I remember the leg kick.
I remember the BAT FLIP.
I remember the camera shaking.
If you were watching it, man, then you know what I’m talking about. You know!!! Like ... I don’t even have to go into any more detail, you’ve got it playing in your head already. You can see it all. Dyson’s wind up…… heater low and inside…… Jose’s got his leg two feet off the ground….. and just bang. Crack. CRACK. No-doubter. Bat in the air. Stro and Edwin losing their minds.
And the Rogers Centre? Absolutely rocking.
I mean this when I say it: Joey Bats, Game 5, that’s one of the most iconic moments in baseball history for me. I was in high school at the time — and I remember, even a few months after, how I’d just be chillin’ or whatever, and then suddenly I’d think to myself, like: I gotta go watch that on YouTube again. The roar of those fans, man…. it never got old. (It still doesn’t get old.)
So when summer rolled around, the next year, and I entered the 2016 draft…. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t run that moment back in my head a few times.
I was at home in St. Petersburg for the draft — with my mom, dad and a few friends. And when the Blue Jays called and said they wanted to pick me?? A lot of different thoughts went through my mind.
I talked it out with my parents, of course — they told me how great Toronto was, any time they’d been there. I’d also done my own research, and knew the organization was developing players the right way. They had guys at the big league level who swung like me and who played like me, which meant a lot. I saw a path that I could follow. And, man…. I won’t lie: I also just kept thinking about Jose and his bat flip.
I couldn’t get that crowd out of my head.
I wanted to be a part of something like that. I needed to be a part of something like that.
And after almost TWO YEARS away — now that we’re back in Toronto, for real?
I’m ready to be a part of something like that.
Our whole team is.
The thing about pro ball is there’s a lot of pressure we put on ourselves. People might have looked at my Baseball Reference page and been like, “This guy’s just climbing up through the ranks. He’s going to the Show, no big deal.” But it’s just not like that at all. Every step along the way, the pressure gets greater and greater. And when things aren’t working, it can be easy to second guess yourself.
Even as I got close to being called up, I just felt the weight of my own expectations. And look, I wanted it — no doubt. That’s why I play the game. But I still felt it. I saw all the Jays fans who were hyping me up, before I even played a game there…. and I knew the pressure I’d be under.
But then I put on that jersey.
And it was like magic. From then on, I felt like I belonged with this club. The support I received from our home crowd, it was incredible. All that pressure just melted away. I always want to let my play do the talking — and in Toronto, from Day One, I knew I could do that. I felt like I could be myself.
I felt like I could just play ball.
My first stretch of games at Rogers Centre, that was some of the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.
And let me get this out of the way up front: I know some people around the league might not like our park. They might think it doesn’t “hold up” compared to other parks.
The Rogers Centre? It’s sick. For real.
Is it perfect? I don’t know — who cares.
You either get it or you don’t.
My first stretch of games at Rogers Centre, that was some of the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.- Bo Bichette
For me, it’s got this feeling when I’m there that’s just … it’s hard to explain. It’s just special. You’ve got the CN Tower up above you … the hotel out in centerfield. It just feels BIG. It’s big-time. I walk out on the field there, and it’s like, Yeah … it’s about to go down.
And it was just starting to feel like home when the pandemic hit last spring.
It’s crazy to think back on the beginning of it now….. there was so much uncertainty around everything. It all happened pretty fast. I understood that it wasn’t possible for us to go back to Toronto and play games there, but I was still disappointed. We were a really young team, and I think all of us were excited to make our connection with the city. I didn’t want to let that go. I didn’t want to give up playing for you guys.
Toronto, I missed y’all.
Probably more than you even know.
Like, I’ll be honest….. last year was tough. I just got into this weird routine. All of a sudden, every day was: Wake up. Go to the park. Go back to the hotel. Sleep. Repeat. And I’m a bit of a homebody as it is. I don’t really go out much. But I still couldn’t shake the feeling of just this … loneliness.
I think a lot of people felt that way last year. And I know how lucky I am, compared to most — how extremely lucky I am to do what I do every day, and play this game that I love. I know so many other people had it way worse. But I still just felt sort of hollow, if that makes sense. I felt anxious. I really just got in my own head, I think. I think my whole life kind of became baseball, in a way that wasn’t healthy.
And the fans not being there? It only amplified all that stuff.
It just felt like something was missing, you know?
Without Toronto, it wasn’t the same.
Something I can’t say enough, though: THANK YOU to the people of Dunedin and Buffalo, for welcoming us with open arms. It was weird circumstances, for sure — but I know I speak for all the guys when I say I feel a special connection to both of your cities now. You treated us like your own, and were such a big part of helping us grow. Any success that we have going forward, you’re a part of it.
And to our fans in Toronto: I couldn’t be more excited that we’re back — that we get to play in front of you all again. That we get to play for you all again.
It’s been way too long.
In 2019, I was just getting started as a Jay — a lot of us were. But now that we’ve had some time to settle in….. I think we’re a much different ballclub than we were two seasons ago. And I really do feel like this group is on the verge of big things.
Honestly?? We’re kinda nice.
We've got a team that just wants to bring it, every day. I think it's hard to look at someone like Vladdy, or Cavan, or to look at what Marcus has done this season, and not see how badly we want to win. And here’s the truth, straight up: There’s no reason we shouldn’t win.
We feel like we can beat anyone.
And even more importantly, beyond just great players — we also have a great group of guys. George. Randal. Teo. Lourdes. All these dudes. They want to bring that energy to this city. It’s definitely something we think about when it comes to how we measure success.
I think Toronto is really going to connect with this team.
Our record isn’t where we want it to be yet…. but the goal here is the playoffs. And we feel like we have all the pieces in place to make a run at it now — including the last two pieces we needed most: our park and our people.
And then the last thing I want to say, on a more serious note: I know that all of this…. it’s a lot bigger than baseball. I know how hard the last year and a half has been on everyone, and that the ups and downs of a Jays season are probably the last thing on anyone’s mind. I know that a lot of you who are reading this have experienced real hardship and real loss. And I know that a few ballgames aren’t going to change that.
Us playing at the Rogers Centre…. it doesn’t mean everything is “back to normal.” But I hope we can maybe bring just a little bit of that normal feeling back. I hope we can play some good baseball — and, in our own small way, be a part of the healing process.
That all starts tonight.
I can’t wait to show out for this city.
It’s great to be home.