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The Rogers Centre has mysteriously become baseball’s home run capital

(Image: Mike Babcock)

Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista’s sudden fondness for pitcher R.A. Dickey’s pants is only the second weirdest thing to happen this baseball season. The Rogers Centre has emerged as a home run factory with a league-leading 121 already hit at the park (the average for all the MLB stadiums is 82). Some pundits say removing glass panes at the old Windows Restaurant created a magical wind flow that carries balls over the fence, a theory endorsed by television analyst Gregg Zaun and scorned by Bautista and at least one baseball-obsessed physicist. Another camp is pinning the surge on gusts from new condo towers nearby—though that doesn’t explain all the bombs hit when the roof is closed. Even more mysterious is that only 50 of the Jays’ current home run count of 108 came in their batter-friendly home park. [CBC]

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Reason to Love Toronto: because Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista plays his best ball in R.A. Dickey’s pants

(Image: Jim Rogash/Getty Images Sport)

Baseball players are a weirdly superstitious lot: Jason Giambi slipped into a golden thong when he struggled at the plate; Wade Boggs famously scarfed a plate of fried chicken before every game; and Richie Ashburn often cuddled with his bat. Count Toronto Blue Jay Jose Bautista among the high-profile players who believe in magic. The two-time home run champ was mired in a brutal funk heading into a Canada Day weekend series against the rival Boston Red Sox, batting an abysmal .182 for the month. So he decided to change his routine by borrowing teammate R.A. Dickey’s pants and hiking his socks to his knees. The result: an instant four-game, five-home-run tear. Joey Bats’ pants-inspired outburst is hot on the heels of the Jays’ own streak, which has put the club back in the playoff picture and back in the city’s collective heart.

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Back in the Game: Blue Jays slugger José Bautista’s high-stakes mission to stay on top

José Bautista silenced his critics and became baseball’s most powerful hitter. Now, after a potentially career-ending surgery, he must prove himself all over again

 José Bautista: Back in the Game

(Photo: Nigel Dickson)

It was July 16 of last year, a day game. More than 42,000 people in Yankee Stadium, and a few million sitting on couches at home, had watched Blue Jays slugger José Bautista swing at an inside fastball, just as he had thousands of times before. It had become his specialty, swinging at that pitch. Crushing it. And he’d done it again, whipping his bat around at an ungodly speed and slamming the ball far into the stands in left field. All eyes, at home and in the stadium, watched that ball sail long and foul. Then they turned back to the star at the plate, but he wasn’t there.

He was staggering toward his team’s dugout, toward people who could help him, holding his left forearm. He called out and sank toward the ground. At the end of his swing, he’d heard a popping crack in his flesh and felt a knife stab of pain. He thought he’d broken or dislocated his wrist.

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The Blue Jays—along with the rest of Toronto—are pumped for the season ahead

Pitcher R.A. Dickey tweeted this photo of his 1986 Little League team (Image: @RADickey43)

Toronto’s baseball fans and sportswriters engage in a ritual burst of optimism about the Blue Jays’ chances every April and, thanks to some mammoth off-season trades and the addition of charming knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to the roster, this season is the most hotly anticipated in years. (According to bookmakers, the odds of the Jays winning the World Series are now about 10-1) Though at least one wise soul warned against getting caught up in the hype, the players—including Dickey, J.P. Arencibia and Jose Reyes—seem as excited as the rest of the city ahead of tonight’s sold-out home opener. Below, some of our favourite pre-game tweets from the men taking to the field tonight.

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Toronto’s Best Tweeters: top Twitter feeds from local entertainers, athletes and media personalities

Toronto’s Twitter-happy celebrity set supplies a constant stream of bon mots, feuds and photo scandals, so choosing our favourite social media mavens meant scrolling through thousands of tweets. We settled on 10 notables whose 140-character missives are both funny and revealing. Some are native Torontonians, others have moved here more recently and one or two have only a tenuous tie to the city (but are just too good to pass up). Here, a list of 10 Twitter virtuosos, and why we chose them.

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50 Most Influential 2012: a ranking of Toronto’s top tycoons, backroom operators and supersize egos

50 Most Influential

The people driving the agenda for the city are more likely to come from outside local government than inside. This was the year our premier, rendered virtually impotent by a minority legislature, up and quit without warning. And our mayor, who listens to no one and refuses to build consensus on council, has created a city hall power vacuum.

What follows is Toronto Life’s list of the real influence peddlers—the people who, either publicly or behind the scenes, have had the greatest impact on the city. We looked for people whose power was broad enough to be felt across different sectors, or else so palpable in their immediate field that it somehow changed things for the rest of us. We looked for people whose ability to alter public opinion, raise money, rally troops or simply get stuff done was both formidable and undeniable. The result is a carefully calculated and highly opinionated look at power in the city in 2012.

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Reason to Love Toronto: because the Blue Jays made a blockbuster trade

Toronto Blue Jays Trade

In a city whose sports scene has long been plagued with mediocrity, big, bold moves matter—not only to instantly improve a struggling team’s fortunes but also to let suffering fans know that somebody actually cares. That’s why we love Alex Anthopolous’s mega deal. On Tuesday night, the Toronto Blue Jays general manager made one of the biggest trades in the franchise history, a double-digit player super-swap that brings to Toronto, among others, starting pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, former Jay catcher (and fan favourite) John Buck and, the coup de grace, superstar shortstop Jose Reyes, all from the Miami Marlins. Anthopoulos always said he would spend big money when the timing was right, and now he’s made good on his promise. It’s the kind of deal upon which a manager stakes his entire career. If Reyes and co. deliver, Anthopolous will be celebrated around the city as a veritable wunderkind. If they don’t, his corporate overlords will surely cut the young GM’s tenure short. When he heard the news, Blue Jays all-star slugger Jose Bautista excitedly tweeted, “It’s a good day to be a bluejay!” At long last, it’s a good day to be a Toronto sports fan, too.

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Watch a naked Jose Bautista swing his baseball bat (almost NSFW)

Don’t worry about Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista getting ribbed in the clubhouse for his second-place finish at the home run derby. His teammates will be too busy mocking him for this behind-the-scenes video of his nude photo shoot with ESPN. The video, a teaser for ESPN Magazine’s annual Body Issue, shows Joey Bats getting made up and slathered with lotion before swinging a bat in the buff for the cameras. He says that, though he’s proud of his body, the experience was unnerving: “It’s always a little bit awkward when you haven’t done something before, especially when you have to do it with no clothes on.” Even more so when the entire Internet can watch you do it. [ESPN]

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Why the Blue Jays home opener—and season—is going to be different this year

(Image: Half my Dad's age)

Every year, spring brings with it the first Toronto Blue Jays game at the Rogers Centre. Most years—at least most years in the last two decades—this ritual goes off without much fanfare. Sure, there’s the almost perfunctory sellout crowd (many of those tickets being corporate giveaways or wildly reduced-price promotions), but their beer-fuelled chants echoing under the depressing calm of a closed dome always seemed to ring hollow. What has there been to cheer for, really? This year, things are different (the beer won’t be flowing as freely tonight, for starters). The Blue Jays are wearing blue again—and so are diehard fans all around town, re-emerging at the sight of something promising. The team is young. They play hard. And they’re good. Brett Lawrie has awesome written all over him (except for where he has other things written all over him), Jose Bautista is the best hitter in baseball, and Ricky Romero might just be an underdog Cy Young prospect. Count us among the excited. After the longest opening day in baseball history last Thursday, the Jays took two of three games from the Cleveland Indians—and only lost the third by one run. Tonight, they take on the Boston Red Sox, which means it should be a good game, and an important one against division rivals. It also means thirsty fans may be able to find some beer in the visiting locker room.

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LOGO POLL: We grade the Toronto Blue Jays logos through the ages

Toronto Blue Jays logos

Logos are like personalities, and the Toronto Blue Jays, in their short history, have had as many as Charlie Sheen mid-meltdown. With the launch of its latest logo rendition last week, we look back at the evolution of the club’s branding over the years and figure out which current Jay best personifies each era.

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The Loaded List: we catalogue the astronomical salaries of Toronto’s ruling class

The Loaded List
It’s not particularly polite to ask rich people what they earn. But tact is overrated, and we wanted to know, so we asked anyway. When they told us to get lost, we got sneaky. We dug up disclosure documents, annual reports and the tax filings of charitable organizations. When those trails went dry, we surveyed industry insiders who know what other people make—headhunters and consultants and analysts and colleagues—and asked for an educated guess. After hundreds of calls and emails and deep-throat meetings in dark alleys, we phoned the high earners back and told them what we found. Again, with feeling, they told us to piss off.

What follows is our shamelessly gawking, as-precise-as-possible examination of the highest-paid people in the city’s top industries. When the information was available, we included bonuses and perks and, in some cases, exercised stock options. Our findings verified that a high earner in finance is almost always on a different plane (a private jet, usually) than a high earner in, for example, the lowly arts. One major discovery: Heather Reisman took a pay cut. One truth reconfirmed: no matter how rich you are, there’s always someone who makes a helluva lot more.

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VIEW BY INDUSTRY » GOLD ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT FUND MANAGERS SPORTS SHOP OWNERS MEDIA LANDLORDS BAY STREET PUBLIC SERVANTS

VIEW BY SALARY » SEE 69 OF THE RICHEST PEOPLE IN THE CITY’S TOP INDUSTRIES, SORTED BY SALARY FROM HIGHEST TO LOWEST

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With the Brett Lawrie call-up, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos’s makeover is nearly complete

(Image: Mike Durkin)

The current edition of the Toronto Blue Jays is a far cry from the team general manager Alex Anthopoulos inherited from J.P. Ricciardi in 2009. Through a series of trades and savvy free-agent signings, Anthopoulos has managed to turn the franchise’s fortunes around in a little under two years. Sure, the team is still in many ways a middling underachiever. But now there’s renewed hope that the Jays could very well be legitimate playoff contenders in the coming years. Where during the Ricciardi era the Blue Jays were a tangled mess of expensive underperforming veterans and unproven prospects (and Roy Halladay), with Anthopoulos at the helm a plan appears to be in place: namely, stockpile young prospects, build from the farm system and ink those same prospects to long-terms deals before they hit their prime. And with top prospect Brett Lawrie making his major league debut tonight against the Baltimore Orioles, the team’s long-overdue overhaul will be nearly complete. With that in mind, we look at five of the key players in the Anthopoulos makeover after the jump.

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Tweeter at the bat: a look at the four best Twitter users from the Toronto Blue Jays

Who are you reading about? Oh right, me. (Image: Keith Allison)

It seems like everybody in the public eye has a Twitter account these days, and Toronto’s athletes are no exception. Whether it’s promoting charities, keeping fans in the loop or breaking news, almost nothing really happens unless it happens on Twitter. Here in Toronto, the Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan is the Twitter king of Toronto sports—garnering 94,145 followers—but he may have some stiff competition thanks to the efforts of a persistent group of “twittering” Blue Jays.

J.P. ARENCIBIA
@jparencibia9
Followers: 30,920
Tweet frequency: It seems he’s tweeting every hour he’s off the field.
Sample tweet: “Benz? Rover? BMW? Nopeeee my sick bixi rent a bike!! #scoresettled wow and what a smooooth ride! http://yfrog.com/h2zuyemj”
Favourite topics: What he’s watching on TV, why he’ll never be in the NHL, Miami Heat basketball and just about everything else under the sun.
Why we follow him: He interacts with fans via Twitter more than almost any other Toronto athlete.

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The Bautista PR blitz continues with another promo video, just in time for tonight’s home run derby


What do heavily synthesized drum-machine loops, annoying Auto-Tuned vocals and overdubbed home run calls have in common? If we’ve learned anything from the latest, potentially stroke-inducing promotional video from the folks at Major League Baseball, they’re all part of the PR push behind baseball’s hottest commodity: Toronto Blue Jays super-slugger Jose Bautista.

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Jose Bautista accepts his ruby slippers from New Balance

There’s no place like home-run derby. (Image: Jose Bautista’s Twitter)

He’s already the marquee attraction on Canada’s only Major League team and baseball’s fastest rising star, and now the Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista has been named the face of New Balance. The athletic apparel giant took to Twitter on Wednesday to announce the partnership deal, which will see Bautista wear New Balance shoes and accessories both on and off the field.

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