Devon Travis’ career with the Toronto Blue Jays didn’t start or end the way he’d imagined it.
“If there was a team that was last on where I wanted to get traded to, it was Toronto,” Travis told Good Show, reflecting back on the moment he’d learned he’d been dealt from the Detroit Tigers to Toronto in November 2014.
“I never had been out of the country before, I didn’t have a passport. I had no idea about Canada.”
Despite early trepidation on his part, the Florida native quickly became a fan favourite among Blue Jays faithful — and the feel was very much mutual.
“Fast forward, it ended up being the best … if I could play for one team, and I could’ve chosen one team to have my big-league career with and at least start with, everything that I’ve experienced in Canada, if there’s ever a player that asked me, ‘What it’s like playing in Toronto’ Or, ‘Do you want to go to Toronto’ Or, ‘Is this somewhere that you could see yourself playing throughout your career?’ I don’t think I could say enough good things.
“The experience in Toronto, and overall the love from Canadians and the country, everything about … turned out to be the most precious and best five years of my playing career and I don’t really think that anywhere else could’ve topped it.”
Travis’ time came to an end when he declined his outright assignment by Blue Jays management to triple-A Buffalo, electing instead to become a free agent — a split that he said was “tough on everybody.” The parting of ways came after an ongoing battle with various injuries that kept him sidelined for all of 2019 and dramatically limited his playing time throughout his Toronto tenure.
Now having had plenty of time to reflect, Travis said his first question is “what if?”
He spoke openly about the psychological toll of dealing with injuries:
“Mentally, it’s the toughest thing — in the baseball world — is battling injuries,” he said. “For me, it was non-stop. I almost became accustomed to rehab, to be completely honest. I make the joke now to my friends, just because it’s been such a long five years of up-and-down rehab and surgery and recovery and all this stuff, that I almost started saying, ‘I’m a professional rehabber — I’m hardly a professional baseball player.’ I think that’s how I maybe coped with it inside because I know that it pisses me off so bad that the injuries kind of kept flowing like they did.
“But mentally … it is freaking grind. I’m better for it, for sure,” he continued. “I’m not a better baseball player because of it but I’m definitely better for it, mentally, moving forward and I hope to get back out on a baseball field again. There’s nothing more that I love to do in the world than play baseball, and I hope I can do it again. That’s just kinda the best way to put it.”
Travis’s arrival in Toronto meant he was part of the magical playoff runs in 2015 and 2016, and saw the team transition from contender to rebuilder as his struggles through injuries continued.
“I wanted to be a Blue Jay for my entire career,” said Travis. “I wish I could’ve played there 20 years and I wish I could’ve went on to help the franchise win another World Series. I wish I could’ve been there to help lead the younger players. That’s a special place to me, right? And I think that the way it ended was just sad for everyone involved.
“I wish probably more than anything that I could’ve shown what I really was capable of. I think that’s what chaps me the most, is even when I was healthy, I probably was not even healthy — and that bothers me.”
Now 29 and a free agent, Travis said he would “definitely” be open to reuniting with the Blue Jays.
“Would I be open to coming back and being a part of that organization? Right now, I’m focused on playing baseball again. But, sure,” he said. “I think that everything ended about as good as it could. Sure, I was pissed off at a lot of the ways things went, but who’s not pissed off when something ends, right? Especially when you care about it and especially when it’s something that you don’t wanna give up. Everyone’s gonna be pissed off about something like that, and I realize that.
“I would love to be a part of that organization. That’s an organization that has allowed me to live the life that I live today. I’m very well-aware of all the great things that that city has given me and that country has given me, and that organization has given me. I’m very appreciative for it and I’ll never forget it. I look forward to one day, in whatever capacity — I don’t know if it will happen or if it won’t, but I would definitely be open to going back and giving back to the organization that has given me a lot of the things that I’ve been able to receive in my life.”