Blue Jays: José Bautista to be added to Level of Excellence

Division Series - Texas Rangers v Toronto Blue Jays - Game Five
Division Series - Texas Rangers v Toronto Blue Jays - Game Five / Vaughn Ridley/GettyImages

The Blue Jays have announced that long-time Jay and fan favorite, José Bautista, will be added to the Level of Excellence this summer.

The former heavy-hitting outfielder will have his name and number enshrined at Rogers Centre on Saturday, August 12, before a 3:07 p.m. game versus the Chicago Cubs.

Bautista spent 10 years with the Blue Jays, playing in 1,235 games, and was responsible for reigniting the passion for baseball in Toronto and Canada and introducing a new generation of fans to Blue Jays baseball. He was an integral part of the 2015 team that brought the postseason back to the city for the first time since the glory days of the early 90s.

Bautista is best known to baseball fans as the bat-flipping slugger that hit one of the biggest home runs in Blue Jays' history, during the craziest inning in Blue Jays' lore, in Game 5 of the ALDS against the Texas Rangers.

But to Blue Jays fans he embodies the heart and soul of almost a decade of teams that were unapologetic in how they played the game. They were good, they knew it, and they weren't afraid to let everyone know.

From humble beginnings to superstardom

The former 20th-round draft pick, whose career spanned from 2004-2018, was acquired by the Jays in 2008 in what seemed like a nothing trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates (the player eventually sent back was Robinzon Díaz). The 27-year-old had already bounced around between Baltimore, Kansas City and Pittsburgh. While he played 400 games in a Pirates uniform, he hadn't shown to be anything special.

But then he arrived in Toronto and everything changed.

Under the guidance of manager Cito Gaston, Bautista unlocked something at the plate and became one of the most prolific power hitters in the game. He slugged a league-leading 54 home runs in 2010 and followed that up the next year with 43 long balls.

As one of the all-time great Jays, Bautista ranks first with a 36.2 fWAR. He's second in home runs (288), runs scored (790), and walks (803), while third in RBI (766) and fourth in OPS (.878) and wRC+ (138).

The right-handed slugger was a revelation for the Jays, who built playoff-contending teams around his bat. He led the team to the postseason in 2015, beating the Rangers in the aforementioned ALDS, before losing the Championship Series to the eventual World Series champion Royals.

In 2016, the team beat the Orioles in the Wild Card game and took care of the Rangers in the ALDS, again, before succumbing to Cleveland in the ALCS.

While he never won a World Series in Toronto, José Bautista will forever be remembered as an all-time great Blue Jay and playoff hero, with his name on the Level of Excellence overlooking the field he once dominated.

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