Bautista among Jays' best long ballers

* Heading into action Wednesday night, Jose Bautista had an even 200 home runs as a Blue Jay, only two behind one of his childhood idols, George Bell, and three behind World Series hero Joe Carter. .... 2014 Canadians in the Minors … Canadians in College 2015 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent

By Bob Elliott

Jose Bautista has led the majors in home runs in a season.


And now, he’s climbing up the Blue Jays franchise list of all-time home run hitters to wear a Blue Jays uniform.

Who knew it would unfold this way in 2008 when Bautista joined the Jays, his seventh different organization?

The Pittsburgh Pirates had sent out Bautista to the triple-A Indianapolis Indians and he was getting ready for a game in Charlotte on Aug. 21 when he was scratched from the lineup.

He flew from Charlotte to Buffalo that night and stayed in a hotel. The next day he visited the Canadian consulate in Buffalo, handed in his passport, obtained his work visa and Sandy Stenhouse of Alexander Limousine drove the limo to Toronto.

“A bunch of things came together for me, the landscape was ideal,” said Bautista, who hit his 200th homer in a Toronto uniform Monday night -- in the fifth inning off Chicago Cubs right-hander Jacob Turner. Bautista sat fifth of the 660 players who have been with the Jays in homers heading into Wednesday’s game.

“I came to a place where the manager (Cito Gaston) believed in me, I learned how to hit and prepare from Gene Tenace, Dwayne Murphy and Cito,” said Bautista. “I didn’t play a whole lot from August of 2008 until August of 2009 when Alex Rios and Scott Rolen left.

“It was not maybe the ideal way to work on something new, but I was able to practice, try it out in winter ball that off-season with Licey on a regular basis.”

Bautista had only 240 at-bats in 90 games, making 61 starts (including two at second base) and hitting .233 with six homers and 25 RBIs from his debut on Aug. 21, 2008 until Rios was claimed by the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 10, 2009.

“It’s difficult because pro sports are so results oriented,” Bautista said. “When you try something new you can’t help but focus on the immediate results. But you can’t focus on results, you have to concentrate on the process. If you focus on the process you’ll get better results.”

Bautista trails World Series hero Joe Carter by three homers and one of his faves as a child, George Bell, who hit 202. He should pass both by season’s end.

Bautista was seven years old when Bell won the American League MVP trophy in 1987.

“As a young Dominican player I looked up to a power-hitting outfielder like George,” said Bautista. “It was a Dominican-laden team. Tony Fernandez was another guy I followed.”

Those Jays teams of the late 1980s and early 1990s also had Manny Lee, Nelson Liriano, Junior Felix, Jose Nunez and Juan Guzman.

“George played the game with a passion, people misunderstood the love he had for the game,” said Bautista. “People have compared George and I to each other ... how I acted up and was kicked out for being selfish, even though I didn’t yell or curse the umpire.

“People said George wore his emotions on his sleeve. People say we’re the same.”

No, no, Bautista was told.

I wrote a book on George.

I covered George.

If George wore his emotions on his sleeve, George is wearing a short-sleeved shirt and you are wearing a long-sleeve shirt.

“Wouldn’t it be the other way around? If George showed more emotions, wouldn’t he be wearing a long-sleeve shirt?” asked Bautista.

Hmmm. Discuss amongst yourselves.

There are similarities between Bell, from San Pedro de Macoris, and Bautista, from Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic.

“We were both Rule V guys, both outfielders, we weren’t the fastest, we both hit for power and we blossomed later,” said Bautista.

So, the greatest Jays hitter since Doug Ault went deep on opening day?

Carlos Delgado,” said Bautista, as if we had asked what colour his blue uniform was.

“He was consistent, he had eight straight 30-homer seasons here, knocked in runs and hit .300,” said Bautista, as Delgado also had six seasons of 100 or more RBIs.

“I wasn’t here, but I’m told Carlos Delgado was a vocal leader,” said Bautista. “He’d be a guy who would grab someone by the shirt if needed and he’d be the guy who would give someone a shoulder to cry on if things were going badly too.”


Blue Jays All-time Home Run Leaders (at-bats)

Name, (Years with Jays), at-bats, home runs

1. Carlos Delgado (1993-2004), 5008, 343 2. Vernon Wells (1999-2010), 5470, 223 3. Joe Carter (1991-97), 4093, 203 4. George Bell (1981-90), 4528, 202 5. Jose Bautista (2008-14), 2754, 200