Toronto Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista breaks the record for most all-star votes and is featured in Sports Illustrated

Toronto Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista breaks the record for most all-star votes and is featured in Sports Illustrated

The best hitter in baseball (Image: Keith Allison)

Don’t get us wrong, we love us some Roy Halladay, and we were excited as the next Jays fan about his return this weekend. But, once again, we couldn’t help but watched wide-eyed as Jose Bautista stole the show. First, on Saturday, the blue birds’ sweet-swinging slugger crushed a towering bomb off the Windows restaurant at the Rogers Centre. Then, on Sunday, Bautista not only went yard off Cliff Lee—arguably the second-best pitcher in the game today after Halladay—but also surpassed the Major League Baseball record for most all-star votes, tallying upward of 7.4 million. As the all-star ballots suggest, Torontonians aren’t the only ones taking note of Joey Bats’ performance. Case in point: Sports Illustrateds Joe Posnanski recently penned an incredible (and incredibly long) feature on Bautista’s storybook rise to superstardom. Here are five things we learned about Bautista from Posnanski’s piece, after the jump.

1. Bautista wanted to be the best—badly
“The thing you have to understand about Jose is that this guy had to succeed. He had some kind of will. Every at bat mattered. Every pitch mattered,” Bautista’s hitting coach said when Bautista was with the Pittsburgh Pirates. “If anything, he wanted success too much.” Basically, Bautista was never content to be an everyday player—he wanted to be one of the most dangerous hitters in the game. Mission accomplished.

2. As long as he keeps mashing, the steroid talk won’t go away
Only a few seasons removed from baseball’s steroid era, we aren’t surprised that when a player goes from hitting 59 home runs over seven years to 81 in slightly less than a season and a half, it raises, um, concerns. Bautista vehemently denies any steroid use, instead crediting Jays hitting coach Dwayne Murphy with transforming his swing (okay, he just shortened it a little—but whatever works).

3. Cito Gaston strikes again
In addition to Murphy’s tutelage, Bautista points to a conversation with former manager Cito Gaston as a major turning point. Apparently, shortly after the Jays acquired Bautista in 2008, Gaston pulled him aside and said, “Jose, I see something in you. This is your chance.” If an endorsement from Cito Gaston doesn’t motivate you, nothing will.

4. While his play at the plate suggests otherwise, Bautista is still human
It turns out when he’s not crushing baseballs, Bautista’s actually a fairly sensitive dude. As he admitted to a reporter earlier this year, his fears include: heights, sharks, spiders, clowns, big crowds and the dark. But not intimacy. “Intimacy? Who’s afraid of intimacy?” he said.

5. Bautista’s next stop: a Yuk-Yuk’s stage near you?
We got a kick out of this exchange from the set of Bautista’s infamous “Joey Bats” promo:Do you want me to actually hit the ball?” he asks the director. “No,” the director says. “Just pretend to hit it.” “Because I’ll hit it,” Bautista says. Everybody in the room laughs. It’s a good room—full of friends, a place of respect—and he says again, “No, I’m serious, I’ll hit it.”

We’re just waiting until he’s invited to host SNL. We can dream, can’t we?

• Do You Believe in Jose Bautista? [Sports Illustrated]