Early risers get Blue Jays autographs


* Hamillton’s Shawn Giles explains to Dan Gallagher how he awoke at 4:45 AM to drive to Toronto’s Eaton Centre and line up to get Jose Bautista to sign a base from the 2013 all-star game at Citi Field in New York. ….

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By Danny Gallagher
Shawn Giles got up out of bed about 4:45 Saturday morning at home in Hamilton, packed some autograph memorabilia together, threw it in his car and drove roughly an hour to Toronto’s Eaton Centre.

When he got there about 6, he figured he would be one of the first in line to get autographs from a number of Blue Jays when the session began five hours later.

Not so but it wasn’t too, too bad.

“There were about 100 people ahead of me and they said there were 500 by 9 o’clock,’’ Giles told me, smiling after getting Jose Bautista, R.A. Dickey, Aaron Loup, Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.) and Todd Redmond to put their John Henry on some of his goods.

“Bautista is the biggest star on the team and probably the nicest guy of the whole bunch,” said Giles, “He’s my idol. He really impressed me today. I had a base I State Farm Home Run Derbypurchased at the 2013 all-star game at Citi Field (home of the New York Mets). Jose played in that game. There were only 100 of these bases made, so I got him to sign the base. It was great to come here and see how these guys are in real life.’’

The autograph session was planned as part of the Jays’ winter tour which kicked off Friday and will continue with stops in Calgary, Banff and Vancouver. The Eaton Centre session went on for 90 minutes and was held on the second floor outside the Pink store, a home run away from the Jays’ store in the mall.

Around 9:10 on the team’s Twitter account, the Jays said they were cutting the line of autograph seekers because of the large turnout. Each fan was allowed to get one autograph from each player and no staged photos were permitted.

“I’d do this again in a heartbeat,’’ Giles said. “This is not for me. It’s for my kids.’’

On Jan. 20-22, a different group of Jays are in Calgary and nearby Banff.

Tuesday: Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Kevin Pillar, Drew Hutchison and Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar will visit the Alberta Children’s Hospital and sign autographs at the CrossIron Mills Mall.

Wednesday: The same group will take a field trip with a group of students from Banff Elementary School and take a private gondola ride at Sulphur Mountain to get a view of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

Thursday: A luncheon will be held at the Fairmont Palliser Hotel in support of the Okotoks Dawgs Youth Academy and amateur ball in Alberta.

The Jays’ tour continues Jan. 23-24 in Vancouver.

Friday:Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.), president Paul Beeston and general manager Alex Anthoupoulos and will join Sanchez and Hutchison at the Vancouver Canadians Luncheon at the Fairmont Vancouver Hotel in support of the Canadians’ foundation, Little League Canada and Challenger Baseball.

The same day the Jays will be conducting a three-hour, youth baseball training clinic for 80 pre-selected players at the Richmond Oval in partnership with Baseball B.C.

Saturday: It’s onto another 90-minute autograph session in the Grand Court at Metropolis at Metrotown in the suburb of Burnaby.

And what do people in the Great White North want to happen next?

Bring on spring training.

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