Baseball is an endlessly fascinating sport, no – a pastime. The crack of a bat, the smell of popcorn and the clap of a ball entering a glove seem trivially familiar to all those that frequent the diamond. From the time we were kids, baseball has been at the center of almost all social gatherings, and it is, by all accounts, a beautiful thing.
Above all else, baseball has proved to bring us all together. I myself have been reunited with friends not seen in years through the game, or have had my family reacquainted with faraway relatives through a friendly game of ball. Regardless of the time or place, if you’re a baseball fan, it sticks with you.
As the classic song says: it’s a small world after all. That saying forever etched in our memories from our time on the frighteningly joyous Disney ride, cannot be truer when talking about baseball.
The Toronto Blue Jays, Canada’s team, are no stranger to the seemingly minuscule size of the baseball world. In fact, it’s almost comedic how many times players and coaches alike have found themselves in the middle of some of the most amusing baseball tidbits.
Last season, the Blue Jays made a trade that for many, epitomized the vulnerability and desperation of the trade deadline. In this deal, they sent veteran southpaw Francisco Liriano to the Houston Astros in exchange for powerful outfield prospect Teoscar Hernandez.
Hernandez, now 25, has fabulously established himself as a Blue Jay of the future, slashing .258/.307/.505 on the season. On August 12th, 2016, the young Hernandez hit his first career home run against the Blue Jays in Toronto off of, you guessed it, Francisco Liriano, the very same man he was traded for.
Hilariously, Hernandez also notched his first career major league hit on the same swing of the bat, officially becoming a major leaguer in the eyes of record books everywhere. Outside of the storied Liriano-Hernandez swap, the Blue Jays were recently the subject of some small world baseball antics.
On July 5th, 2018, the Jays made a rather minor move, signing right-handed pitcher Zach Stewart to a minor league deal. A signing that went overlooked, Stewart’s return to Toronto is also peculiar in several ways.
Stewart, now 31, was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 2008. A year later, he was shipped off to Toronto along with Josh Roenicke and a third baseman by the name of Edwin Encarnacion in a trade that would prove to be vital to the franchise’s next couple of seasons.
Low and behold, Stewart found his way back to the Jays, nearly a decade after being the centerpiece of a massive blockbuster that shocked both fanbases and left them speculating on the nature and impact of the trade.
Encarnacion himself was also the subject of some baseball tomfoolery. Following the trade, Encarnacion was designated for assignment after a short stint in Triple-A. After the 2010 season, he was placed on waivers and was eventually picked up by the Oakland Athletics.
Luckily for the Jays, the Athletics decided not to tender him a contract, and he soon re-signed with the Blue Jays, where he would remain until the end of the 2016 season. Once a man who was designated for assignment, Encarnacion would go on to place third on the all-time franchise list in home runs, fourth in slugging percentage, sixth in runs batted in, seventh in extra-base hits and 11th in doubles.
The Athletics, led by Billy Beane, were also the team that blessed the Blue Jays with Josh Donaldson in what is now considered to be one of the most lopsided trades in franchise history. Despite the fact that pitching prospect Kendall Graveman, who went Oakland’s way in the deal, still has some promise, it remains to be one of the most important and exciting trades in the last decade.
With all the brilliant strategy that comes with baseball, sometimes blunders and hilarity come with it too. While it can sometimes be fun to ponder the “what ifs” of the game, it’s better to take it as it is and enjoy the intricacies of a wonderful sport.
It really makes you think, it is a small world after all.
Photo Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports