TORONTO - It's going to take Robert Rohr quite a while to process his first day as a Canadian citizen.

Rohr was one of nine people who became Canadian citizens on Saturday during pre-game festivities at Rogers Centre in front of more than 40,000 baseball fans. The citizenship ceremony was part of the Blue Jays' Canada Day celebrations before a 7-6 loss to the Boston Red Sox.

“I'll probably go home and wake up in the middle of the night sweating and be like, 'What the heck just happened?',” said Rohr, who emigrated from the United States. “It's absolutely amazing.

“It's an incredible honour to be to be invited here to do this.”

Rohr and his self-described new best friends stood in front of the ballpark's mound, wearing red Blue Jays jerseys, as Immigration Minister Sean Fraser swore them in with two judges bearing witness.

The cohort then lined up with the Blue Jays along the third-base line for the national anthems, with members of the Royal Canadian Navy unfurling a large Canadian flag in the outfield. Their citizenship was made official when they sang “O Canada” along with the 41,813 fans in attendance.

Marsha Shandur, who was born in the United Kingdom, said it was important to her to gain Canadian citizenship so she could participate in the democracy where she lives.

“I think it's so important to be able to vote where you live and I want to be able to make a difference,” said Shandur. “Vote to try and bring people in who are going to help make a difference when it comes to affordable housing, when it comes to the criminal justice system, maybe bring in proportional representation. I'm thrilled to be able to vote.”

Both the Blue Jays and Red Sox watched the entire ceremony. Toronto manager John Schneider said he was moved by how his sport can unite people.

“Baseball is America's pastime, right? That's what everyone says. But to me baseball brings worlds together,” said Blue Jays manager John Schneider. “Just look at the diversity around the league, within every team.

“The fact that we as a team represent the entire country is very unique, and that we can tie baseball into people becoming Canadian citizens, that is awesome.”

After members of the armed forces delivered baseballs to the new Canadians, they threw out the first pitch in unison to nine members of the Blue Jays roster.

Rohr said he was so focused on preparing for the citizenship ceremony that he neglected his pitching delivery.

“I haven't thrown a ball for 30 years, right? Thirty? Forty? Somewhere around there. A lot of years,” said Rohr. “We were able to throw a couple of pitches against the wall and I was great. Just like right on.

“Then when it came to actually do it and nine people lined up and I had to to get it to the second (Blue Jays) from the end and I threw it and I hit the ground in front of the guy. But it's fine. That's fine.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 1, 2023.