Who gets the table?
That is a litmus test I often use when I am trying to evaluate someone’s star power. Some use Q Rating. Others use Twitter followers, or net worth. My metric is simple: If two people — or more accurately two celebrities — show up at the hottest restaurant at the same time and there is one table left (let’s make it a chef’s table just for fun), who gets it? Who has more juice?
So for example in Toronto Michael Clemons gets the table over Doug Flutie. Wayne Gretzky gets the table over Mario Lemieux. Tim Tebow gets the table over Andrew Luck. And sadly, Kim Kardashian probably gets the table over Adele, but not over Beyonce.
When I apply this to the Toronto sports market it’s clear Jose Bautista still has the juice and he still gets the table. Hockey is king, but Auston Mathews is young and likely still not as recognizable as Bautista. Basketball is hot at the moment, but DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry split the spotlight. Plus, I’d argue the most impactful member of the franchise is team president Masai Ujiri.
Outside of perhaps Connor McDavid, Bautista is arguably the most recognizable athlete in Canada. He has provided so many memorable moments, endured some rough lows and incredible highs and oh yeah, he orchestrated the home run celebration seen all over the world.
He rose from a utility player to mega-star before our eyes over the past eight years.
But as visible as Bautista has been, he remains at times guarded and chooses his words carefully. In an effort to get the Blue Jays star to open up with us, I thought I’d take a different route. Instead of throwing questions straight at him, I presented him with some photos and asked him what came to mind.
Watch the video above to see Bautista’s reaction and explanation to seeing the photos in question.
Below are the photos referenced and a selection of his responses.
“I’ve always been loose and limber. I’m always ‘moving around’ I call it instead of stretching. I just like to move my body and stay loose for any play that might be upcoming.”
On dealing with the media
“It’s not a burden at all and it’s not something I do myself. A bunch of us are leaders in there and a lot of us speak on behalf of the team at times. It’s just a matter of the position that you play within the organization. Hopefully you represent them in the right way through the comments you make to the fans through the media. You always try to be careful. Some times you’re better at it than others. But ideally, you want the truth and the reality of what you mean to say to be conveyed the proper way and most of the time it does.”
On pre-game emotions
“You do feel a little bit of anxiousness, a little bit of timidness just before competition. That’s part of the reason why I sprint (out of the dugout), just to get myself in being an athlete mode quick where those thoughts are out of my head and my brain and my mind are just focused on calmly the task at hand. I just try and kick-start my day by doing that.”
On post-game celebrations
“We haven’t changed it in a while. We have just done a semi-circle-ish put your hands together in the outfield for a few years now. Pillar was in charge of doing it a few years ago. It’s nice and simple. Not too much showboating going on, so we like it.”
On dealing with failure
“One of the biggest challenges is trying not to let the game affect you in a negative way when it is a game of failure. When you fail seven out of 10 times you’re still great so it’s part of the sport. You try and learn with It and think it through and sometimes athlete your way out of it. Hopefully your short-term memory is good.”
On Edwin Encarnacion
“He’s a great person. He’s a great teammate. He’s a great human being. He has a big heart. Everybody knows how much he enjoyed playing the game and how much he loved being in Toronto. I’m happy he found another home where he was wanted. Hopefully his future is bright wherever he goes except when I play against him. We never want to see the day when one of your good friends has to leave the team, but it’s inevitable in this sport and in this business. It’s not exactly the happiest moment all the time but you get over it.”
On mentoring Marcus Stroman
“I think he listens a lot. I think he communicates a lot. It’s a great two-way relationship where we feed off of each other. He asks me questions. I speak from experience. I try and tell him what I believe I did right, what I believe I did wrong and what I learned from it. Hopefully he takes those pieces of advice and he tries to move forward, hopefully not having to make the same mistakes that I did.”
On his relationship with Drake
“Any time we get a chance and we’re in the same city and there is a show or a game and he’s able to stop by, he’s always been happy to do so and he’s always been able to have me as a guest at some of his shows and venues. It’s an unbelievable feeling knowing one of the best artists in the city supports you as well. So I try and reciprocate as much as I can. Obviously, it’s much easier for me to support him. He brings so much joy to life with the music that he creates. He’s present in most people’s life at one point or another. I’m always thankful for everything he’s done.”
On the bat flip
“It’s the best individual moment that I’ve had on a baseball field in my whole career. It’s a great memory. I remember when I connected with the ball knowing that it was gone, but more the position I put our team in. We had a chance to continue to move on in the playoffs after being absent for 22 years. It makes me happy knowing there are people all over the world watching this game at that time and that memory is going to stay with them.”
On his post-season experience
“We obviously didn’t accomplish the goal that we want and have wanted and that is win the World Series, but we played good baseball, we got deep into the playoffs and have nothing to be ashamed of. We left it all out there and got beat by a better team in those (opportunities). We played a ton of tremendous baseball over the last three-to-four seasons here and we got rewarded by going to the playoffs twice. They are times definitely I’ll remember about how much fun we had here.”
On the Blue Jays’ Level of Excellence
“It’s something I never expected, obviously. I’m happy that it’s going to be like that, if it is going to be like that. I’m more happy about the opportunity that I received here than anything else and more happy about all those moments that we’ve had together as teammates, fans, coaches and a franchise. Moments like this are memorable and (the fans) are going to be able to, and I’m going to be able to, enjoy and remember them for a long time.”
All photos via Canadian Press.