The familiar song of “Jo-sé, Jo-sé, Jo-sé” resounded at the Rogers Center for the first time in six years when José Bautista was added to the Toronto Blue Jays’ Level of Excellence on Saturday.
A visibly emotional Bautista was honored in a ceremony 45 minutes before Toronto hosted the Chicago Cubs, culminating in him throwing out the first pitch to Vladimir Guerrero Jr., a symbolic passing of the torch between two centerpieces of the offense. of the Blue Jays.
“You have no idea how much this means to me and my family,” Bautista said, clearing his throat against tears, addressing the sellout crowd at the downtown Toronto ballpark.
Immortalized in our Level of Excellence.
He then presented a five-minute video where he recounted how he was traded to the Blue Jays in 2008 and thanked various people from the organization, as well as the fans.
“I knew that Toronto had a lot of great players and that the Blue Jays had a great history, including two World Series,” Bautista said in the video. “I also knew that from its inception, the Jays organization had strong ties to my home country, the beautiful Dominican Republic.
“But what I didn’t fully realize until I got to Toronto was that this was such a welcoming, diverse and multicultural city. You embrace me and my family like your own and I can’t thank you enough for that.”
It takes a town to build a great career.
Check out José’s level of excellence appreciation speech 💙 #JoeyBats
Bautista’s name was officially added to the Excellence Tier overlooking right field, where he played most of 10 seasons with the Blue Jays. His name adorns the front along the 400 level of the stadium along with the name of Hall of Fame pitcher Roy Halladay.
During his time in Toronto, Bautista was a six-time All-Star and a three-time Silver Slugger. He hit 288 home runs with the Blue Jays, including 54 in 2010 and a major league-leading 43 in 2011.
He is perhaps best known for his emphatic bat toss after crushing a tiebreaking three-run home run in the seventh inning of Toronto’s 6-3 victory over Texas in Game 5 of their American League Division Series. 2015.
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The JaysCare Foundation, the team’s charitable arm, made a $100,000 donation to Holland Bloorview Children’s Rehabilitation Hospital in Bautista’s name as part of the celebration.
He also received two Silver Slugger Muskoka chairs and a custom Level of Excellence Blue Jays diamond pendant. As part of the festivities, a mural celebrating Bautista’s dramatic bat launch was painted on the side of 99 Spadina Avenue, a nearby office building.
“I want to thank you, the fans, who especially during those crazy wonderful days in 2015 and 2016, packed the stadium, watched by millions on TV and lived and died with every pitch,” Bautista said towards the end of his video. . “I know for many of you, those memories will last a lifetime.
Bautista wiped away tears after a lengthy video message from former teammates, coaches and his wife Neisha and their four daughters.
“I never thought there would be a day that I would see Jose Bautista cry, and he was definitely crying a lot,” former teammate Devon Travis said after the ceremony. “I just think a player of that caliber, the career he’s had, when he’s in the moment and playing every day, I don’t think players like that really look at themselves and say, ‘Man, you’re pretty good.
“I think today he had the ability to absorb that, I think probably for the first time in his life.”
Former Blue Jays manager John Gibbons received some of the loudest applause when he introduced himself to Bautista’s friends and family. The standing ovation forced Gibbons to pause and drink in the cheers before walking to the stage set up in the Rogers Center infield for all dignitaries.
Cito Gaston, who led Toronto to back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993, was introduced next, receiving a reception that rivaled Gibbons’.
The roars continued for all of the former Blue Jays members that Sportsnet’s Hazel Mae announced, including Montreal’s Justin Smoak, Ricky Romero, Devon Travis and Russell Martin.
“I thought they were still rooting for Gibby, actually,” Smoak quipped. “It’s one of those things where those teams were special, right? Special players, special people, coaches, everything, and when we have teams like that, the fans feel it too.”
“Hopefully the team that’s here now, the team that was here last year, a great team and great players, and hopefully they can feel the same way.”
Slugger Edwin Encarnacion probably received the biggest ovation besides Bautista, with the stocky corner infielder flexing both arms before marching onto the stage.
Tens of thousands of fans lined up around Rogers Center before the game, with some camping out the night before to ensure they had one of the 20,000 bigheads commemorating Bautista’s bat toss.
“They were there when I got there around 9 am,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said before the ceremony. “Pretty cool. Absolutely. Pretty cool. I’m looking forward to the atmosphere.
“I’m looking forward to seeing all those guys and I was definitely in high spirits today.”
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