Interest in Blue Jays surging in Toronto, elsewhere

Club has sold approximately 300,000 tickets since trade for Tulowitzki, Hawkins

Interest in Blue Jays surging in Toronto, elsewhere

TORONTO -- Blue Jays fever is spreading across the country as interest in the team is reaching levels that haven't been seen since the early 1990s.

The Blue Jays have sold approximately 300,000 tickets since the club pulled off a blockbuster deal with the Rockies for shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and reliever LaTroy Hawkins. There are a number of sellouts on the horizon and more are expected in the relatively near future.

The ticket sales and television ratings are unprecedented in recent years as Canadians have quickly jumped on board to support an organization that is making a run for the top spot in the American League East.

"The reaction from the fan base has been tremendous," said Stephen Brooks, the Blue Jays' senior vice president of business operations. "We know how passionate and dedicated they are -- we saw it in Seattle, we saw it this past weekend in New York and I guarantee that we will see it this weekend against the Yankees.

"I mean, a Blue Jays roll call from the bleachers in Yankee Stadium? I've sat in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium -- those are brave fans and that is just phenomenal. Without question, we have the best fans in all of baseball."

Donaldson on sweep of Yankees

Thursday's matinee affair against Oakland is sold out and so is the entire three-game series vs. the Yankees that begins on Friday. The next homestand won't start until Aug. 28, but space for that three-game set against the Tigers is quickly running out. The Saturday and Sunday games of that series are close to being sold out and Friday night's tally is on the verge of surpassing 30,000.

A shortage of tickets is something Blue Jays fans haven't been able to complain about since the glory days of the early 1990s. The buzz has been evident across the city and it also has expanded from coast to coast with Canadians traveling from as far away as British Columbia to get in on the action.

"This is certainly the biggest surge that I have seen in my tenure," said Brooks, who has been with the club since 2009. "We all knew the potential of this club and the enormity of the fan base, not just in Toronto, but in the entire country. I've heard others use the term 'sleeping giant.' Well, it seems the giant has awakened and the sports world is taking notice."

The interest hasn't been limited to people in the stands. Sportsnet, the broadcaster of Toronto's 162-game schedule, announced on Monday that a record number of viewers tuned in to watch the Blue Jays sweep the Yankees.

Sunday's game against the Yankees averaged 1.43 million viewers, which was the highest audience of the season and the second-highest Blue Jays broadcast in network history (the top spot still belongs to Opening Day 2013, which averaged 1.44 million). Overall, Sportsnet averaged 1.29 million viewers for the Yankees games, which is the most-watched Blue Jays series in Sportsnet's history.

Winners of eight straight and in the thick of the postseason race, the Blue Jays are the hottest ticket north of the border.

"I would definitely encourage fans to act fast with tickets," Brooks said. "But most importantly, my message would be a very sincere thank you. Thank you for supporting this club over the years, for traveling hours or days to see this club play on the road, for the record numbers watching our broadcasts and for purchasing tickets to games this month and next at a rate that we have not seen in years.

"300,000 tickets sold since the Tulo trade is a staggering number considering it's only a period of two weeks. These fans deserve a winner."

For fans interested in those sold-out games, all hope is not lost. Brooks announced via Twitter on Monday that the organization has decided to open up a couple of party suites for the upcoming Yankees and Tigers series. Single tickets for those games would include food and can be purchased by calling 416-341-1635.

There's also the possibility that the club will make some additional tickets available for games that are technically sold out. Obstructed-view seats typically go on the market once all of the regular single seats are gone.

On July 28, the Blue Jays were one game under .500 and eight games back in the AL East. They entered Tuesday trailing the Yankees by just 1 1/2 games, with a 61-52 record. As the team's performance has soared, so, too has the public's interest.

"This is a passionate and educated baseball city and country," Brooks said. "I think we've just witnessed a small insight into what this city and country would be like with a postseason run. That being said, there is a long road still ahead, so I look forward to the continued tremendous support for our guys."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.