Few players have been able to win over a fan base as quickly as Josh Donaldson did with the Toronto Blue Jays.
“The Bringer of Rain” instantly wowed the Blue Jays faithful with his towering home runs, flashy defence, and rugged personality. It turns out the admiration was mutual.
Now a member of the Atlanta Braves after being traded from Toronto to Cleveland last season, Donaldson makes his return to Rogers Centre Tuesday, but if he had it his way he never would have left.
Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos — the man who brought Donaldson north of the border in the first place — made an appearance on Toronto radio station Sportsnet 590 The FAN ahead of the game, and recounted a recent conversation he had with the third baseman about his time with the Blue Jays.
“One night we were there late in the clubhouse after one of our games and he just kind of got into it,” Anthopoulos said. “And I knew he loved being in Toronto, he loved being a Blue Jay, it was important to him, but I didn’t realize the depth and the magnitude and how much he loved this place and how much he wanted to stay here for his entire career.
“He met a girl from here, he comes back during the holidays, during the winter. I don’t want to speak for him, but the way he left, he was on the [injured list], he didn’t get to say goodbye and I think it was pretty important to him. I think for him, he was really excited to come back here, and I would expect the fans to be great to him...
“In talking to him, he wanted to be a Blue Jay for life and be there for a long period of time.”
Donaldson enjoyed the best seasons of his career with the Blue Jays, winning American League MVP honours in 2015 and leading the team to back-to-back ALCS appearances in 2015 and ‘16. His time in Toronto came to an anti-climactic end as a calf injury sidelined him from May 28 through the time he was traded to the Indians on Aug. 31 in exchange for the dreaded “player to be named later.”
The decision to trade Donaldson at his lowest value was a sore spot for many supporters, and watching him recapture his form with the Braves only rubs salt in the wounds. The 33-year-old has been one of baseball’s hottest hitters over the past two months, and has raised his 2019 OPS to .910 with 32 home runs in 129 games.
Even if he wasn’t dealt at last season’s waiver trade deadline, a long-term future in Toronto likely wasn’t in the cards due to Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s emergence as the game’s most exciting prospect. Both players man the hot corner, and the Blue Jays need to see what kind of defence Guerrero can provide before making a decision on his optimal position.
This upcoming two-game series with Atlanta gives Donaldson and Blue Jays fans a stage to say a proper goodbye, and it should make for a pretty special scene.
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