DiStefano: My goodbye letter to Jose Bautista
October 1, 2017
Thanks for the 10 great ‘flippin’ years.
Despite a frustrating farewell season as a Blue Jay, the decade you spent north of the border was filled with many moments that this country owes you thanks for. Six All-Star appearances, three Silver Slugger awards, two playoff berths, and many clutch home runs— none bigger than the bat flip homer off Texas Rangers reliever Sam Dyson in Game 5 of the 2015 American League Divisional Series.
You join an elite group of sports figures that have become national folk heroes in Canadian sports culture. That company includes Paul Henderson with his game-winning ‘goal of the century’ at the 1972 Summit Series against the USSR hockey juggernauts. Sidney Crosby’s ‘golden goal’ through the wickets of USA’s Ryan Miller in overtime at the 2010 Olympic Games, which had Canadians pouring out into the city streets to celebrate. Not to mention Joe Carter’s monstrous swing that allowed him to ‘touch em all’ in the fall of ’93. After a series-clinching crack of the bat, and an infamous bat flip later, Jose, you entered this exclusive group.
The iconic bat flip is one of those defining moments almost every Canadian or Blue Jays fan can recall. They can tell you where they were, who they celebrated it with, and what brand of beer they spilled all over the floor while celebrating. For me, it was Stella Artois.
I was in my fourth year at the University of Western Ontario. I skipped class that day with a couple friends and headed to the campus pub— The Spoke. Hundreds of students ditched class to crowd the bar and were glued to the dozen televisions around the establishment. It was, after all, the most important Blue Jays game since 1993. And with one energy-charged swing, you broke up a nail-biting 3-3 ball game in what was a wild eighth inning. In near tears, the “A-L-C-S” chant erupted across the bar. Strangers jumping around, high-fiving, and hugging one another as we all experienced one of the greatest sports moments in Canadian history.
I made a lot of great memories over my time in University. But I can firmly admit that the communal feeling of joy I shared with my peers during the bat flip moment was perhaps the most cherished of all of them.
You’ve most likely taken your last swing in a Blue Jays uniform, but the cheers you received from the Rogers Centre crowd in the home finale against the New York Yankees illustrates the respect you have earned from the fan base.
The feeling was eerily similar to your final at-bat in the 2016 ALCS. It was, again, unknown on what your future was going to be like between yourself and the Blue Jays organization. The ‘Jose, Jose, Jose’ chants once again reigned down on you as you stepped to the plate, for what could’ve been the last time, to leadoff the bottom of the ninth inning. With a full-count, you crushed a double off a Cody Allen fastball into the corner in left field. I was in the stands for that game, and it’s a moment that gave me chills. So as you can imagine, watching you walk off the field to a thundering sold-out crowd at the Rogers Centre on September 24 brought back wonderful memories— The Punch, the pitcher stare downs, the umpire arguments, and much more.
You spent time loitering around with four other ball clubs until finally landing home in Toronto, and becoming one of baseball’s most feared hitters. Since your road to superstar status was unusual, I figured I’d bid homage to you in an abnormal way. Below I’ve written an acrostic poem illustrating your career as a Blue Jay.
Sweet sweet revenge homers
Eighty-six outfield assists
American League Silver Slugger (X3)
Unreal eye at the plate (Second All-Time club leader in walks- 803)
Ten years in the blue and white
Irrefutably will be a future name on the “Level of Excellence”
Six-time A.L. All-Star
Two ALCS appearances
A Blue Jay legend
You’re the greatest Blue Jay of this generation and you’ve sparked interest in baseball to a new crop of young Canadians. Although you may not be dawning the blue bird’s jersey come next spring, you’ll always be a Jay in my books.