiful.
The crowd was excited when it needed to be, including a standing ovation for catcher Dioner Navarro when he stole 2nd base in the 7th inning, but the announced attendance of 13,569 felt light in a cavernous ballpark. Early season, still a bit cold, weekday game against an opponent still new to the American League aren't uplifting factors.
Several media sites rightly mocked the idea of ESPN2 showing Houston-Toronto on a Wednesday night. But some of that mocking was directed at Houston.
After all, the Houston Astros drew 915 TV homes for a September telecast last fall. There are more Canadian ex-pats in Chicago alone.
If the Blue Jays draw well enough, they can get more TV appearances. This game with Houston wasn't the most ideal setting to convince those in Bristol, CT to show more Toronto games.
Virk has great enthusiasm but clear this was his first attempt at play-by-play in the regular season. However, his homages to Canada helped endear him.
Virk and Perez had fun with the obligatory mention of the hotel rooms at Rogers Centre.
Perez did spend part of his childhood in Canada since his dad, Hall of Famer Tony Perez, played in Montréal, when Eduardo was ages 7-10. Perez's main purpose for providing colour is that he was the Astros bench coach last season. Balances out the Canadian element from Virk.
We'll try and pass along the TV ratings when they are out via the Twitter feed. This mentality that no one cares about the Blue Jays in the United States is laughable given that Houston, Tampa Bay, and Miami have teams that get little support.
There are plenty of Canadian expats who will eagerly watch. Baseball fans who like watching sluggers such as Bautista and Encarnacion will watch. And people such as me who think the Blue Jays deserve better treatment from MLB TV partners.
ESPN put a April weeknight game on its sister station and gave Toronto the least popular opponent in the American League. And the Blue Jays looked good on TV.
With Wednesday's win, the Blue Jays are in first place in the American League East. The Toronto Blue Jays deserve more opportunities to show the United States what they have been missing.
photo credit: ESPN2