There are 11 teams in Major League Baseball who have never had the pleasure of fielding a 50-home run hitter in a season, but the Toronto Blue Jays are no longer one of them.
On Thursday afternoon, in front of his home crowd, outfielder Jose Bautista removed the Jays from that list when he went the distance for his league-leading 50th homer of 2010. Later in the day, he shared his thoughts on Off The Record with Michael Landsberg.
"I was confident in my ability that I was going to have a great season, but never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would hit this many homeruns," said Bautista, who became the 26th player to hit more than 50 home runs in a single campaign.
"I was getting a lot of phone calls and text messages from people just wanting me to get it over with," he admitted. "I think a lot of people have been getting used to the home runs, more than myself. [I am] relieved, excited, extremely proud and happy I became a part of that elite group."
The group Bautista is referring to reads like who's who of baseball's power players. Babe Ruth, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Ralph Kiner, and Jimmie Foxx tallied 50 on multiple occasions, while 17 others, including Bautista, have hit the mark once.
Thursday's home run was also Bautista's 31 of the season at the Rogers Centre, setting a new team record for most home runs by a Blue Jay on home turf.
Home Runs by a Blue Jay at Home
"I think it's a combination of a lot of factors," explained Bautista. "Consistent playing time, great confidence that the team has shown in me, and confidence within myself - within my ability to play, and a lot of adjustments that I made at the plate and with the approach."
"Just the combination of all those factors and that I was put in a position to succeed, being the three hole hitter in the lineup for most of the season, all this has led to the success."
At the beginning of the season, Bautista was slated to be the leadoff hitter in the Jays lineup, but how quickly things can change.
Having never topped more than 16 home runs in his MLB career prior to 2010, Bautista said he understands why people, still jaded by the steroid era, might wonder whether his inflated stats are a product of performance enhancers.
"I don't blame anybody for questioning it, but I think it's my job and other people's jobs now to guide the public in a sense," he explained. "We have a new steroid policy in place, it's been in place for more than seven years, and it's the strictest in all of professional sports."
"There shouldn't be a reason for people to believe that the history of baseball is going to keep tainting the sport."
As far as his own history goes, Bautista will be keeping a pair of souvenirs from Thursday's momentous day.
"I have the ball and the bat," said Bautista. "It's going to make a nice decoration in my house."