TORONTO - The memorable at-bat came in the fourth inning on June 21, 2008 at PNC Park.
Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Jose Bautista hit the seventh pitch of his plate appearance on a line to left for a two-run, homer off Blue Jays right-hander Jesse Litsch.
And then ...
All hell broke loose.
“Well, I pimped it pretty bad,” Bautista recalled this week.
Coach Brian Butterfield stood up in the Jays dugout screaming at Bautista.
“I remember Toronto guys yelling at me, I know Roy Halladay was yelling at me,” Bautista said. “He wasn’t the only one barking. It was a good thing he wasn’t pitching the next day, he probably would have hit me.”
The 6-3 Pirates win over the Jays dropped Cito Gaston’s record in his second life as manager to 0-2.
“He took his time, I didn’t like it,” Gaston said Saturday.
Dustin McGowan pitched an 8-5 win the next day.
Bautista played only 42 more games for the Pirates, before being claimed on waivers by assistant general manager Alex Anthopoulos, dealt for yet another Jays catcher of the future Robinzon Diaz (44 games in the majors, none since 2009).
“As soon as the game was over I admitted I was wrong,” Bautista said. “I was younger then, it was a long at-bat and believe me where I was then, I would do anything to get some notice.”
In 2008, Bautista played in 107 games for the Pirates, starting 82 games, 81 at third base and one at DH.
Butterfield remembers screaming at the man he shakes hands with rounding third once per 10.54 at-bats the previous two seasons, heading into Saturday’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies and Halladay.
The leading vote-getter for this month’s all-star game in Arizona has hit 79 homers in 833 at-bats in 2010-11 — most in the majors.
“I’d have a hard time not pimping it if I could hit it that far,” Butterfield said. “I was yelling at him, even stood up so he could see me.
“We joked about it last year.”
Bautista’s two-run, homer put the Pirates up 4-0.
“I don’t feel like I disrespected (Litsch), but I shouldn’t have done anything,” Bautista said.
The only time we’ve seen Bautista put on a Willie Montanez-Jeffrey Leonard-Gary (Sarge) Matthews-Jack Clark slo-mo trot or a batter’s box celebration on the way to first was when, after being buzzed, Bautista hit a game-winning homer in the eighth inning off New York Yankees reliever David Robertson.
A year ago after 65 games on July 1, Jays second baseman Aaron Hill was hitting .191 with 11 homers, 29 RBIs and a .642 OPS.
He entered play Saturday with a .243 average, three homers, 30 RBIs and a .622 OPS.
One whisper making the rounds is that Hill is worried since he turned down a contract extension during spring training.
Hill confirmed that the Jays and his agent Rick Thurman had talks the final five days of the spring on picking up the two option years of his contract. Right now, the Jays have options on Hill’s services for 2012-13 for $8-million US apiece.
“We had some short talks about guaranteeing what was left on the deal,” said Hill, who earns $5 million this season. “I didn’t know I was going to get hurt.”
Hill missed 16 games in April when he injured his right hamstring.
“We said we’ll talk after the all-star break or at the end of the season,” Hill said. “It will all work out. Either they’ll pick up the option years or I’ll be a free agent.”
Talk about Major League Baseball having two 15-team leagues was just that. Say you’re are running the Minnesota Twins going into the off-season trying to sell tickets. Would you rather bill yourself as the AL Central division champs or as the 4th-seeded AL team? And we don’t really see those “Come on down to the park tonight ... the battle for 11th place is on the line!”
Rich Hacker, the Blue Jays third base coach in 1992, was at Busch Stadium for an alumni event last week.
Hacker said the only Jays player who had problems with his signs was Kelly Gruber.
“I’d go through all my signs and at the end I’d clap my hands,” Hacker said. “One clap was a bunt, two was a steal and three was a hit and run or whatever.
“In 1992 in the World Series, Cito Gaston gave me the bunt sign to give him, I called time and went in and tell him. As I was talking to him I could see (Braves owner) Ted Turner and Jane Fonda over his shoulder.”
Gaston is looking 100% after back surgery earlier this summer. But he’s not “back in shape” yet saying he can’t golf until December ... Always nice to see someone from your hometown do well. Like this week an ex-Kingston Ponies bat boy was front-page news. As a bat boy he was not as quick on his feet as, say, Nipper Skeggs, but on the ice, Doug Gilmour was a Hall of Famer. Congrats to the ninth Kingstonian elected ... From a top AL evaluator: “If I was starting an expansion team everyone was a free agent, I’d only be interested in four Jays: Jose Bautista, Yunel Escobar, Adam Lind and J.P. Arencibia.” ... The problem with the Jays outfield right now is their best right fielder is at third, they have a right fielder so accustomed to outfield play, what he did was DH nine of 10 starts first time he was called up to the Jays. Bad routes, missed balls and over thrown cut offs are routine from Corey Patterson, Juan Rivera and Rajai Davis ... WIND mobile’s “Best Conversation Ever” brought Robbie McFarland, 24, to meet Anthopoulos during the Pirates series. WIND will donate $100,000 to the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation in Anthopoulos’ name. WIND and Rogers are competitors on for the mobile phone marketplace.
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Chicago Cubs manager Mike Quade was telling a story the other day at Wrigley.
How he called Windsor catcher Joe Siddall into his office with the 1993 triple-A Ottawa Lynx.
“Joe was a backup, in no danger of being released,” Quade said. “But I’m sure he thought the worst, so we played it that way.”
Eventually, Quade told Siddall that Felipe Alou wanted him to join the Montreal Expos.
“What a range of emotions from down to up, it was a roller coaster,” Quade said.
Siddall got into his first game July 28 as a defensive replacement and made his first start six days later against New York Mets lefty Frank Tanana, going 1-for-3 in a 3-1 win.
Mark Morrison took his father Scott to Wrigley Field in Chicago for a belated Father’s Day gift on Thursday.
While watching batting practice a rep from the Cubs marketing approached needing a youngster to partake in the pre-game Best Buy contest.
Mark, 12, went onto the field, picked a Cub who would homer, was introduced and had his name shown on the scoreboard in centre field.
In the second inning Mark caught a foul ball in his glove, a better play than some Jays outfielders are making these days.
Picking Aramis Ramirez as his pick to click for a home run, the outlook looked grim for the Wrigleyville nine that day, trailing 1-0, two out in the ninth.
Up stepped Ramirez, who homered off San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson. It was Ramirez’s 10th and only Wilson’s third blown save of the season.
The Cubs won in 13 innings on Geovany Soto’s three-run, walk-off homer.
To celebrate, Mark took his pop to Harry Caray’s downtown for dinner.
An autographed ball in a case was sent over by Cubs reliever James Russell, who had pitched a scoreless ninth.
What a day.
If you haven’t guessed Mark’s pop is pal/former Toronto Sun sports editor/Hockey Night in Canada analyst Scotty Morrison.
Shortstop Derek Jeter could be back with the New York Yankees on Monday.
If Jeter doesn’t get six hits to reach the 3,000-hit plateau in the seven scheduled games before the all-star break, his next opportunity will come when the Yankees resume play after the break with four games at the Rogers Centre, July 14-17.
The Yanks open a three-game series Monday in Cleveland against the Indians and then host the Tampa Bay Rays for a four-game series.
Now, that’s a crack marketing department if we have ever seen one: The return of Roy Halladay on a Canada Day weekend series — his start in doubt until six days before he took the mound Saturday — and now a possible weekend visit from the Yankees captain chasing the 3,000-hit mark.
What’s next? Bring Tony Fernanzdez out of retirement when the Seattle Mariners come to town??
Best day in baseball
RHP Ryan Dempster
June 1, 1995
“The day I was drafted. It’s everything you dream of, everything you’ve worked towards,” said Dempster, who went in the third round (66th overall in North America) to the Texas Rangers.
This was pre-Internet days, when only the first round was made public.
“About an hour later, Tim Halgren, he was the director of scouting with the Los Angeles Dodgers and now scouts for the Detroit Tigers, phoned to say they’d picked me,” Dempster said. “No one sent me a text. I went out and played. I was signed by the first week of July.”
Hallgren’s father, Arnie from Victoria, was the first B.C.-born player on a 40-man roster with the 1953 Boston Braves.
Dempster had a scholarship to Notre Dame, but signed when the Cubs gave him a $200,000 US signing bonus and this season earns $13.5 million.
In his first year as a pro, Dempster pitched eight games with the rookie-class Gulf Coast League Rangers and one for class-A Hudson Valley.
He has a 107-108 lifetime record, plus 87 saves in 14 seasons.
Cy Young award winners in both league
Roy Halladay, 2010 Phillies, 2003 Blue Jays
Roger Clemens, 1986-86, 1991 Red Sox; 1997-98 Jays, 2001 Yanks, 2004 Astros
Randy Johnson, 1995 Mariners, 1999-2002 Diamondbacks
Pedro Martinez, 1997 Expos, 1999-2000 Red Sox
Gaylord Perry, 1972 Indians, 1978 Padres