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Fans enthusiastic at Blue Jays' State of Franchise

Fans enthusiastic at Blue Jays' State of Franchise

TORONTO -- The mood was a lot different Tuesday than at last year's State of the Franchise event, an annual gathering at Rogers Centre for Blue Jays season-ticket holders.

Last year, despite the optimism that surrounded the team, a number of fans voiced their displeasure with the Blue Jays' losing ways. Toronto has failed to make the postseason since winning its second of back-to-back World Series titles in 1993.

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How quickly times can change.

Last year's crowd was estimated at roughly 700 people, while the turnout this year, according to Rogers Centre employees, was more than 1,100.

"This is an important event, obviously, for the fans," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "These are the fans that support us for all the dates. I think it's important that I'm available, Paul [Beeston] is available, the manager is available. It's a great day for us."

Fans greeted manager John Gibbons, Beeston -- the president and CEO -- and Anthopoulos with a loud and enthusiastic ovation when master of ceremonies and Blue Jays play-by-play announcer Buck Martinez introduced them.

The setup was slightly different than last year, as preselected questions were put on a video board rather than the question-and-answer session, which got slightly heated, from 2012.

After Beeston, Anthopoulos and Gibbons took turns answering questions, fans had the chance to mingle and take photos with the trio in the Rogers Centre's 100-level concourse.

"You could really feel the energy in this place tonight," said Jamie, a returning season-ticket holder. "I think us fans can finally be optimistic and feel proud of the team the Blue Jays have put together.

"We've been waiting a long time for a winner."

Beeston was quite boisterous in his claims at the 2012 State of the Franchise, stating his belief that Toronto would make the playoffs multiple times within a five-year period. After last season, those lofty expectations seemed nothing more than a dream until Anthopoulos revamped the team and turned the Blue Jays into contenders seemingly overnight.

While Beeston wouldn't talk specifics when it came to ticket sales, he did say that the numbers have risen "dramatically" for season tickets, as well as the club's assortment of multigame flex packs.

"So far they have shown they are very supportive of the moves," Beeston said about the Toronto fan base.

Beeston said he was angered by the way the 2012 season unfolded, a year marred by injury and controversy.

But Toronto's sky-high payroll, which easily surpassed $100 million for the first time in club history, was not a result of last season's struggles. Beeston said the organization could have spent the money last winter, but he reiterated that the moves Anthopoulos made were good baseball decisions.

"We think this is smart money," Beeston explained. "We'll play the season and find out whether it is smart money or not smart money, but these are players that can be around not for one year, but two, three or four years.

"We always said we want to be sustainable."

Beeston feels that Toronto, which cracked the 2 million mark in attendance last season for the first time since 2008, has a chance to draw 3 million fans this year, depending on how the team comes out of the gate. He said all metrics have been positive, from the success and turnout the organization had at its Winter Tour stops across Canada to its corporate sponsorship deals, and point to a major surge in attendance.

The last time Toronto drew over 3 million fans was in 1993, which completed a string of three straight years of reaching the 4 million mark.

Chris Toman is a contributor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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