At 7:05 p.m. ET on Friday at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, the Blue Jays' Jesse Litsch will deliver the first pitch of the game to Phillies leadoff man Jimmy Rollins, as the Phillies' starting pitcher, Roy Halladay, will sit on the bench close to whomever will be the Phillies' designated hitter. And with that, a unique three-game series in baseball history will begin.
In baseball annals, this is not a big deal, many games have had to be transferred from one city to another for a variety of reasons, be it weather, ballpark construction, etc. But this is the first time that an interleague game has been moved from one team's park to the opponent's park. The Blue Jays will wear their home uniforms, will bat second and the DH will be used. The change in schedule was necessitated, and announced in May by Major League Baseball, because of security issues in Toronto due to the G20 Summit on global economy.
"It's definitely going to feel weird in a lot of ways," said Blue Jays infielder John McDonald. "Being the home team is going to feel weird, our pitcher pitching in the top of the first inning, going to the field first, and we have the DH. It's going to be a quirky game."
Indeed. The Phillies have extended as many courtesies as possible to make the Blue Jays feel as if they are at home since the series was supposed to be played at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. The Blue Jays will take batting practice first, as they would at home.
"It's really going to be strange," said Phillies catcher Brian Schneider. "I looked at the times to show up Friday and we don't have to be on the field as early."
The walk-up music that is played for each Blue Jays player before each home at-bat will be played, as will the walk-up music for each Phillies player. The attendance for the games will be credited as home games for the Blue Jays. The Phillies' consecutive home sellout streak of 77 games will not be affected by this series, no matter the attendance, and the streak will stay at 77 until the next real home game (July 5 against the Braves).
But according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the statistics of the game will be considered as coming from a home game for the Phillies. So, if Ryan Howard hits three home runs this weekend, they will be considered home runs hit at home. And the Phillies will dress in the home clubhouse, and keep the home dugout. Plus, the Blue Jays' mascot (Ace) is not expected to be in Philly.
A big change in this series will revolve around Halladay, who spent his entire career with the Blue Jays before being traded to the Phillies this past winter. This was to be the weekend that he was to return to the Rogers Centre for the first time as a visiting player.
"It might be a bad break for us because I wish Roy would be batting and we would have a DH," said McDonald, with a smile. "But, knowing Roy, he'll get a couple of hits anyway. I think it would be pretty cool to have the DH used in all National League parks and have all pitchers bat in the American League parks. That would be more of an interleague feel."
McDonald said the only difference with the change in venue is the preparation for the game.
"The timing of the pitchers will be important because you're warming up at a different time as a visitor rather than a starter," he said. "When you're the first three hitters of a game, you have time to get ready, but when you're at home, you have to rush off the field and get ready. When you're first in the field, you have to make sure your arm is loose a little earlier."
It's definitely going to feel weird in a lot of ways. Being the home team is going to feel weird, our pitcher pitching in the top of the first inning, going to the field first, and we have the DH. It's going to be a quirky game.
”-- Blue Jays infielder John McDonald
The Blue Jays and Phillies are both in pennant races. The Phillies getting three extra home games is seen by some baseball executives as an advantage.
"They won their division by one game [in 2007] and three games [in 2008], what if that happens again this year and they've gotten to play more games at home?" one NL GM said. "It doesn't seem right."
Schneider said that a competitive advantage, if there is one, is less important than the situation.
"We heard it's a mess in Toronto," he said. "It's better for everyone that we're playing here."
"Given the circumstances, a lot of guys think it's good to get out of town," he said. "When you see the 10-foot fence around the ballpark, and know that a lot of other fences are going up, it's scary. There will be a police presence.
"We weren't going to have many people there anyway, but in Philly, we'll play before a packed house. The first time I saw the fence around the ballpark, I was glad my family wasn't going to be there. You're not sure when the protesters are going to come. There might be bomb scares. It would be tough to have a clear mind. I'll have a clear mind, believe me, eating cheesesteaks in Philly."
Tim Kurkjian is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. His book "Is This a Great Game, or What?" was published by St. Martin's Press and became available in paperback in May 2008. Click here to order a copy.