O.K., Canada. I’m going to try to keep this short and sweet.
I think that makes sense, you know? We teamed up for 10 straight seasons — and it’s crazy how they flew by. But man, at the same time……. I also want you to know: Those 10 seasons meant everything to me. Decades in life really don’t get any sweeter.
And before I take the field tonight, wearing another team’s jersey — it just feels like there’s one thing left that I have to do. One thing that I still want to get off my chest.
I want to say thank you.
I want to say thank you, to the Blue Jays organization, for wanting me in the first place. When you traded for me, back in 2008, I was a part-time player — closer to 30 than 20 — who had already bounced around between four teams in this league. But you gave me a chance, a real chance, to come in and prove myself. And that’s one of the things that I will always appreciate about Toronto as a franchise.
I also want to say thank you to the city of Toronto, for welcoming me with such open arms — and for taking me in, for all these years, as one of your own. It’s funny: When you’re growing up, and you’re dreaming about becoming a professional baseball player? Making it to the major leagues … that’s enough. You don’t even think to dream that one day you’re going to look up, into a stadium full of people, and thousands and thousands of fans will be shouting your name, and wearing your jersey, and treating you like — you’re not just “one of the guys” — you’re one of their guys. But that actually happened to me. I really did get to experience that. And it was magic.
Rob Carr/Getty Images
With me and Toronto, it’s always felt like there is this … almost deeper understanding there. We just get each other — it’s like we exist on this shared wavelength together.
One thing that not a lot of people know is how big of a deal the Blue Jays have been over the years in the Dominican community. The Jays were one of the very first franchises to really invest in the DR, and to open up a baseball academy there. And because of that — not to mention the fact that they were putting up those World Series banners — they became the favorite team of a lot of Dominican people. And it seems like there’s just always been this unique chemistry between the city and its Dominican players: from George Bell, to Tony Fernández, to Juan Guzmán, to me and Edwin, to even looking into the future with Vlad Guerrero Jr. — man, it’s this special thing.
Toronto is a special place.
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
And then last but not even close to least, I want to say thank you to all of the Blue Jays faithful — for coming with us on the amazing journey that we went on for a few years there. That run where we finally turned ourselves into a winner, and got Toronto Baseball back to where it belongs. To me, as of right now, those will go down as the best years of my baseball life: where all the hard work finally came together, and suddenly we were all pulling on the same rope, in just the right way, and for a moment, it was like — baseball. It had this higher purpose.
One thing that I’ve always made sure of, throughout my career, is to not take things for granted. And during those incredible games in September and October of those years … no matter how intense things got … I would still find a way to stop myself for a second, and just think about, you know — Man, how lucky am I? To be playing this level of baseball, in this electric of an atmosphere, in games that matter as much as these do?
I know a lot of guys, they work extremely hard for their entire careers, and they never get to sniff the playoffs, or even a pennant race. And I’m just so grateful — to have gotten to go on that journey with all of you. We really did feel like we were representing all of Canada during those playoff runs. And it meant everything to us. We might not have won the whole thing … but it’s like I said: It felt like we put Toronto Baseball back where it belongs. It felt like we sent out this big reminder to the world, after all these years, to not sleep on the Blue Jays — to not sleep on this city.
Because this city, man — this city can ball its heart out.
And I’ll never forget it.