Soccer and hockey games are more my style, so you won't hear me saying "take me out to the ball game" all that often. However, last night marked a very special night in baseball history and I'm happy to have witnessed it at the Rogers Centre. Retiring Toronto Blue Jays manager, Cito Gaston, emerged from the dugout and into the spotlight in recognition of his final home game themed "Thank You Cito Night".
After a total of 18 years with the Toronto Blue Jays, Gaston's heart will forever bleed blue and white. First a hitting coach and then a successful manager, Gaston led the Jays to their two World Series Championships. He is also the first black manager to win a World Series. Acknowledged with a ceremony before the last home game of the season against the New York Yankees, this man will be hard to forget in Toronto. He will leave the sport of baseball leading the Blue Jays in games managed and wins with the following career highlights...
BASEBALL MAN OF THE YEAR IN CANADA
1989, 1991, 1992, 1993
AL EAST DIVISION CHAMPION
1992 & 1993
AL CHAMPION SERIES WINNER
1992 & 1993
WORLD SERIES CHAMPION
SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR
1993 & 1994
ALL-STAR GAME MANAGER
BLUE JAYS LEVEL OF EXCELLENCE
CANADIAN BASEBALL HALL OF FAME
NEGRO LEAGUE HALL OF FAME LEGACY AWARD
All these awards are well-deserved, but it's Gaston's perseverance against racism that is most impressive to me and baseball fans around the world. He is influential for enduring racism in the southern U.S. as a player, coach and manager. He was an all-star for San Diego in 1970 and then became a hitting coach all the while taking young black players under his wing. As a mentor, he helped these players overcome the obstacles of mistreatment and racial slurs that were hurled at them during the games.
Gaston credits former all-time Major League home run leader, Hank Aaron, for giving him courage. The two were roommates when both played for the Atlanta Braves and Gaston thanks legendary Aaron for teaching him how to
be a man. Although I don't frequent the ball park, I can still appreciate baseball because of my own athletic background. Once a national-level gymnast, I can relate to the blood, sweat and tears it takes to be successful in any sport. Besides that, who wouldn't enjoy a cold beer, joining in the wave and watching grown men wear tight pants? I particularly love when the players hike up their socks to pull off the old-school uniform look. So when Jays fans booed A-rod at the plate, I enjoyed my view and took pictures.
Thank you Jays player, Jose Bautista, for reserving the great seats on a great night to catch a baseball game. In the end, both teams went home happily ever after. The Jays and Gaston won the last home game of the season and the Yankees qualified for the playoffs the night prior.