(Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium - Vancouver, B.C.) - The crack of a bat is followed by a sharply hit baseball that soars out to left field. Fans wonder if Canadians outfielder Noberto Obeso even has a chance to keep this in the ballpark as the balls carries towards the "hey y'all!" Porch. Obeso, who has made this catch a thousand times in his mind, ignites the crowd as he leaps and brings the ball back from the other side of the fence, preserving the lead and ending the inning. As he jogs back in, an entire roster of baseball players awaits his arrival with a collection of high-fives and fist bumps at the ready - this is what baseball is all about.
As I watched Noberto delicately get mobbed, it made me realize there's so much more to sport than meets the eye and for as long as I can remember, I've watched teams come together for the ultimate goal- winning. However, I've always wondered what makes a clubhouse a place to enjoy? What makes a great team tick? How well do players really get along and does this affect the play on the field?
Obeso, just moments after his feat out in left field said "The clubhouse is my second home. It's important to have a good time with your teammates. We laugh, listen to music, even dance sometimes, it relaxes us. With so many games, it's important to have fun."
"If we get along this well now, with more time we can only get closer."
Obeso is one of the many C's that speaks Spanish as a first language but he says that regardless of the language barrier, his teammates find ways to communicate.
"All these guys are so smart and some of the guys like Kacy (Clemens) know a bit of Spanish so we find ways to figure things out."
I wanted the perspective of not only the players but some of the men who manage them day in and out so I asked third year Clubhouse Manager Jon Stewart what he feels makes a clubhouse special.
"It's 100% the people, this year especially! It's a very high character group of guys. It takes a lot of people pulling in the same direction that respect themselves and each other. It doesn't happen every year."
Jon says in his many years in baseball, he's witnessed teams before that have struggled when all the pieces haven't fit. "It's a trickle-down effect from the top to the bottom but head Manager Rich Miller, the coaching staff and these players are all phenomenal. It's only been three weeks but the connections and click that these guys have is amazing. It hasn't taken them long and that's exciting!"
Drawing on more experience, I asked 30-year veteran of the game, hitting coach Dave Pano what he thinks makes a great team and he says it's the closeness of the guys.
"When you enjoy playing together and hanging out in the clubhouse, it shows on the field."
When I asked Pano if he feels there's been an evolution in the cultivation of teams over time, he replied "The Blue Jays organization has adapted a new way of approaching their players; with attention to their feelings, personal lives and their play on the field, so there's no question that times have changed and that players have become more open with us and each other."
He adds that leadership plays a huge role in the gelling of a great team.
"Guys like Kacy Clemens, Brock Lundquist, Cullen Large and Riley Adams have so far stepped up and have shown to be stand up guys in moments of adversity."
Speaking to adversity, there's an old saying- Laughter is the best medicine. Left handed pitcher William Ouelette says that a good clubhouse always has a few comedians.
"You have to have a few guys that can make you laugh after a loss and lighten the mood." Ouelette says in his opinion that fellow pitchers Bobby Eveld and Wilfri Aleton crack him up relentlessly.
When I asked Ouelette what his favorite part of being on this team, the answer was simple.
"Cohesiveness, without question." Referring to pitching coach Jim Czajkowski and the rest of the C's organization, Ouelette states that he feels comfortable approaching anyone for anything from baseball to everyday life issues.
As I finished my interviews with the guys, one thing was more prevalent than anything- this group of guys is beyond special. Not only were they generous with their answers but they were more than willing to take time out of their busy schedules to let their fans have a chance to get to know the inner workings of a clubhouse.
So far the Canadians are 18-13 on the season and have the best home record in the league out at Scotiabank Field. They say that home is where the heart is, and after hanging around this team for even a few minutes, it all makes sense to me now whether they are playing cards waiting for the game to start or waiting at the entrance of a dugout for one of their smiling teammates who just made a highlight reel catch in left field.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.