Toronto

Toronto Blue Jays home opener: fans, players have high hopes for 2016 season

Blue Jays fans are ready to roar again as the team gets set to play its home opener Friday against the rival Boston Red Sox.

Rogers Centre expected to be sold out for Friday night’s match-up with rival Red Sox

Marcus Stroman gets the start for the Blue Jays during the team's home opener on Friday night. (Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press)

Blue Jays fans are ready to roar again as the team gets set to play its home opener Friday against the rival Boston Red Sox.

The last time the Blue Jays played at the Rogers Centre was Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, which the team won 7-1. Some 49,000 fans packed the stadium to watch that game, and another sellout is expected tonight as fans eye another playoff push.

"We can't wait to get out there and hear that crowd scream," said Marcus Stroman, the Jays' young ace who gets the honour of starting the home opener.

Stroman, who's well known for yelling at himself while he pitches, told reporters he and several other teammates feed off that excitement.

We really feel like we're the team to beat in our division and we look forward to getting back to the postseason.- Kevin Pillar, Blue Jays outfielder

"We love playing at home and the louder that place is the better we feel our chances are to win," he said.

They should have plenty of motivation on Friday.

There will also be some firsts. For example, the Jays will play their first game on the new Rogers Centre infield, which now features dirt — actually a mix of sand, silt and clay — where there was once turf.

High expectations for the Toronto Blue Jays

6 years ago
Duration 2:04
As the Blue Jays get set for their home opener, expectations are high for another golden season.

New Jays president Mark Shapiro joked that it "looks like baseball in here" as he surveyed the renovations during the team's practice on Thursday, though he admits it's unclear how the new surface will actually affect play once the game gets underway.

Shapiro does, however, like his team's chances this season. After losing a heartbreaking ALCS Game 6 to the Kansas City Royals — the eventual World Series champions — the Blue Jays enter this season with a "collective chip on their shoulder," Shapiro said. 

Expectations are high

For many Toronto fans it's World Series or bust this season. Kevin Pillar, the centrefielder dubbed "Superman" for his proclivity for diving catches, is fine with the lofty expectations.

"There's no added pressure here," Pillar told reporters at practice.

Kevin Pillar, here hauling in another surreal catch against Tampa, hasn't lost a step over the winter. (Chris O'Meara/he Associated Press)

"We really feel like we're the team to beat in our division and we look forward to getting back to the postseason."

The Blue Jays went 2-2 in their first series of the season against the Tampa Bay Rays, though they no doubt feel they were robbed of a win in the third game, which ended on a controversial call by an umpire.

All of that was left behind when the team touched down in Toronto.

"To just hear the excitement and the buzz here in the city … it's going to be pretty special," said first baseman Chris Colabello.

The Blue Jays take the field at 7:07 p.m. ET. 

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