Blue Jays recognize victims, first responders of Toronto van attack

The Toronto Blue Jays honour the first responders, and hold a moment of silence before the anthems to recognize those who lost their lives in the Toronto van attack.

TORONTO – A new banner hung along the facing of the 200 level in centre field at Rogers Centre Tuesday. Spanning perhaps 50 feet, it offered a reminder of Monday’s tragedy with the words #TORONTOSTRONG.

In that small way and others, the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox showed support for the 10 people who died Monday when a man deliberately drove a van through a crowd of people near Yonge St. and Finch Ave. Fourteen others were injured in the crash.

When Blue Jays manager John Gibbons first heard the news, he had trouble believing it.

“It’s brutal. I thought I was in the U.S. or something, truthfully,” Gibbons said. “I don’t know what’s going on in the world. It kind of puts things in perspective.”

Like Gibbons, Red Sox manager Alex Cora had expected a quiet off-day in Toronto Monday. Instead, he felt the impact of the devastating news. Before addressing the Boston media Tuesday, Cora made a point of showing support for the victims of Monday’s attack.

“You understand how I feel about the game of baseball, how passionate I am,” Cora said “The game is not more important than life. There’s stuff out there, on a personal note it makes you sick just to think about it.

“For me, the Boston Red Sox and everybody that has to do with the organization, we’re with you guys,” Cora continued. “Toronto strong and our thoughts and prayers with everybody.”

Before first pitch Tuesday, the Blue Jays had a moment of silence to honour the victims and their families. Six of the first responders to the scene of the tragedy were also recognized during the pre-game ceremony, which included a short video tribute.

As the first responders left the field, Marco Estrada greeted them near the Blue Jays dugout. Earlier, Marcus Stroman and Teoscar Hernandez were among the Toronto players to show support on Twitter in the aftermath of the tragedy.

Commissioner Rob Manfred was also on hand, and though his trip was scheduled long before Monday, he began his news conference Tuesday with a show of support for the city.

“I want to say to the citizens of Toronto, to the Blue Jays fans from all of us at Major League Baseball, we’re devastated by the tragedy here yesterday,” Manfred said. “You were in our thoughts all day yesterday and will remain there for some time. We hope that maybe our game tonight will provide a little bit of the beginning of the healing process for this city.”

In some small ways, baseball might even play a part in the healing process.

“It’s almost like you get back to normalcy after the shock of it happens,” Gibbons said. “The daily routine, something you follow every day, it’s probably a good distraction I would think.

“These (players) all feel it,” Gibbons continued. “These guys are players, but they’re humans, too. I don’t think we can all comprehend it really, unless it hits you somewhat directly, or somebody you know. That can be unfortunate.

“I think what’s really sad is a lot of times we’re desensitized nowadays because it’s happening too often.”

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