For her first Jays From the Couch piece, Ashley Taylor describes her time as a Jose Bautista fan as his time is winding down in Toronto
My first real baseball game was August 14th, 2015. I attended this game with my boyfriend and his family, as he donned his Jose Bautista jersey and told me about every player as they came up to bat. While the Jays lost that game they did win my heart, and I haven’t looked back since.
Slowly being introduced to baseball just months before the bat flip meant I didn’t actually watch the game as it happened, I wasn’t even in the country. But when I got home I was able to watch the game in its entirety and marvel at that wild 7th inning. While I don’t think I truly understood the importance that moment had for the entire franchise in 2015, I now 100% appreciate everything about it.
While I wasn’t there for the majority of Bautista’s career with the Blue Jays, it is easy to imagine the importance he has for the team all of these years. With him being named number five on the top Blue Jays of all time list, his importance is very clear to this team.
Before I explain what José meant to me, I need to point out that I understand that baseball is a business. I know that even though we love him, the Jays may not re-sign him based on the price alone. I think Marcus Stroman explained it well in one of his Instagram captions, “He’s not retiring. His career is far from over. I pray he’s in RF behind me every game of my career. Regardless of what the future holds, I am thankful for your guidance and perspective. Love you my brother!” We need to understand that Bautista hasn’t received the Ortiz-level fanfare at his games because he is not retiring, he just might not be a Blue Jay next time we see him.
So what did it mean to me, a relatively new fan, to be at José’s final home game as a Blue Jay?
It started as a fan appreciation giveaway day (an awesome sleeved blanket, I may add). I had to wake up before the sun in order to catch a train that I ultimately missed. I caught the next train thirty minutes later and was able to get to the game, get in line with thousands of other fans, and get my blanket.
Once we were inside it was a two hour wait for the game to start. Eventually we saw Marcus Stroman running to the bullpen for his warmup wearing a black Bautista jersey (the alternate jersey when José started his career with the Blue Jays). Just seeing Stroman in this jersey brought tears to my eyes, so I knew it was going to be a tough day for all of the fans in the dome.
When it was time for the team to take the field, the Jays let José travel to right field, unaccompanied, while fans and teammates cheered and thanked him for everything he has done.
Next came every José at bat. The entire crowd was on their feet with monstrous cheers every time he approached the plate. I don’t think I could count how many times I took part in the “José, José, José” cheer at that game, but I’m not sure there’s any number that would be high enough.
Finally, Bautista was pulled from the game in the ninth, and given the chance to hug every teammate that was out on the field with him. While I wasn’t there for the bat flip, I’m hoping the dome was almost as loud, filled with cheers for the man that has been the face of this franchise for so long.
Being at this game reminded me that baseball players are real people. It isn’t just a TV show where everything is written into a script. These are real humans with real emotions, showing each other that they respect and appreciate everything they do for each other.
Thank you, José, for introducing me to the game I love and for always making things interesting. From the bat flip to being the victim of the punch, and the plays you make out in right field, we all truly appreciate the memories you’ve given us.
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*Featured Image Credit: Credit: Keith Allison UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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Ashley is a recent graduate of Communication Studies at McMaster University, with a post grad in Communication Media Practices from Mohawk College. She has been watching the Blue Jays since 2015, and has fallen in love with the game and everyone that plays it. Her goal is to break into the Sports Journalism world so she can cover her Toronto teams for a living.