One of the key aspects of growing up is understanding how finite time is. Something will be great, but it won't last. The only constant is change. The key to peace is coming to terms with that and appreciating what you have in the moments you have them.
So I'm appreciating what I have while I still have it.
This blog was in it's infancy when José Bautista was traded from the Pirates to the Blue Jays in 2008. I was watching a lot of Blue Jays baseball and took little notice of the wiry Dominican whose ears stick out.
Here's what Pirates' GM Neal Huntington said at the time:
After Alex Rios was traded to the White Sox in August 2009, the wiry Dominican whose ears stick out took over as the everyday right fielder. Playing time is so often the difference when players are trying to catch on, and Bautista, as is his way, proved that to the max.
I remember early in 2010, when it started looking like Bautista’s 2009 September wasn’t a fluke, he was being interviewed on The Fan 590.
I knew just from listening to Bautista speak that he was remarkably intelligent. It's wasn't just that Bautista stood apart from how fans normally see Latino players, he stood apart from baseball players in general. Bautista was thoughtful and he provided insight on his process that you don't normally get.
I also knew that Bautista would be hitting homeruns for as long as his body allowed him to because he had figured out the role timing played. Timing was the missing link between Bautista's innate power and the baseball.
This was the result:
#22 is an inside the park homer.
José Bautista is an outlier.
Players drafted in the 20th round aren't likely to crack the big leagues.
Players very rarely end up on the rosters of five different organizations in one season. In fact, it had never happened until it happened to Bautista in 2004.
Players don't blossom as power hitters at 28.
But it was real. It happened.
Bautista has been part of this organization so long now that we forget just how unlikely all of it was.
He's our miracle baby.
And the fact that something similar happened with Edwin Encarnación a few seasons later added to the magic. It's a credit to the Blue Jays as an organization, and Alex Anthopoulos as a leader that he, and the rest of the organization, created a place that gave opportunities for these players to reveal themselves and be who they were meant to be.
I considered for a long time why the failure to retain Encarnación this past offseason bothered me so much, and I suspect it had something to do with letting a little bit of the magic go.
In the years since his breakout, Bautista has become one of the most recognizable faces in the entire country and the face of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Josh Donaldson, Russell Martin and Troy Tulowitzki have arrived since and are certainly leaders, and Marcus Stroman may become the face of this team, but they have all taken their place around Bautista.
From his Instagram account, one can deduce he loves the following, in no particular order: His mom, his teammates, his kids, sugar cereal, Drake, Booster Juice.
I remember sitting down to write about Bautista appearing in the 2012 ESPN the Body issue.
The photo is gorgeous (congrats on the quads, sir.) But it was the video that went with it that made me lose my damn mind.
The moment when the makeup artist oils down his ass: I just imagined the journey that makeup artist took, all the professional experience she had and it all came together in that moment. What a glorious example of man, what a ridiculously wonderful moment.
I dissolved into giggles then.
2015 will likely go down as one of the best seasons in Blue Jays history.
The Blue Jays also did something they didn't do for Roy Halladay or Carlos Delgado: They got José Bautista to the playoffs.
And it was better than we could've ever imagined.
The bat flip is what will be Bautista’s signature moment.
My heart goes into my throat every time I watch this at bat, even though I know what's going to happen. I lose my breath when Bautista takes that hard hack at Dyson's first pitch. And then pandemonium. Sheer joy.
What’s remarkable about it and why it’s one of my favourite Blue Jays moments ever is that it represented so many different things.
It was a moment that perfectly illustrated the cruelty of baseball- the Rangers’ middle infield and their inability in those few moments to make the most routine plays and being punished for it immediately and devastatingly.
It illustrated that while baseball more than deserves it’s “slow”description, it can sure get away from you in a hurry. That the moments in between the action are torture when the stakes are high. The shot of Cole Hamels in the Rangers' dugout while the camera is shaking from the crowd. His face tells the whole story.
It was the ultimate moment in a season of magical moments, that started with an offseason trade for a future MVP and midseason moves that really made it seem like anything could happen. The Yankees could be caught and then surpassed. The AL East could be won. Toronto was the team to watch, the place to be.
It meant that Russell Martin, who was charged with the dumbest, more random of errors in the top half of the seventh, wasn’t going to be the goat. The season started with Martin crying while his dad saxophoned the anthem in Montreal in March, and it wasn’t going to end with more bitter tears in October.
It was a achingly beautiful reminder of the magic of October baseball, to a fanbase who had been starving for it for 22 long years.
It was a homerun for a late blooming power hitter, who hit most of his 54 homers in front of middling crowds, wearing an ugly black jersey for a “blue” team, in a hockey city, in a hockey country. Toronto had always been a baseball city and it was just waiting for baseball to come back.
And Toronto celebrated the man who brought it back.
To say that they will never be another José Bautista is almost understating it.
José Bautista, proud, bearded and wicked smart.
José Bautista, patron saint of late bloomers.
José Bautista, our miracle baby.