Best of Blue Jays Watch Party: Bautista still gets ‘chills’ watching bat flip


Jose Bautista celebrates his legendary home run in Toronto's Game 5 ALDS win in 2015. (Nathan Denette/CP)

Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS between the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers was one of the most dramatic contests in recent baseball history, highlighted by Jose Bautista’s iconic bat flip.

After a dramatic and controversial top half of the seventh inning, the Blue Jays responded with four runs in the bottom half of the frame, punctuated by Bautista’s blast.

Bautista himself, along with a number of other special guests, joined Sportsnet’s Blue Jays Watch Party on Friday to re-live his epic home run — and a Toronto victory that truly had a little bit of everything.

Here are some of the best moments from the Watch Party.

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“I wasn’t trying to hit the record button”

Bautista’s bat flip was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for an athlete, and the slugger wasn’t trying to take himself out of the moment as he rounded the bases and returned to the dugout. Instead, he just tried to absorb all the sights and sounds around him.

“Everyone blacked out. I have no clue what was going through my mind. Everything became a blur,” Bautista said. “I was fully immersed in the moment, nothing was going through my brain other than paying attention to what was happening. I wasn’t trying to hit the record button. I was enjoying the moment, trying to take in the reaction. I was completely engulfed in that…

“The most fun part for me is all the reactions of the guys and the faces of the fans.”

After such a whirlwind of a night, Bautista said he couldn’t really let everything wash over him until he was home from the stadium and celebrations with teammates and fans ended.

“Right before I went to bed, that’s when I got the chance to decompress and let it all sink in. Even the ride home, David Price had gifted us scooters, I ended up taking mine back home that night. Even the ride home, fans were still out on the streets.”

Fast forward nearly five years and watching his home run still brings back all the emotions.

“It definitely still gives me chills,” Bautista said. “It’s one of those moments you never forget. As an athlete you’re fortunate enough to just be in one of those positions let alone do something for your team. What I enjoyed the most was just watching everyone else enjoy it.”

Swagger like us

Equipped with a murderer’s row of a lineup, a deep starting rotation and a lights-out back end of the bullpen, the Blue Jays oozed confidence every night back then. Beyond the talent, the group had a deep personal connection, which took their game to another level.

“This team had that special ‘It’ that most teams look for,” Bautista said. “It’s swagger, it’s confidence but at the same time it’s great camaraderie. Everyone was pulling for each other and knew there was a bigger goal in mind. It was a group that enjoyed being around each other.”

Asked if he misses those days and playing baseball in Toronto, Bautista had a simple yet powerful answer.

“Of course I do, [I miss] all of it. Toronto is like my second home and I wish I was still there.”

“I was pretty confident I had screwed up”

Before the bat flip had a chance to happen, there was the infamous top of the seventh, when Texas took a 3-2 lead after Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin inadvertently threw a ball off Shin-Soo Choo’s bat. Home plate umpire Dale Scott, who admitted he had never seen anything like it in nearly 4,000 games of experience, immediately called the play dead.

Seconds later, Scott realized he had made a huge mistake.

The veteran umpire acknowledged on the Watch Party that he had mixed up two rules, and called for a huddle with the other officials on the diamond. The ball was nowhere near a fielder when the play was ruled dead, so Scott reversed the call and allowed Rougned Odor to score from third base. His message to his fellow umpires was “I’ll take care of John [Gibbons].”

In the moment, Gibbons gave Scott an earful and issued an official protest. Now further removed from the event, Gibbons himself briefly joined the Watch Party with a pre-recorded message for Scott, praising the umpire as one of the best in the sport due to his composure and fairness.

In hindsight, the officials got the call right and the Blue Jays would overcome the controversy just a half inning later. But who knows what would have happened if Odor’s scamper home had been the winning run.

Harold Reynolds clears the air

Broadcaster Harold Reynolds caused quite the stir in Game 3 of this series, insinuating that Canadian fans couldn’t catch foul balls because of their background playing hockey.

“Because there’s not a lot of people that grew up playing baseball in Canada, they’re not used to catching a lot of balls hit into the stands,” Reynolds said at the time.

Reynolds became public enemy No. 1 north of the border after that comment (maybe public enemy No. 2, after Odor) and is still trying to live it down.

On the Watch Party, Reynolds shared a story of how his luggage mysteriously didn’t arrive in Toronto for Game 5, which forced him to go out and buy some new clothes. He jokingly pointed the finger at a sassy custom’s agent.

Reynolds tried to clear his name, saying his comments were blown out of proportion. He professed his love for Canada and recalled fond experiences playing for the triple-A Calgary Cannons. He also cited Vancouver as his favourite city in the world.

Hopefully Blue Jays fans can finally forgive him.


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