Postseason berths are memorable in and of themselves, but for a franchise that had not qualified for baseball’s tournament since 1993, the Toronto Blue Jays have certainly packed a memorable punch.
The Jays had not made back-to-back playoff appearances since 1992 and ’93, years that gave the Great White North dramatic home runs from Roberto Alomar, Ed Sprague and, of course, Joe Carter.
Fast-forward to last October and the bat flip to end all bat flips. Jose Bautista’s clout shook the Rogers Centre to its very foundation and propelled Toronto into its first American League Championship Series in 22 years.
Who knew that the Jays weren’t finished bashing by a damn sight?
This season’s A.L. Wildcard Game went to the 11th inning, where Edwin Encarnacion let his bat do the squawking. Yes, Baltimore manager Buck Showalter should have used Zach Britton, but that’s beyond the point, because Encarnacion’s blast symbolized far more than a three-run homer.
When Ubaldo Jimenez’s offering was launched off the Toronto slugger’s bat at 108 miles per hour, it was a good thing that the roof was open, because it would have been blown off.
As someone who lived north of the border for a couple of years, I can tell you that there are not some, but many fair weather Blue Jays fans out there. However, over the past two years, that seems to have changed. Perhaps it’s the personality of Josh Donaldson, the intensity of Bautista, enthusiasm of Marcus Stroman or that one of their own, East York, Ontario native Russell Martin calls the shots behind the plate; but this team seems to resonate with the people of not only Ontario but across Canada unlike any since the glory days of the mid-to-late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
The SkyDome (yes damn it, it’s still SkyDome) never rocked like it does now. The atmosphere inside the ballpark is more akin to the Metrodome in 1987 and ’91 than the cavernous tomb it could be whenever a team other than Boston or the Yankees traveled to T.O.
Bautista’s blast and flip provided an opportunity for the Toronto faithful to unleash more than two decades of disappointment and frustration, and represented a new found hope that the Jays could once again be one of baseball’s best. And those very fans are quickly making Rogers Centre a building feared by opponents.
That said, it wasn’t until this year, when Toronto followed up its first division title since ’93 with a repeat trip to October that the Jays were finally and irrefutably back.
Encarnacion’s titanic shot served as that stamp of approval.
The Blue Jays bested Texas a year ago and once again have the opportunity to do just that. Above all else, Toronto fans not only understand but truly believe that it is, in fact, their moment. They have a team capable of defeating any placed before it, and for the first time since the days of Alomar and Carter, whether it be Donaldson or Troy Tulowitzki, Bautista or Encarnacion, they once again have bats that can change the fortunes of a franchise with a single swing.