Pat Hentgen on Jose Bautista’s Playoff Bat-Flip: “I didn’t like it”

Pat Hentgen won the 1996 American League Cy Young award and was a key component of the last Toronto Blue Jays team to win a World Series in 1993, efforts which resulted in Hentgen’s election into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame on February 2.

In a conference call with the new inductees, Hentgen touched on the excitement surrounding the return of championship baseball north of the border saying “It was incredible,” and had an interesting take on Jose Bautista’s home run and bat flip from Game 5 of the American League Division Series with Texas.

“Just that second half that the players put together was phenomenal. The fan support was unbelievable,” Hentgen said. “I remember as bullpen coach with Opening Day, one of the players asked me ‘Was this how it was when you played?’ I said ‘Yeah, every game. Can you imagine? If we start winning and just get there, just get close, the fans are going to be out. It’s an incredible sports town.'” Hentgen continued, “It was really, really exciting.”

It’s worth noting that Hentgen had a ringside seat for the greatest home run in Blue Jays history when Joe Carter’s blast off of Mitch Williams secured back-to-back titles for Toronto in ’93, so there was little choice but to inquire as to how Hentgen felt about perhaps the second-greatest round-tripper in franchise history — Bautista’s blast off of Rangers reliever Sam Dyson — which led to one of baseball’s most demonstrative bat tosses and for all intents and purposes, sent Toronto to its first League Championship Series in 22 years.

As a former pitcher, however, Hentgen was less excited about the epic flip than the return of the fans and success.

“I think that I’m going to bring up a player’s name, it was Barry Sanders, who was a running back,” Hentgen said. “I remember he scored touchdowns and he’d hand the ball to the ref, he’d go sit down on the bench, the coach asked him ‘Why do you do that?’ and he said ‘Because that’s my job.’

I look at it like there’s a pitcher out there trying to get you out. If I struck you out and I moonwalked around the mound and pump-fisted at you or threw my glove up in the air, would you like that? I think as a player it’s a high level of baseball, the highest in the world, and we’re out there competing and a guy flips his bat that high? And I love the Blue Jays and I love Jose, he was a player on the team when I coached there, I know him well and he’s a great player but I don’t like the bat flip to answer the question.”

Hentgen will serve as an instructor for the Jays in spring training, but when asked whether he would touch on the incident with Bautista when they cross paths, Hentgen downplayed but connected the bat flip to the trickle down effect showmanship has made to levels of youth competition.

“Nah, I won’t bring that up,” Hentgen said. “Anyone who watches baseball knows that it’s kind of an unwritten rule, you just don’t show up your opponent. It’s something that I’m going through with the amateur game right now with my daughters playing hoops and playing volleyball. In the stands, fans in the stands and the parents, you just sit back and you just think ‘My gosh, you’re getting on the referee. He’s called a hack penalty (laughs) on the basketball court, he doesn’t care who wins! He’s out there just getting the exercise for thirty bucks!’ It’s just funny that people get caught up in the emotion.”

Bautista received a lot of flack from baseball purists, and of course from the Rangers for his unrestrained celebration, but from one Blue Jays legend to another, Hentgen noted that while “the ultimate high that (Bautista) must have felt” may have been otherworldly, Hentgen still felt it was unnecessary.

“As a pitcher and as a competitor, I didn’t like it.”

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