I’ll be the first to admit I’ve never been the biggest fan of Jose Bautista. With no disrespect to his baseball career, my reasoning is purely because he rarely smiles ha! But that is completely irrelevant to why he will forever be a Blue Jays legend and what inspired me to add him to my roster of paintings.
Oct 14th, 2015. I had just moved back to Toronto after a mural season in Saskatchewan and I was itching to join in on the post-season celebration. Game 5 of the ALCS was brewing and a noticeable newfound love for the boys in blue was pouring through the streets of “the 6ix”. Jays gear was everywhere, more than before, and it was exciting!
Late that afternoon a lightbulb went off. “I should be down in the action with some Blue Jays art in hand” I thought. In classic Carly fashion I was scrambling around the city last minute looking to print some Joe Carter cards before the sea of fans were packed into the dome. It was close to game time but I made it, and timing is everything. There I was nervously standing on the corner outside Rogers Centre handing any friendly face a piece of my artwork with a “Go Blue Jays!” attached. It was as cheesey as it sounds. There are plenty of gates I could of stood in front of, but I happened to chose the one George Stroumboulopoulos was entering and politely gave him a “Strombo, please have one! Its good luck”. He didn’t offer me an extra ticket to the game, but he did graciously thank me while rocking a killer retro Jays jacket.
But meeting Strombo for 10 seconds was only batting practice for the night I was about to have. As the game was starting I headed for Nathan Phillips Square, or the “The Birds Nest”. An open tarmac outside city hall where hundreds of fans were cheering on Canada’s team in the post-season for the first time in a long time.
Eager to get a good view, I found myself snaking through the crowd until I was close to the big screen. It took me until about the 3rd inning to realize the people who stand closest to the big screen, are the ones who don’t know what’s going on. The “band-wagon” fans. I played baseball for 18 years so I couldn’t help myself from explaining what a “sacrifice bunt” means to the group of girls beside me decked out in everything Blue Jays. They clearly had not played baseball for 18 years, nor likely ever watched a baseball game.
It was about the 5th inning when I decided I’d enjoy the game better from the back, where I can only assume the true baseball fans are. There’s a ramp that borders around Nathan Phillips Square and I found myself about half way up with a view over the crazy crowd, and a clear shot of the action. The “nosebleeds” if you will. I was standing next to an older gentleman who wasn’t wearing a single Jays item, but you could just tell he was a fan. I don’t remember his name, so for the sake of this story I’ll call him John. We talked baseball back and forth as we watched the next few innings go by and felt the night get colder. He got a kick at my reasoning on what brought me to stand beside him and I knew I had made a new friend for the rest of this game.
Seventh inning. Both John and I were wishing we had brought a jacket, but the game had just got way too exciting to leave now. It was during the protest of the Martin-Shoo ricocheted throw when I finally reached into my purse and gave John a Joe Carter card and said “it’s good luck”. He held that card in his hand, clapping with it the rest of that inning. Bottom of the 7th, Bautista comes up to bat. John leans over with his card and says “Bautista is going to hit a bomb here and then we can both go home”, taps his card, “it’s good luck”. Next thing I know I was hugging and high-5ing this 70 year old man in downtown Toronto while celebrating the biggest homerun Canadian baseball has witnessed since ‘93.
John and I exchanged a “nice to meet you!” and before we both went home he said "now you've got work to do!". I don’t know what John did when he went home that night, but I was on such a high from what just happened that I started painting my “Bautista Bat Flip” the minute I walked in the door. I finished that piece in two days, which is often an unrealistic goal, but I was determined to share the love with fans alike.
We all watched that homerun, that series and the many games that Joey Bats has played since. I'm sure we all have a story that goes along with that swing. But there was only one fan I wanted to share this painting with. During all that post-season madness there was one lil’ guy who was stealing the show with his infamous, perfectly timed “Mini-Bautista” swing. A lot of days scrolling social media feels like a never ending batting slump. Then you come across people like Oscar (Mini-Bautista) and you see the love this kid has for Jose & the game and it makes you feel like a kid again yourself. This was one time I was particularly grateful for the power of Twitter. It only took minutes to connect with Oscar’s dad and a week for us to surprise his lil big baseball fan with a bat flip print to carry with him for the rest of his life. Not every kid gets to share a glimpse of the spotlight with a guy like Joey Bats and I can only hope that print and that moment sparks the next wave of Blue Jays fans growing up behind us in the Alomar-Carter generation.
Game summary. I have no proof that those Joe Carter cards brought any luck to that game, but the photo on my fridge from Oscar of him and Jose is the only proof I need that I made the right call that day to go watch Game 5 at The Birds Nest with John. You just never know who, what, when or where inspiration will hit you!