While he wore the colours of seven different franchises over his 17-season career, Tony Fernandez always seemed to find his way back to the Toronto Blue Jays.
He played 12 seasons in Toronto across four separate stints, many of them memorable, like his 1986 campaign when he set a record at the time for hits as a shortstop with 213 and achieved the rare feat of playing 163 games (the Blue Jays had a tie game rained out in the ninth inning that year, meaning all the player stats counted while the game was replayed the next night) or his remarkable 1999 season, when he put up an .877 OPS and went to the all-star game at the age of 37. And, of course, there was the 1993 season when Fernandez returned to the Blue Jays midway through the year, batting .306/.361/.442 over the season’s back-half and .326/.400/.349 in the playoffs as Toronto rolled to its second straight World Series championship.
He began his major-league life as a Blue Jay, playing 15 games at the end of the 1983 season as a fresh-faced 21-year-old rookie, and ended it as a Blue Jay, joining the club midway through the 2001 season for the final 48 games of his career and hitting .305 as a grizzled 39-year-old veteran. During the time in between, Fernandez was known as an exceptional defender, winning four consecutive gold glove awards from 1986 through 1989. In some ways, Fernandez was a defender before his time — one who loved to make plays on the run, firing to first at full speed from odd angles, much like so many shortstops do today.
Of course, he was also a prolific hitter, reaching 170 hits or more in a season five times. He also stole 246 bases, hit the odd home run, was always a threat to stretch one of his many doubles into a triple, and generally did just about everything on the baseball diamond very, very well. Still the franchise leader in hits with 1,583, it’s hard to imagine the Toronto Blue Jays without Fernandez — or Fernandez without the Toronto Blue Jays.
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