Toronto Blue Jays fans might be feeling a little bit emotional upon hearing Tuesday’s news that the club traded Kevin Pillar to the San Francisco Giants.
So, too, is Pillar himself.
The outfielder, who had spent his entire MLB career to date with the Blue Jays organization, fought back tears as he met with reporters Tuesday shortly after the deal went down and described his “mixed emotions” as he digested the news.
“I think in some weird way, it’s a little bit of relief. It’s definitely an emotional time for me and my family,” said Pillar, who’s had to deal with plenty of questions during the lead-up to this season after his name began appearing in trade speculation with increasing frequency.
“I’m definitely excited, though. Location-wise, I think aside from maybe going back to L.A. or Arizona, where I live, being on the west coast is going to be a pretty cool opportunity for me to be a lot closer to my family,” he said.
Pillar, a native of West Hills, Calif., was tearful as he explained what makes his departure from Toronto particularly emotional for him.
“It’s all I’ve ever known,” he said of his time with in Toronto. “You know, you spend a lot of time here. You spend more time here than you do in your home in the off-season. I spend more time with people here than I do with my own family. That part of it’s hard.”
That time included a pair of thrilling playoff runs in 2015 and 2016 that captured the entire nation, with Pillar solidifying his status as a fan favourite thanks in large part to his diving catches that earned him the nickname “Superman.”
“I got a chance to live my dream,” he said, thanking the organization that drafted him in the 32nd round in 2011. “I got called up as a 24-year-old kid that probably had no intentions of getting to the big leagues, was able to have my debut here in Toronto as a 24-year-old kid and I’m leaving here as a 30-year-old man with a wife and a kid and a lifetime of memories.
“This city and this country allowed me to almost become a mythical kind of superhuman baseball player, and I can’t thank them enough for that,” he said.
Looking ahead to his new team, Pillar said he’s ready to learn from his new teammates and veteran manager Bruce Bochy.
“I’m very fortunate I’m going to a first-class organization,” he said. “I’m very excited to play under Bochy for his last season, get a chance to pick his brain a little bit.”