The 50-year-old Texan strode through customs and immigration undetected by the city’s paparazzi at Pearson International on Thursday afternoon.
He’d flown from San Antonio, to Houston to Toronto on American Airlines, checking into a downtown hotel under the assumed name of a famous catcher.
It wasn’t until dining that someone spotted him Sunday night.
“Ah, no one would have recognize me,” said John Gibbons, the new, old Blue Jays manager. “They would have recognized Alex.”
Alex Anthopoulos asked San Diego Padres general manager Josh Byrnes for permission to interview Gibbons, who managed double-A San Antonio this summer, and it was granted.
So Thursday, Friday and Saturday no one noticed the ex-manager Gibbons was back in town.
Anthopoulos and Gibbons dined on an octopus appetizer and a main course of steak in a private room in a restaurant inside the Four Seasons.
It became apparent on Sunday, Day 4 of Gibbons’ visit, to Toronto that Anthopoulos felt comfortable, like he was pulling on an old sweater he hadn’t worn since last winter.
And on Monday night around 10 o’clock Anthopoulos called Brynes to tell him he was offering Gibbons the managerial job.
The indication was that Gibbons was flown in to be offered some sort of position. After evaluating players, sharing memories and talking ball, the GM knew he had his man.
Seated behind a white table in the bowels of the Rogers Centre on Tuesday morn, Gibbons, 50, and Anthopoulos, 35, looked like two frat brothers joking about the old days and looking forward to the season.
“Yeah, I had some dustups when I was here,” Gibbons said.
We don’t think we ever saw the GM so relaxed with former manager John Farrell as he was with Gibbons on this day. Gibbons was hired by J.P. Ricciardi as a bullpen catcher and look at him now. Gibbons always told Jays current bullpen catcher Alex Andreopoulos “keep working hard, it’s where I started ... you may be manager some day.”
Gibbons was fired June 21, 2008, the morning after the Jays charter reached Pittsburgh, replaced by Cito Gaston. He awoke on the 23rd floor of the Westin hotel to find a message from the GM, asking him to come to Ricciardi’s suite.
“I had nothing but thanks and praise for the organization,” Gibbons said that day. “The Jays gave me an opportunity to manage. I found Toronto an enjoyable city and my family enjoyed it, too.”
That’s not what people usually say when fired, but it’s what he said.
Without a trace of bitterness.
Like when Bobby Cox cut an outfielder named Gaston at the Atlanta Braves spring training in 1999. Wearing his wrap-around sunglasses, Gaston wanted to say something — he thought Cox was wrong — but didn’t say a word. Gibbons didn’t fire salvos at the Jays and now he’ll run the third-base dugout and the clubhouse at the Rogers Centre again.
“Who wouldn’t want to be here?” Gibbons told reporters. “The front office put together a legitimate contending type team.”
At home in San Antonio, Gibbons followed the ups and downs of his old team because he said he “still has friends here.”
The phone call from Anthopoulos shocked him.
“You guys were way off, one guy was writing about guys who hadn’t managed in 40 years. I was waiting for him to write about a guy who had passed away,” Gibbons told reporters. “You guys were worse than me.”
The hiring of Gibbons was a surprise when it should not have been. Anthopoulos said time and again he wanted someone “who would work well with the staff and who was a good fit for the city.”
That was Gibbons then (2004-08).
And that’s Gibbons now ... the “perfect fit.”
Gibbons was asked if he considered managing the Jays as his dream job, the phrase Farrell used when he departed to manage the Boston Red Sox.
“Dream job? Last year I managed in my hometown in Texas,” said Gibbons. “That was like a dream job. I left that for here, that should tell you something.”
Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog used to joke that the day he was hired moved him one day closer to being fired.
Gaston had two turns managing the Jays.
And now this is Gibbons’ second turn.
All of which can only mean one thing on the day the new manager officially donned his Jays jersey for ceremonial pictures for a second time.
Either Jim Fregosi or Carlos Tosca are in the on-deck circle.