Posted tagged ‘homeruns’

I took all my thoughts and feelings about Jose Bautista, put them in a slow cooker and this was the result.

November 3, 2017

For as much as we criticize JP Ricciardi – and it is warranted – the former Blue Jay General Manager does deserve high praise for acquiring two of the biggest impact players in team history: Edwin Encarnacion and the subject of this article, Jose Bautista.

I was there on Sunday, September 24 and said goodbye to Joey Bats. No surprise, it was incredibly hard to hold back tears as he walked off the field, hugging his teammates and saluting the crowd. It was a beautiful send-off.

A lot has been written about his tenure. Lists have been compiled and opinions have been shared. It’s hard to add something to an already large pile. But Bautista had affected many and here’s what his impact meant to me:

One of my earliest memories of him is from June 2009. The Blue Jays were playing the Phillies and Bautista teamed up with Aaron Hill to hit back-to-back homeruns. As I watched him round the bases from my seat in the 500s, I observed the unique occurrence.

“Look at that,” I thought to myself. “Bautista, the backup utility player, hit a homerun. That’s something you don’t see everyday.”

Shortly a year later, Bautista bombs were going off regularly.

To understand the importance of Bautista’s 54-homer campaign in 2010, one needs to remember the mood around Skydome at the time.

Things were looking bleak; very bleak. The team had practically hit rock bottom. Actually, if there was a level below “rock bottom,” the Jays were there.

A frustrating 2009 season ended with three straight losses to Baltimore and reports of a mutiny against Cito Gaston. AA took over general managing duties and in his first offseason, traded franchise icon Roy Halladay to Philadelphia.

The calendar changed to 2010 and “Hustle+Heart” was used to soften the blow of uncertainty. The playoff drought was going to continue with no end in sight. Making matters worse, the team was averaging around 10,000 fans early in the season. The sight of a stadium only 20% full was hollow and made some wonder if this was the beginning of the end.

But then Bautista started to hit homeruns and we all took notice. Suddenly, amongst the scorched ruin, a small, glowing spark emerged. Jose was that small, glowing spark.

Suddenly, the fate of the team wasn’t a concern anymore. There was hope. There was promise; all thanks to that glowing spark. Sure, the Jays were far from a playoff contender; but at least we could turn on the television or go to a game and say, “I can’t wait to see what Jose is going to do tonight.” He brought excitement when things were looking bleak.

2010 was also weird year for me. I guess one could call it a quarter life crisis. Certain doors closed and others opened. Through out it all was the stinging feeling of life not going the way I expected it go. In my head, I was failing at life.

So when I saw that former back-up utility player – whose arrival to the team in 2008 brought an unenthusiastic “meh” from the fan base – become a superstar slugger, I invested every ounce of passion and emotion. I was at the ground floor of something special and unlike other important moments and players of Blue Jay lore, I was not going to take it for granted.

One Friday evening, I was at Skydome for a match between the Jays and Cleveland. The weather was perfect that night. My friend and I sat in the 500s, behind home plate – one of my favourite sports to watch a game.

Midway through the match, the Jays loaded the bases and Jose – already in the midst of his incredible season – came to the plate. There were about 19,000 fans in attendance and excitement began to grow.

“I hope he hits a grand slam,” I thought to myself. “Please, I need this.”

Then he connected for – I believe – his 36th homerun of the season. The crowd erupted! 19,000 fans sounding like 50,000 fans and I was one of them. I wasn’t thinking about my struggles and failures. I was smiling and feeling lucky that I was there and part of the experience. No anger or fear for the rest of the night. Maybe things will be okay.

I am grateful for Joey Bats because he gave me an escape.

From there, it all came together: Edwin’s rise to stardom, the big trades, the arrival of Stroman, Sanchez and Osuna, Donaldson’s MVP season. Yes, there were setbacks; but the prize of two exciting playoff runs was worth the pain.

The batflip will always maintain it’s iconic status in Canadian sports mythology. The image of Bautista sending his bat to another galaxy will sit in the same category as Paul Henderson’s Summit Series goal in 1972, Sydney Crosby’s golden goal and of course, Joe Carter’s World Series winning blast.

This chapter of Blue Jays history began when AA became the General Manager. However, the epicentre of the story revolves around Jose Bautista.

Without Joey Bats, every moment and feeling never occurs. Just imagine what things would look like. All it took was a minor league catcher, an adjustment to his swing and some good fortune.

Evolution caught up to Bautista the past two seasons. So since it’s likely the end, I thank him for everything he did for the team and the city.

If the Blue Jays ultimately win the World Series in the next ten years, Jose Bautista would obviously not get a ring. However, he will have played an integral role in the journey.

All the best, Mr. Bats.

ER

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Homerun DNA

July 6, 2017

Russell Martin faces the reporters
wearing his uniform and exhaustion

He answers a question about his game-tying homerun,
which bounced in a fortunate way
and a blast from Morales that nearly landed where baseballs rarley go.

The present scribes already know the answer;
yet the veteran catcher reluctantly responds

“It’s kind of our DNA. We love the longball.”

Invisible prophecies advise winning teams to perform “small ball”
because one cannot simply rely on a homerun

The prophecies reign true
But primal nature
craves for a mighty swing that yeilds a majestic flight
and a precious souvenir to the adoring public

Manufactured runs lead to victories
But homeruns create fables and memories.

ER

Living in the moment, thanks to Edwin Encarnacion

June 19, 2016

I love watching walkoff homeruns; unless – of course – it is against the Blue Jays.

The hero rounds the bases and prepares for the welcoming party waiting for him at home plate.

The hero flings his helmet into the air, while he receives a shower of Gatorade and pats on the back in varying degrees from his teammates. Uniforms might get torn, but the happiness outweighs the ripped garments.

Some might say it’s over the top, disrespectful and violates the very core of sportsmanship. But I disagree. It’s pure, raw drama. It’s what makes baseball beautiful and adds to its artistry.

To date, I have witnessed three walkoff homeruns in person:

1) June 15, 2003 – Reed Johnson, against the Chicago Cubs.
2) September 27, 2015 – Josh Donaldson against Tampa Bay.
3) June 10, 2016 – Edwin Encarnacion against Baltimore.

Leading up to Edwin’s walkoff, I was sitting in my Skydome seat with a goal in mind.

The match was reaching a point where it was clear the Jays would need to win in their final at bat; either the bottom of the ninth or in extra innings.

I started thinking of how Adele called out a fan at a recent concert for recording her performance. She was mad because the fan was more concerned about capturing the moment than enjoying it.

That’s a struggle I’ve experienced multiple times in my life. I’d take a picture of something and a voice would ask if I cared more about taking the photo than appreciating what I was looking at.

So as the match approached its conclusion, I made the decision to focus on what was happening than capturing it on my phone.

My decision paid off.

Edwin came to plate and sent the ball over the right field wall. When he hit that homerun, I wasn’t thinking about anything else because I was living in the moment and enjoying every minute of it.

Everything that normally bothered me wasn’t bothering me. The constant noise in my head was silent. There were no fears or insecurities. 100% of my focus was on the man “walking the parrot” as the crowd was in complete ecstasy.

So thank you, Edwin. Thank you for helping me live in the moment.

ER

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