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Jose Bautista bat flip changed Toronto sports 7 years ago

Jose Bautista bat flip changed Toronto sports 7 years ago
On Oct. 14, 2015, Toronto Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista hit an iconic playoff home run that has changed major league sports in Toronto forever. (Credit: Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY Sports)

TORONTO (BVM) – The 2015 American League Division Series was an important one for the Toronto Blue Jays. The team had never been to an ALDS, having not made the playoffs since 1993 before the new format was introduced in MLB. A series win would be huge not only for the franchise but the city of Toronto which waited decades for this exact opportunity.

In the bottom of the seventh with runners on the corners and two outs in a 3-3 Game 5 winner-take-all matchup against the Texas Rangers on Oct. 14, Toronto slugger José Bautista came to the plate. The All-Star had played in big games before but none bigger than this in what was his first trip to the playoffs.

Facing a 1-1 count, Bautista squared up on a pitch delivered by the Rangers’ Sam Dyson. Bautista crushed the ball, sending it over the fence in left field and putting the over 49,000-person Rogers Centre crowd into a frenzy. In a moment of pure adrenaline, Bautista watched the ball sail into the stands and emphatically flipped his bat in a moment that has become iconic not only in Toronto but in MLB history.

That moment occurred seven years ago to the day and it is nearly as significant now as it was at that time. For the Blue Jays, it clinched the team’s first playoff series win since they won the World Series in 1993. For the city of Toronto, it marked the first postseason round victory for one of its big four teams in over a decade, the last coming by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2004 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Since then, the fortunes of the Toronto-based franchises have all turned for the better. The Blue Jays went on to the ALCS where they dropped the series 4-2. The next season, they returned to the ALCS, but again lost. Today, the team is considered one of the most talented in all MLB, winning over 90 games in back-to-back seasons.

Toronto Blue Jays MLB Playoffs 2022
The Blue Jays have found some success in recent years, winning over 90 games in back-to-back seasons and making the playoffs in two of the past three years. (Credit: John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports)

On the basketball court, the Toronto Raptors went on to win their first playoff series in 15 years when they advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2015-16 season following the iconic moment. In 2018, the Raptors even brought home an NBA championship, the first in the franchise’s history.

Toronto Raptors NBA Champions
The Raptors won the franchise’s first NBA title just four years after Bautista’s bat flip. (Credit: Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports)

For the Maple Leafs, they’ve seen a recent string of success as well. The Maple Leafs have made the NHL playoffs each year since the 2016-17 campaign. While they don’t have a postseason series win under their belt yet, the consistent return to the playoffs was huge for a franchise that had only made it once over the previous 10 campaigns.

Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs have made six of the past seven postseasons since Bautista’s bat flip after only making the playoffs once in the 10 years before it. (Credit: Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY Sports)

While Bautista’s home run and ensuing bat flip electrified the Rogers Centre crowd, it did even more than that for the city of Toronto. With each of the city’s Big Four teams finding success ever since the play provided a jolt to the entire sports community in Toronto. Who knew so much significance could come from a single bat flip?