Ranking the 5 best Opening Day performances in Blue Jays history
3. Tony Batista/Shannon Stewart, 2000
Tony Batista had one of the most unique batting stances in Major League history. He faced the pitcher head-on, completely open as if he was about to start a conversation with him and not hit a 400-foot home run. But hitting home runs, unorthodox stance aside, is something he did a lot of in his 11-year career, and never more so than in the 2000 season. It began on Opening Day.
On a Monday afternoon in April in front of 40,000 fans at the Skydome, Batista hit a two-run home run off Kansas City Royals starter Jeff Suppan in the fourth inning. It put the Blue Jays ahead 3-0, but he wasn’t done there. After closer Billy Koch gave up two runs with two outs in the top of the ninth inning that tied the game, Batista came to the plate in the bottom half of the inning to face Royals relief pitcher Jerry Spradlin.
Spradlin tried to sneak a slider past Batista, who, with his stance, often struggled to reach the outside corner. But he had already seen the pitch and was ready for it. He hit a 404-foot homer to left field that gave the Blue Jays an Opening Day 5-4 win. It remains the only walk-off home run on Opening Day in franchise history.
Batista wasn’t alone on this day, though. Shannon Stewart led off with a home run in the bottom of the first inning and added another in the fifth, both off Suppan. At the time, Batista and Stewart were only the fourth pair of teammates in MLB history to each hit multiple home runs on Opening Day. Stewart played 907 games in a Blue Jays uniform over parts of 10 seasons; this was his only multi-homer game.
“I try to visualize things. I had visualized hitting a home run, so when I hit a home run, I felt like I was dreaming,” Stewart said about his lead-off home run.
Stewart ended the 2000 season with a career-high 21 home runs. Batista hit 41, one of four times he hit more than 30 in his career. The Blue Jays had four players hit at least 30 home runs that season—Carlos Delgado also hit 41, while Brad Fullmer and Jose Cruz added 32 and 31, respectively—a Major League record at the time. They finished second in the Majors with 244 homers, five behind the Houston Astros.