Inside the prep — and massive cleanup — for Blue Jays clubhouse celebrations

Last year Jason Grilli was sitting on his couch watch the Blue Jays' play in the postseason. To be a part of it this year with Toronto is more than surreal for the Blue Jays reliever. It's a dream come true.

Looking at the grey and blue carpet in the Toronto Blue Jays clubhouse, you’d really never know that hours earlier, gallons of beer and champagne were extracted from that very rug with an industrial-sized shop-vac.

The team’s longtime clubhouse manager isn’t sure exactly how many gallons. "I just know it was a lot," Kevin Malloy says.

Well, that makes sense. Because when they won the American League Division Series on Sunday, the Blue Jays went through 150 bottles of Italian sparkling wine (for spraying), 40 bottles of champagne that cost about $70 a pop (intended for drinking) and "10 cases of beer, anyway," Malloy says. Those were king cans, too.

Most of that booze is launched in the air, shot into people, dumped on heads, poured down T-shirts and generally thrown around. Malloy figures "at most," one quarter of it was consumed the way drinks ought to be.

The biggest culprit among the Blue Jays when it comes to making a mess during a celebration?

"Edwin loves it," Malloy says. It was Encarnacion, after all, who turned last season’s playoff-clinching berth, which manager John Gibbons intended to be a no-big-deal toast, into "a big shebang," says Malloy.

"We had no plastic in the locker room. Fortunately, they kept the spraying for the most part in the centre of the clubhouse. Only a couple lockers last year did get champagne all over them, which we had to clean. So maybe we can blame some of this on Edwin."

But even if you’re prepared, cleaning up after a post-game wild card-clinching or wild card-winning or ALDS-winning series is quite the task. So, too, is the set up.

It involves a staff of at least 12 people, Malloy says, and they start preparing for a party as late into a game as they can: "We don’t wanna jinx it."

That did happen in Toronto, once. Back in the 80’s, they got a little too excited, put plastic all over the lockers and protected TVs and furniture. Then Kansas City won, and the support staff frantically tore down the plastic. "That was bad," Malloy says.

These days, in about the sixth inning, they’ll put beer and champagne on ice. In Toronto, that happens in the weight room, so on Sunday night, just before the Blue Jays clinched the ALDS, reliever Joe Biagini was in there stretching and lifting weights, because he’d just pitched an inning and a third.

Biagini pretended not to notice the pre-emptive celebration prep. At that point, it was a tie game between Toronto and the Texas Rangers. (It later ended, you likely recall, when Josh Donaldson slid safely into home to score the game-winning run in the bottom of the 10th).

Winning at home is obviously preferable, but if you win a series on the road, it’s the home team that provides the champagne and beer—you don’t have to truck your own across borders, in Toronto’s case.

"But you do have to pay for it," says Malloy. "It’s a reciprocal arrangement."

Last season against the Rangers in Game 5—the winner would advance to the AL Championship Series—Texas was winning in the sixth, and so Toronto’s staff was helping put champagne and beer on ice on the visitor’s side of the Rogers Centre. Then came the seventh, and Bautista hit that homer, and he flipped that bat.

"All of the sudden all that stuff is being wheeled to this side, near our clubhouse," Malloy says. There it stayed.

The Oakley goggles you see players wearing to protect their eyes from Italian sparkling wine, which really stings, are also on site. Each team has about 30 new pairs on hand. "Whoever wins gets the goggles," equipment manager Jeff Ross says.

The cleanup—"we’re getting better at that," Malloy says, because they’ve thrown quite a few parties the last two seasons—is an all-night process.

A four or five-person cleaning crew arrives in the 7th inning and waits in the loading dock. Come about 3 a.m., when the clubhouse is cleared out, they get to work, and they don’t stop until about noon the next day. All told there are 20 people working on cleanup. "It’s a big clubhouse," Ross points out. "One of the biggest in the league."

They run massive dehumidifiers and fans. They clean sofas and chairs that got nailed with champagne and beer. They extract the liquid from the carpet, then attack the rug with shampoo and cleaners.

That doesn’t always work, though. "Last year we couldn’t get the smell of champagne and beer out of the carpet until January," Malloy says. "They were going to replace it, but one last treatment they did seem to get it all out."

Yes, that carpet takes a beating. All things considered, it looks good.

"I’m pretty sure when you come back next year, it’ll be a new carpet," Malloy says.

"Because we’re gonna have a couple more celebrations," Ross adds. "Two more."

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