Toronto Blue Jays coach’s daughter killed in tubing accident

A tribute to Julia Budzinski on the scoreboard at the Rogers Centre. (Sportsnet)
A tribute to Julia Budzinski on the scoreboard at the Rogers Centre. (Sportsnet)
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The 17-year-old daughter of Toronto Blue Jays first base coach Mark Budzinski died in a tubing accident on the James River in Virginia over the weekend.

According to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, Julia Budzinksi was being pulled behind a boat on the river when she and one other girl fell off. The boat operator attempted to turn back to rescue Ms Budzinski, but a Department of Wildlife Resources spokesperson said that the boat hit a wave and one of its propellers struck Ms Budzinski.

Ms Budzinski, a rising senior and multi-sport athlete at Glen Allen High School, was pronounced dead after arriving at the hospital. There was a vigil held at the high school with Ms Budzinski’s family on Sunday.

News of the tragedy reached Mr Budzinski at the Rogers Centre in Toronto where the Blue Jays were playing in a doubleheader against the Tampa Bay Rays. Mr Budzinski left the field in the third inning of the game.

“My heart breaks for Bud,” Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo said following the conclusion of the game. “There’s good men and great men. He’s a great man. He’s a special kind of person. His family is great. The only thing I can share about what happened is that he left a note for the team. He did this while going through a tragedy, and that tells you everything about him.”

Mr Budzinski, who played his college baseball in Virginia at the University of Richmond, enjoyed a very brief Major League career — appearing in four games as an outfielder with the Cincinnati Reds in 2003 before returning the minor leagues and retiring two years later.

Mr Budzinski returned to Virginia to begin his life outside of baseball following his retirement, but was drawn back into the game as a coach in the Cleveland organisation where he spent several years before joining the Blue Jays as the club’s first base coach in 2018. Mr Budzinski remains away from the team to spend time with his family.

Toronto Blue Jays players during a moment of silence for Julia Budzinski. (Sportsnet)
Toronto Blue Jays players during a moment of silence for Julia Budzinski. (Sportsnet)

The Blue Jays held an on-field moment of silence and remembrance for Ms Budzinski prior to their game on Sunday.

“This devastating loss is felt by our entire organisation, and we grieve alongside Bud and his family,” the stadium announcer said. “We ask that you keep Mark, Monica, Josh, and Lily in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

Ms Budzinski’s mother, Monica Budzinski, was clear on how she wants her eldest daughter to be remembered.

“It was a very happy, fun, last day on Earth for her — sadly, obviously, until the end,” Monica Budzinski, said. “But it was a happy last day, having a good time, and that’s the way I’m going to remember her, that’s the way everybody needs to remember her: she loved life, she loved being outside, sports, everything.”