Jose Bautista has never been shy about expressing his opinion.
The Toronto Blue Jays all-star became a polarizing figure during the MLB post-season with his infamous bat flip following the series-winning home run against the Texas Rangers in the ALDS.
Bautista took some heat — from opponents, fans, and some media members — for celebrating the hit rather than simply starting his run around the bases.
So Bautista decided to tell his side of the story in The Players’ Tribune, offering some perspective into his mindset following the biggest moment of his professional career.
Here are five things we learned from Bautista:
Bautista felt like a super hero: Every sports fan grows up wanting to be the hero in a big game. And Bautista got to live that when he knocked the three-run shot off Rangers reliever Sam Dyson in the deciding game of the ALDS — in front of the Toronto home crowd.
It clearly resonated with Bautista, who said he felt like Batman after the home run.
“I wish you could have heard my thoughts in that moment,” Bautista said. “It’s the closest I have ever felt to being a superhero. I felt like I was Batman, and the villain had the girl dangling off the edge of the building. My adrenaline wasn’t 10-out-of-10. It was ten-million-out-of-10.
“When you’re in that situation, you’re playing a role in a show. I’m not Jose Bautista. I’m the guy trying to be the superhero. I’m coming through. I’m going to make something happen.”
He didn’t plan the bat flip: Bautista says the whole thing was spontaneous; there was no game plan or script. He just got swept away in the emotion of the moment.
“When the pitch came in, I turned on it,” Bautista said. “It was just a natural reaction, just like I’ve done hundreds of times before.
There’s no sound in the world like the crack a baseball makes on the sweet spot of my maple Marucci. You blink on contact. The immediate roar of the crowd lifts your sights to see where the ball is going. Imagine the feeling of watching it land in the seats. How would you feel? What would you do”
He doesn’t think the backlash was justified: The Blue Jays outfielder was criticized by Dyson and members of the media following Game 5, and later on by Rangers pitcher Derek Holland who also had some harsh words. Bautista took issue with those who questioned his character, leadership and disrespect for the “integrity” of the game when he was just embracing a big moment and having fun.
Bautista said he’s human. If people think he’s jerk, that’s fine with him but he feels the conversations about character and integrity are “old school” and “ignorant.”
“Were these same opinions expressed when Carlton Fisk “waved” his home run fair in ’75? Or when Joe Carter jumped around the bases in ’93? When I was growing up and I watched iconic moments like those, I was so caught up in the emotion that I got chills,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking about the implications. I was fully immersed in the moment and enjoying it. I loved Cal Ripken Jr. for his poise and control. But I also admired Reggie Jackson for showing his passion and flair.
But nowadays, when a player flips his bat, especially a guy who wears his emotions on his sleeve, a small section of people always seem to turn it into a debate about the integrity of the game.
But for whatever reason, there’s a small section of old-school, my-way-or-the-highway type of people who never want the game to evolve. They’re the dinosaurs who believe that everybody should play the same and act the same. They usually claim that it is out of “respect.”
Understanding his culture: Bautista wanted to offer insight into his background and why he’s wired the way he is. The long-time Blue Jay grew up in a different baseball culture, where expressing emotion was commonplace. As a result, he doesn’t think it’s right that fans or analysts expect all players to ‘act the same.’
“The reality is that these guys came up playing baseball in an entirely different atmosphere,” Bautista said of his experience in the Dominican Republic. “Come down to the Dominican Republic and experience it yourself. We’re loud. We’re emotional. We’re always singing and dancing. We love to laugh and have a good time. It’s ingrained in our DNA. And it doesn’t change when we’re playing baseball. To us, baseball isn’t a country club game. It’s our national pastime, and it comes packed with emotion.”
The local reaction blew him away: Bautista learned more about the power of social media after his big home run. He couldn’t believe all the memes and videos that were going around and said “tens of thousands” of people flooded his timeline on Twitter.
His phone blew up as well.
“I got over 400 text messages,” wrote Bautista. “Over 200 e-mails. It was stupid. I’ve never seen so many message notifications on a phone before.
Someone sent me a video of a subway car in Toronto after the game. Everybody on the train was doing the olé soccer chant with my name. “Joséee, José, José Joséee!
That felt amazing.
I also saw a video of a guy finishing his bowl of cereal and then flipping the spoon. Even the mayor of Toronto flipped a bat into a fountain.”
You can read the entire article at The Players’ Tribune.