Toronto’s 50 Most Influential: #12, José Bautista
Our annual ranking of the people whose smarts, connections and clout are changing the city as we know it
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
12 The bat flip lasted all of two seconds, but metaphorically, it’s still twirling. Bautista’s three-run homer in the seventh inning of Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the Texas Rangers elevated him from star slugger to cult hero, and gave a new generation of Jays fans their very own Joe Carter World Series moment. For years, Bautista was the backbone of the team, leading in most offensive categories. Finally, ownership decided to bring in some backup. The results were miraculous. Torontonians came out by the busload—with extra adulation heaped upon Bautista (a nine-year-old devotee in a fake beard better known as Mini Bautista briefly became Internet famous). TV ratings spiked, and Sportsnet registered its top 10 most-watched programs in the network’s history—all of them Jays games. At number one on the list: game six of the ALCS, which racked up some 12 million viewers. Bautista is a hero for life among Jays fans, and an eternal villain to Texans. That probably suits the fiery slugger just fine.
Under new president Mark Shapiro, job security for everyone is up in the air, but Bautista will likely be back, at the bargain price of $14 million a season, and he’ll be hell-bent on winning the World Series.