Blue Jays: Top-five greatest third basemen in franchise history

League Championship - Kansas City Royals v Toronto Blue Jays - Game Three
League Championship - Kansas City Royals v Toronto Blue Jays - Game Three / Tom Szczerbowski/GettyImages
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No. 4 Tony Batista

Tony Batista is fourth on this list, but in a ranking of the most unique batting stances in Blue Jays history, he would be a clear frontrunner.

Batista stood at the plate with his legs spread far apart, his entire body turned to face the pitcher as if he were trying to have a conversation instead of hitting a home run. Only when the pitcher was about to release the ball did Batista turn his upper body, leaning back over the plate.

It was an unconventional stance he stumbled upon while playing in Venezuela in 1998, and it worked for him. “I tried to do something different and right away I got a hit with that kind of stance,” Batista told author Steve Riach in his book, Life Lessons from Baseball. “It’s been working for me since that day.”

And work it did. Batista arrived in Toronto in June 1999 after a midseason trade with the Diamondbacks. He hit 26 home runs in only 98 games that first season, but his best would be saved for the following year.

It began on Opening Day. Batista had already homered when he came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning, the score tied 4-4. Royals’ reliever Jerry Spradlin tried to sneak a slider past him, but Batista, who often struggled to reach the outside corner with his stance, had seen the pitch before and was ready for it. He hit it 404 feet to left field to give the Blue Jays a 5-4 win. It remains the only Opening Day walkoff home run in franchise history.

Batista didn’t stop hitting homers in that 2000 season after that day. He ended the year with 41, the most in a season by a Blue Jays third baseman (Josh Donaldson tied the record in 2015). He was part of a record-breaking lineup for the Blue Jays, as Batista joined teammates Carlos Delgado, Brad Fullmer, and José Cruz with at least 30 homers. It was the first time in MLB history four teammates had each eclipsed the 30-home run milestone. The Blue Jays finished second in the league in homers, five behind the Astros.

Batista struggled in the 2001 season and was hitting just .207 before he was claimed off waivers by the Baltimore Orioles. His time with the Blue Jays was short, but no one who saw him flash his prodigious power, or that stance, will forget it.