I remember the night the Toronto Blue Jays traded for Jose Bautista. It sounds really corny, I get it.
But I do remember it.
I was listening to the radio feed of the Jays on August 21st, 2008, and I remember the game cutting away to an update. “The Blue Jays have acquired utility infielder Jose Bautista in exchange for minor league catcher Robinzon Diaz.”
I have no clue if that’s accurate to what the update actually said, but it’s what I remember. I was just climbing into bed that evening. It really was just another night for me- I listened to the radio while I was heading to bed regularly at the time. I heard the news and was pretty indifferent. I didn’t feel much emotion because it was just another trade with two players I wasn’t familiar with.
But if you were to tell me at the time that the player they acquired would turn out to be one of the best players in the history of the franchise… it’s safe to say I’d have been thrilled.
2010 was the year he really put himself on the map. Bautista hit 54 homers to lead the league. He’d only hit 16 as his previous career high, so it wasn’t expected by anyone. Here’s a quick look at his Toronto career. Note how incredible his stats were in 2010 and 2011, to highlight a couple of years.
2010 was a significant year for the Jays for many reasons.
For starters, it was the first season in the 2010’s, and since the previous decade wasn’t too kind to the Blue Jays, the next chapter was met with a warm welcome.
2010 brought a new voice for the Blue Jays in former catcher Buck Martinez. The offseason before 2011 saw the team move on from franchise icon Vernon Wells.
In 2012, the Jays rebranded to bring back a look that would serve two purposes. The new logo was designed to look good for the current audience and younger fans, yes, but it was also targeted toward fans that hadn’t been engaged in recent years.
Considering almost everyone I talk to prefers the new logo (far right) to the old one (middle), I think it was a good choice.
The new logo did both of those tasks well. But the city still needed a superstar. Enter “Right Fielder, Number 19.”
Jose Bautista was Toronto’s superstar. He was the name that you knew, whether you were a casual sports fan, or a full-on Jays supporter.
Then 2015 rolled around, and the superstar finally had his moment to shine both inside and outside of Toronto. The entire country rallied around the team, wearing that new logo and supporting their superstars. The biggest moment from the biggest year for the team since 1993 went a little bit like this.
That entire inning still gives me a giant grin when I watch it.
2016 was the first year that he was overshadowed. Because of Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion, Bautista was no longer the star power bat on his team.
2017 was even rougher. Fans all around hoped for a comeback season, but Joey Bats struggled all season. As someone that watched the majority of the season, it was tough to see Bautista on the decline.
That brings us to the final home series of the season. Friday, September 22nd to Sunday, September 24th. My brother and I were at the game on Friday, and every single time Bautista was announced, the entire stadium stood up and applauded. Both of us did as well, because he deserves it. He was the superstar the city needed at the beginning of the decade, and he’ll always be one of the top Toronto Blue Jays of all time.
Thank you, Jose Bautista. I look forward to seeing your name on the Level of Excellence.