Way back in 1995, I took a trip to Toronto for the first time, partly to see what was then called SkyDome and partly to visit the Orbit Room owned by Alex Lifeson of Rush. As you may remember, it was a good year to go to baseball games, even if it pained one to do so. Attendance was way down following the 1994 strike that cost us a World Series. For the first time since the SkyDome opened, it was easy to get tickets.
I was by myself, a suburban young man spending a week in a big city and not knowing really what to make of all of it. When I arrived at SkyDome for the first of two games I was attending, the sky was cloudy and the roof was closed. I stood outside, waiting for the gates to open. The area almost seemed deserted.
On the outside concourse, I watched as a man dressed in Blue Jays gear set up a small drum kit. Once he had finished setting it up, he began playing a catchy beat on the skins, pausing every so often to shout “Let’s go Blue Jays!”
I don’t remember whether it was because I was an Orioles fan jealous of the Jays’ recent success, or because it didn’t seem out of the ordinary to see a street performer at a ballgame (Toronto has some of the best street theater you’ll ever see), but I didn’t think too much of it. Nor did I go talk to the fellow, or drop a couple bucks in his bucket.
I kind of regret that.
I don’t know for sure if that man was Rick Donaldson, who still today pounds the skins and leads Jays fans in chants for their home team outside of Rogers Centre, but I don’t know how it couldn’t be. He’s been doing this for many years, and says himself that you should do these things for love, and then the money will come. I try to live by that philosophy with my ballpark booklets.
Watch any of Rick’s Youtube videos and he comes across as a guy who wants baseball fans to have fun. And in interviews with him, you find out that he knows a little about the game, too. There isn’t anything wrong with trying to make a few bucks performing on the street at a ballpark, but Donaldson truly is a fan.
People like Rick are what make baseball great, and they deserve to make a few dollars. Heck, the Blue Jays ought to be paying him. Baseball fans love to watch stars like Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols, men who are at the top of their game. But in the end, we just want to be entertained. Sometimes, you have more fun at a minor league game where you don’t know any of the players. Or at a spring training game that doesn’t matter.
Donaldson brings enthusiasm for the Blue Jays to every home game. He helps folks share in the love of a baseball team. Most of all, he reminds everyone that this is supposed to be fun.
So if you’re at a Blue Jays game and you hear Rick drumming and chanting, talk a walk over, drop a few bucks in his bucket and talk a little baseball with him. Tell him Kurt Smith sent you, because I owe the guy one.