The Story

**NOTE: If you are interested in reading a condensed summary of the information below, please click here to read the frequently asked questions instead.**

Below I describe my journey from start to finish.  It is a lengthy read, but if you’re interested in getting the full experience of what it feels like to run on the field, I recommend checking it out.

Before telling my story, I would like to clarify one or two things.  A lot of people have asked, “Why, Joe?  Why did you do it?”

I could easily reply, “it was on my bucket list.”  But, that’s the easy way out.  There is a little more to it than that.   You see, I’ve lived a pretty rigid life.  Followed the rules.  Studied hard, received a great education in a great country (for the record, I don’t like Canada, I LOVE Canada). I have been fortunate to travel and experience the realities of life in different contexts, which has been a great eye-opener for me in various different ways.

Eventually, you come to the realization that life is short.  And if you blink, it might pass you by.   I reached this point in my life, and did something quite uncharacteristic and spontaneous.  Some may consider it a “quarter-life crisis.”   To me, it was a reminder to myself that I cherish the moments in life that make people smile, and that occasionally breaking the rules isn’t the end of the world.

Also, being a Toronto sports fan is nerve wracking.

 

Background

May 5th 2013 was a gorgeous day.   I had no set plans, so when a friend called to ask if I was up for going to a Jays game at 1pm, I said, “sure, why not?”

Together, we began the short walk to the Rogers Centre (formerly known as the Skydome), meeting another friend along the way.

Once we arrived at the Rogers Centre, we purchased our tickets.   One friend in particular was adamant about getting 100-level tickets,  in the sun.  I had no qualms about this, as it was a beautiful day.   My only concern was the lack of sunscreen I had.

Once in the stadium, we sat down to watch the game.  A couple of hits here and there, and at one point it looked like we might even win the game.   Periodically I instagrammed.  Other times I lurked social media.   What’s this?  Another friend having a baby.  Oh great, somebody else posting wedding pictures.  How lovely.

At some point during this time, it became blatantly clear to me that if I were to ever do anything as crazy as interrupt a baseball game, this was probably one of my last opportunities before life got truly serious.

So, without saying a word to my friends, I got up and strode towards the stairs.  I walked around for a couple of minutes, eyeballing some potential spots from which I might be able to hop onto the field.  I chose a section with a wall that looked relatively easy to scale. I had about 50 steps to walk down before I reached this wall.

I began my descent, but was immediately stopped by an usher.  “Excuse me sir,” she said. I panicked, but kept a calm and cool composure.   “How did she know?” I thought to myself.  In fact, she was simply stopping me from going down while a play was in progress. Oh.  What a relief.  I made some small talk with her, and when the Seattle Mariners were switching hitters, I continued down the stairs.

For the next few moments, I experienced complete internal chaos. My brain was panicking, but at the same time it was trying to make sense of what I was about to do.  As each step brought me closer to the wall, I was able to shut out all the noise.  The decision had been made, and I was about to jump start one hell of a ride.

 

The Jump

“Oh. My.”

“Oh. MY.”

“OHHH. MY. GOSH.”

Those were the last words I heard before I jumped over the pillar that separated me from the field at the Rogers Centre during a Toronto Blue Jays baseball game.   The next thing I knew, I was sprinting full speed from 1st base to 3rd.   Along the way I attracted company so I began sprinting towards home plate, hoping to slide in as my grand finale, and ultimately go limp so that I could be arrested without injury.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, I had a moment of complete tranquility during my escapade.   Everything in my mind was silent.   Bills, life choices and future endeavors were completely forgotten.  Even my level of consciousness was skewed. I was simply living in the moment, completely carefree.  The sounds of the stadium were mute.  Perhaps it was the surge of adrenaline throughout my body.  Or maybe my mind knew that these were my last free moments before the consequences of my actions would kick in.

In any event, my calm Zen-like demeanor was quickly shattered by the tackle of security personnel who had caught up to me from every conceivable angle at about the same time.   Before I could realize it, my face was buried in turf and a knee was pressed firmly into my back.

With my hands behind my back, the cuffs went on fairly quickly.   I remember hearing muffled sounds; communication between Rogers Centre security and police.   “Are you OK to take him?” “Yeah, I’ve got him.”  “OK, let’s get him up in 3…2…1…”  And just like that, the sights and sounds of the stadium came alive.   My sensory perception had been restored.  The professional baseball players looked quizzically at me.  Perhaps they wanted to get a glance of the “crazy person” responsible for interrupting the 8th inning. There were 20,000~ fans present that day; I’ve never experienced such raw energy raining down on me.  The cheers were deafening.

My thoughts during these fleeting moments were:  “Maybe this is what it feels like to score a run as a major league player.”  Except I wasn’t a major league player.  And I didn’t score a run.   Instead, I scored a first class ticket to jail.

 

The First Stop

My first stop was deep within the Rogers Centre.   I was brought to what looked like a makeshift Toronto Police command post, with exposed plumbing and shabby concrete walls, which had been painted white and were peeling badly.  A police officer was sitting at a table.   He had access to footage of the stadium and field from many different angles.   He didn’t say much, as he was busy preparing paperwork and dealing with the radio communication that was going back and forth between various parties.

The Rogers Centre security personnel, on the other hand, were pretty chatty.

“Why? Why? Why?”

“Hope you like to get your ass kicked in the drunk tank.”

“You know it’s a criminal offense, right?! RIGHT?!”

 

This went on for what felt like an eternity – particularly the emphasis on how I had committed a criminal offense. They began to sound like a broken record.

Cry me a river.   I knew the trouble I was in.  But I kept my thoughts to myself.   No need to stir the pot with the same people who just moments ago had chased me down and tackled me.   I wasn’t even drunk.   I hoped this would be enough to spare me from the “drunk tank” that they seemed so happy boasting about.

The arresting Toronto Police officer (the one who cuffed me on the field) was completely relaxed, and never said anything negative.   In fact he was the quite opposite - a real cool, calm and collected individual.   I could tell as long as he didn’t leave me alone with the Rogers Security personnel, I probably wouldn’t get a punch to the face.

A man who resembled Don Cherry and seemed to share his fierce pit bull attitude barged into the room.  Considering he looked 80, I was impressed with his energetic personality.  He took one look at me, and his facial expression conveyed sheer disgust.  He didn’t like me.   And I didn’t like him.   This guy wasn’t happy.   He made it clear in many ways.  “WHERE WERE YOU SITTING?” he barked.  I had no clue, but I waited a couple of seconds to answer him.  “No idea, sir.”  “No idea?  Or you just don’t want to tell us??!” he shot back.  This guy looked like he would take pleasure in breaking my knee caps.  And he looked capable of doing it.   “Has he been searched?”  “No.”  “Get up!”   Then and there, they went through my pockets.   I wasn’t sure what to expect, but thankfully it wasn’t anything too intrusive.   I quickly realized what the “pit bull” was looking for.   He wanted my baseball ticket.   I didn’t have it.   This seemed to enrage him even more, but he left shortly afterwards.   As he was leaving, he looked at me.   I remember the flames in his eyes, and I think I saw a glimmer of smoke coming out of his ears.

Apart from that odd encounter, the Rogers Centre security weren’t bad.   The one who ultimately read me my trespass notice was cool.   As an aside, the trespass notice is a paper the size of a parking ticket that says I am not to return to the Rogers Centre.  While the security guard was reading his script, he even apologized for banning me.   I had to tell him not to apologize, that it was my own damn fault.  Multiple times!  But he seemed upset with himself that he had to ban me from the stadium.   I imagined deep down inside that he must be a huge baseball fan.  And it tore his heart that he was banning me from such a joyful sport.   At least that’s what I made up in my own head at the time.  Who knows, really?

Another Rogers Centre staff member shoved a digital camera in my face and took a mug shot. “Don’t come back, we have a picture of you now,” he said curtly.   Talk about efficiency.   Swiftly, the memory card was ejected and given to some guy with greasy spiked white hair, who looked very angry.  Sure enough, it was the same guy from earlier.   He had weaseled his way back into the room, and the fire of a thousand burning souls was still visible in his eyes.

Before transporting me to a cruiser, the arresting officer read aloud my Miranda rights.   Think of the show COPS on FOX TV, and that’s basically the gist of it.    Further, I was informed that I was being charged with a criminal offense.

C.C. 430(1) (c) Mischief – Wilfully interfere with the use, enjoyment or operation of property.

This was a big deal.  I was to be transported to 52 Division for processing, where they would take my mug shot and fingerprints and eventually release me on a promise to appear.

 

Botched Transportation to the Police Station

Next up came a radio call to the arresting officer.   A car would be waiting outside of Gate 5 to transport me to 52 Division.   Perfect, this was good.  The sooner I would be processed at the police station, the quicker I would be “free” to go back to my regular life as an unassuming adult.

We had to walk outside to the cruiser.  The arresting officer led me out, my hands still cuffed behind my back.   The baseball game had just ended, and Blue Jays fans were outside in full force.   As the arresting officer directed me toward the road, people started yelling.  “That’s the guy!!  Holy shit, take a picture.”  Throngs of cell phone cameras came out.  We were surrounded.    I took one look at the arresting officer.   He looked genuinely concerned.   He was uneasy.   I could feel it, too.    The police car that was supposed to transport me hadn’t made it, so I offered to take a taxi to 52 Division instead.  His plan was slightly different…  “BACK INSIDE!!!”   We briskly walked back (or shall I say pushed back) through the crowd of people into the “safety” of the Rogers Centre.   Thinking back, my wallet had been seized during my arrest – so the taxi ride would have gotten awkward with my lack of cash.

Back inside I made small talk with the arresting officer.   I think at one point somebody called him to see where he was, perhaps to figure out if he would be home for dinner.   I felt like a dick. I didn’t realize that I would be such a burden to a guy who an hour ago was comfortably watching the Jays game in the best seat in the house.  But alas, I was that dick.

At one point a colleague of the arresting officer stopped by.  “Get the tape.”  “Excuse me?” “Trust me.  Get the tape.  You can play it back during your retirement party, it’ll be awesome!”   I wasn’t included in this conversation, but I couldn’t help laughing.  Interesting, I thought.  I wondered if I would be invited to his retirement party in 20 years…but if not, at least I would make an appearance on video.  Maybe.

About twenty minutes later, the arresting officer locked eyes with the driver of a police cruiser motoring slowly down the ramp to the Rogers Centre.   Once they were ready they brought me by the cruiser and did another search.   Again, nothing intrusive, just some pocket grabs.  They explained everything to me before any grabs.  They were looking for sharp objects.  I appreciated their professionalism.  The cruiser that was to transport me to 52 Division was driven by a duo.   I didn’t realize it yet, but leaving the stadium was about to become an adventure in itself.

“Man, I’ve never driven down here before,” the officer who was driving soon said.  Ah, words of confidence.   It didn’t take long before he admitted that we were lost.   We ended up in an area that could hardly fit a car.   At one point he thought about reversing, but he decided to continue forward.   I couldn’t argue with his optimism.   We were surrounded by Rogers Centre employees.   They looked shocked to see a cruiser driving along the pedestrian path.   But they were also absorbed with returning what looked to be their uniforms before leaving for the day.

We barely made it out, but his driving skills were impeccable.  With the help of his partner who adjusted some mirrors, we were on our way.   Bravo.  I was impressed.   It was a leisurely cruise back to 52 Division.   The conversation in the cruiser was optimistic.

“What do you do for a living?”  Unsure if I should answer, I made some small talk first.   I didn’t want to say anything that might implicate me further.   But after awhile, I got the vibe that these two officers just wanted to chat.   Sometimes you have to trust your gut.    So, I told them some details about my profession.  This led to a conversation about social media.  Ultimately the officer who was driving shared with me his love of Latin music.

We listened to some music while the booking sergeant was getting organized.  I had to sit in the car and wait.    His partner cracked opened the doors of the cruiser and let some air flow in while asking if I wanted a sandwich.  I declined, feeling guilty at the thought of eating a sandwich on the taxpayer’s dime.

Shortly afterwards, the officers began talking amongst themselves.   “Did he do it during the game, or after?”  Apparently, there is a big difference in terms of charges.   “During.”

“Was he naked?”  “No.”  “Ok good.”

They knew I was listening, so they started bantering about “cutting me loose.”   “Ahh c’mon Chief, let’s just release him.  No one will know.” I felt a wave of relief, which faded when I quickly realized that they were joking.

 

Processing at 52 Division

Eventually I was brought in for processing, to a dull room with a visible ceiling camera.  A whiteboard hung behind the booking sergeant, with two names written on it.  It appeared to be a slow day at 52 Division, which worked in my favour for speedy processing.

The calm atmosphere and joking tone of the officers quickly changed once the cameras were turned on.   “OK Joe, we need to ask you some questions.   Please respond by looking in the camera.”

“Have you ever attempted to commit suicide?” “No.”
“Have you ever thought about it?” “No.”
“Are you a harm to yourself or others?” “No.”

Booking Sergeant:  “What type of a search will we be performing today, officer?”

This is where I momentarily got nervous.  It didn’t register with me at first that they would have to do a thorough search of my body.  Was I about to get strip searched?  I had no idea.  Would I still have dignity by the end?  I was uncertain.  The next part unfolded something like this:

“Sergeant, the suspect has been co-operative during capture.     Further, after CPIC and other various database searches, I have confirmed that this is the suspect’s first dealing with the police.  [SIDE NOTE:  A few additional justifications were brought up, but I cannot recall them.]   Therefore due to these conditions, I request a level 2 search of the suspect.”

Sergeant: “Ok, level 2 search permitted.”

PHEW!!   The level 2 search was a walk in the park.  A couple of pocket grabs here and there while remaining clothed, and that was that.   I didn’t want to even think about how badly that could’ve went in terms of level of awkwardness.   It’s not that I’m ashamed of my body, but having some random stranger perform a strip search isn’t my idea of an exciting Sunday afternoon.

Camera off.

“Let’s get you into the holding cell for a bit while we prepare paperwork.”  At this point I was paraded through 52 Division, into an elevator and through an empty office area.  Finally I arrived at a desolate holding cell.  I was asked to remove my shoes and was quickly searched once more time.  Standard procedure, I was told.  Once inside, the door was closed. The room was damp and dirty, with a metal chair and a metal desk.  Carved into the desk with a sharp object were the words “2 PAC.”  My hands were cuffed.   After about 5 minutes I started to get restless.  How long would I be in here for?   My arms started to hurt.

I immediately began to think how depressing of an environment this must be for the countless individuals who pass through the doors.   Have a mental illness?  I hope you never end up here, because as a sane person I wasn’t feeling too healthy after 5 minutes.

Finally after what felt like an eternity (more like 45 minutes) I was brought back downstairs.   Paperwork complete, I was placed in front of the camera while an officer explained my charge.  I had to agree to certain conditions, such as letting the police know about any address changes, and to stay out of the Rogers Centre.   Finally, just when I thought I was going to be free, I was placed in yet another cell.   This one was bigger.   It had a metallic toilet.   My handcuffs were taken off.   What a relief.  But bigger isn’t better.  This holding cell was dank, with damp, dirty ceiling tiles.

A short time later I was led out.  It was time for my mug shot and fingerprints to be taken.   I found this to be more tedious than anything.   While my picture was being taken, I was told to look left and right at  X’s that had been strategically placed on the walls.   Somebody at one point had kissed the X, because red lipstick was still visible.   Probably from the night before, I thought.

The fingerprint process was annoying.   The machine used is very precise, and requires strict finger placement on a flatbed scanner while the booking sergeant uses the entirety of his body weight to push each of your finger down, one by one.   I thought at one point we were going to break the machine.  Or my hand.

After he had processed each print, he handed me a paper.  “Here, you’ll need this.”  It was a paper outlining how to have my mug shot and prints destroyed if my criminal charge was dismissed.   I felt like he was foreshadowing something, but I wasn’t sure.

Finally, I was led to a door at 52 Division.   “Best of luck to you, Joe.”  And just like that, I was back amongst the masses, free to be me.

 

My Court Appearance

Weeks went by before my case was to be heard at Old City Hall.   The first week of being released was difficult.

I didn’t realize that having a criminal charge hanging over my head would cause me such concern, but it did.   My focus wasn’t as sharp as it used to be.   Thankfully, this subsided after a week or two.

I arrived at Old City Hall a couple of minutes before 11am.  I was seated beside 30 other people.   The prosecutor began with a speech directed at us all.   The majority of us were “first time offenders.”   We were told that today, we would receive disclosure.   Basically, this means that the crown prosecutor hands over all the materials that they will be using to prosecute your case.   I was surprised to realize that the majority of people around me had been charged with DUI, and they all looked incredibly depressed.  The crown doesn’t cut deals with DUI suspects, and they were there for the long haul.

After each person had received a disclosure package, the crown prosecutor had one last important announcement.   “We need to see the following four people downstairs.”  It just so happened that I was one of the “lucky” four.

I proceeded downstairs, where I sat on a bench beside a man who had also been charged.  He looked over at me, and asked what I had been charged with.   My response was something along the lines of: “I ran on the field during a baseball game, yeah, at the Rogers Centre.”  His response, “You can get arrested for that?”

I was curious to know what he had been arrested for, so I asked him.  His response: “Oh, I stole a couple of things.”  At this very moment he was called in, and I didn’t see him again.

Finally, it was my turn to speak with somebody in the basement of Old City Hall.  “The crown doesn’t want to proceed with your case,”  were the first words I remember hearing.  “Instead, we would like you to take a deal.”  This is where things went sour.  They wouldn’t explain the deal unless I accepted it.  Vaguely, they said it might entail community service or a charitable donation in addition to other conditions.   So, I had no real idea of what I was agreeing to.  Feeling uneasy, I decided to go back upstairs and ask for an adjournment.  The judge agreed to adjourn my case to July, where I decided it would be best to seek professional legal counsel.

 

Retaining a Criminal Defense Attorney

It just so happens that I work in a field that connects me with many different types of people, in various professions.  I have done consulting work for lawyers in the past, so I had an idea of who to contact for assistance.

After speaking with some of my contacts, I settled on a particular downtown firm. I wrote a friendly email, promising that the police report was like no other that they had seen before. I received a call almost immediately.  “E-Mail us the report, please!”

And so I did.

A week later I met my criminal defense attorney over coffee at his downtown office.   He joked about how my act was morale boosting for the team.  Eventually, we got down to business.  Based on the arrest report, his strategy was to go in with a  written letter to the crown, asking for withdrawal.  I agreed wholeheartedly with this, so we shook on it and left my fate in his hands.

His letter appeared to have its intended positive effect.  Now that I was fully represented, he attended my court dates on my behalf.   One email exchange I had with him highlights the reaction at Old City Hall: “The letter has gone “viral” in the Crown Attorney’s office. I guess they are frustrated Jays fans like me.”

Eventually I found out that the crown was looking to withdraw my charge for a small monetary donation.   I finally heard the news I had been waiting for.  On August 28th 2013, my criminal defense attorney and I met at Old City Hall, where my criminal charge was officially withdrawn from the court system.

 

Final Words

After a whirlwind of an experience, I was left with a sense of relief that I am once again a “free man.”

I look back and find it fascinating how sports can unite a city.  But more importantly, being a Toronto sports fan is equally a hallowing experience.  Our teams never seem to live up to expectations.  The arrest report and the lawyer’s letter work so well together because there is truth between their lines.

Interestingly enough, the Crown Attorney’s position on the case was that they wanted me to make a donation to charity, but they never disclosed an amount.  My criminal defense attorney suggested the “Jays Care Charity,” a charitable arm of the Toronto Blue Jays.

After deep reflection, I donated one thousand dollars to the Jays Care Charity hoping to make up for the strain I placed on the Crown Attorney’s Office, Rogers Centre, and Toronto Police Service.

On August 28th 2013, the crown prosecutor withdrew my criminal charge.

Rogers Centre staff, if you are reading: I would like to take this time to apologize to the staff @ Rogers Centre who had to chase and tackle me.  I meant no harm by my actions.

-Joe

"Luckily, the accused ran on to the field from level 100 and wasn't forced to jump from the 500 level out of sheer frustration."
-Official Toronto Police arrest report

"Like all of us, Joe has suffered enough. The difference is, he tried to do something about it."
Defense Attorney's
Letter to Crown

"The image of Joe as a tragic figure - the baseball fan fighting against the unrelenting losses of a cringe-worthy baseball club - reminds me of one of the central themes in Hamlet.."
-Crown Prosecutor,
City of Toronto