The decade started for the Blue Jays with Jose Bautista. In the moment, we couldn’t have known how appropriate that would feel almost ten years later.
When Bautista stepped into the batter’s box on the afternoon of April 5th, 2010, he was still a marginal player who had perhaps narrowly evaded being non-tendered by virtue of a scorching hot September the previous year. By the end of that season, Bautista would have established a place in Blue Jays’ history, and by the end of the decade, he would be a six-time all-star, three-time Silver Slugger winner and a franchise legend.
Who would have seen that coming?
A decade is both an eternity and passes in the bat of an eyelash, filled with infinite mundane moments that are occasionally broken up by some spectacular. Some of these special moments have meaning, and sometimes, they were simply so unexpected that they stop time and stick in your consciousness forever.
The following are ten of the most memorable moments from the past decade in Blue Jays’ history. There are many moments that did not make this list, such as the 19-inning Canada Day win, Russell Martin’s big homer against the New York Yankees in 2015 (“Russell! Russell! Russell!), the comeback against the Cincinnati Reds, Bautista’s 50th home run, or his blast off Roy Halladay in his return to Toronto, or any number of other essential moments. (And many thanks to those of you who shared your most memorable moments with me over Twitter. It was fun to see the moments we shared, and the odd ones that were meaningful to you.)
John McDonald’s Father’s Day home run – June 20, 2010
There are moments that conspire to put a lump in your throat, and few were as touching as when John McDonald, in his first at-bat after returning to the team following the passing of his father, took San Francisco Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt deep. McDonald was a beloved Blue Jays, known more for his glove than his hitting, so any home run would have been notable. But the timing of this one and McDonald’s very open emotions as he circled the bases made this unforgettable for any fan with a heart.
Brandon Morrow’s 17-strikeout one-hitter – August 8, 2010
Brandon Morrow was always a talent that tantalized, and to watch him pitch was to feel as though he was always so close to becoming something great, maybe even an ace. But injuries and circumstance always seemed to undermine him along the way. On this Sunday afternoon in August, though, Morrow mowed down the eventual American League East champion Tampa Bay Rays with an exceptional arsenal of nasty breaking pitches that played off his moving fastball. Tension built to a crescendo with each subsequent K, until with two outs in the ninth, Aaron Hill couldn’t come up with a sharp grounder hit into the hole between first and second. No matter, he threw one last strikeout to finish the job. With a score of 100, it remains the highest-ranked start ever for a Blue Jay, according to Bill James’ Game Score, and one of only 15 games in baseball history to top that number.
Muni’s walkoff – May 26, 2013
It was supposed to be a year that would be eventful for better reasons than this. After an off-season spent accumulating a reigning Cy Young winner in R.A. Dickey, a heap of veteran talent from the Florida Marlins, including Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson, plus Melky Cabrera, these Blue Jays were supposed to compete. Instead, Reyes got hurt early, Johnson sputtered, Dickey was ordinary and the entire season was sliding away from them.
Enter Munenori Kawasaki, as unlikely a hero as the franchise would ever know. Down 5-2 entering the ninth, the Jays rallied against Baltimore Orioles closer Jim Johnson, and with two men on, the ebullient Kawaski sliced a double into the alley, scoring J.P. Arencibia and his eventual makeshift translator, Mark DeRosa. Kawasaki’s joyful celebration and unhinged post-game interviews would establish him as a fan favourite in perpetuity.
(That inning was also notable for Brett Lawrie’s at-bat earlier, when he sent a shallow fly ball to right field, then pointed accusingly at teammate Adam Lind and third base coach Luis Rivera for not sending the runner. Lawrie was met at the steps by a rightfully indignant John Gibbons, with Bautista playing peacemaker.)
Donaldson’s dive and Estrada’s gem – June 24th, 2015
With the Blue Jays finally surging and making up ground in the standings, fans were beginning to understand the uncommon joy of watching Josh Donaldson’s hell-for-leather style of play. Donaldson was truly what we were always promised Lawrie would be. In the 8th inning, with Marco Estrada still nurturing a perfect game, Donaldson launched himself into the stands at Tropicana Field to catch a foul pop-up, preserving the perfecto (for the moment, until the next batter) and flattening a couple of kids at the same time.
David Price’s first start as a Blue Jay – August 3rd, 2015
Coming off a loud and rollicking long-weekend series against their eventual American League Championship Series rivals, the Kansas City Royals, the Blue Jays sent deadline acquisition David Price to the mound on the holiday Monday. And Price did not disappoint. At a moment when the passion for the team had finally been reignited, Price delivered a commanding performance with 11 strikeouts over eight innings and one run allowed against the Minnesota Twins. For a fanbase that had been through so much disappointment over the previous two decades, Price’s immediate dominance gave fans a reason to let go and believe.
Donaldson’s home finale walk-off – September 27, 2015
The Blue Jays had all but clinched their playoff spot, but spent most of that last Sunday afternoon at home chasing Rays. The Jays scored a run in the eighth to tie the game, and with two outs in the ninth, Donaldson crushed an 0-1 pitch from Steve Geltz into the packed seats of the Rogers Centre. After their remarkable run, and Donaldson’s catalyzing role in leading the charge, he earned the chants of “M-V-P!” that rained down from a crowd that didn’t want to leave. (Also, if you’re checking out the video, Ben Revere’s phantom sports drink shower remains a hilarious punctuation mark on the moment.)
The Bat Flip – October 14, 2015
You could construct a top-10 list of memories just from the seventh inning of Game 5 of the ALDS against the Texas Rangers. Martin’s throw off Shin-soo Choo’s bat knob. The series of outs that the Rangers could not make. But no moment is a singularly indelible as Bautista’s three-run blast into the left-field seats to put the Jays ahead for good, when it seemed as though heartbreak had been so close. It was a moment so defining for the franchise that it immediately meme-able, gif-able and put onto T-shirts before the glow of the evening wore off, and remains as energizing today.
Edwin’s wild card walk-off – October 4th, 2016
You’d think that Blue Jays fans would have become accustomed to the dramatic. But Edwin Encarnacion’s 11th-inning clincher in the wild-card game provided so many levels of satisfaction. A walk-off homer in any win-or-go-home game is always satisfying, but it was all the more so that it came at the expense of the Orioles, especially after their manager Buck Showalter overthought the moment and left their unhittable closer Zack Britton in the bullpen, presumably for some better moment. A walk of the parrot around the bases never felt so sweet.
Donaldson’s dash – October 10, 2016
After a year in which the Jays-Rangers rivalry came to literal blows on the field, Josh Donaldson’s bravura run from second and head-first slide into home on the villainous Rougned Odor’s throwing error was as satisfying a way to sweep Texas. It was the sort of reckless play that almost no one else could get away with. But everyone else isn’t Josh Donaldson, who plays the game in bold statements.
Vladdy’s Big O big moment – March 26th, 2018
For fans who were starving for the next sign that the Blue Jays might return to something resembling glory, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was – and remains – the brightest beacon for our collective hopes. While the outcome of the pre-season contest was inconsequential, the moment when Vladdy sent the winning homer into the seats of the Olympic Stadium where his father once played for the Expos was overflowing with meaning, and moreover, hope.