On the surface, the Toronto Blue Jays played a rather basic baseball game this afternoon against the San Francisco Giants. The game remained close in the early going, before the Giants broke through against the Jays bullpen to take a 9-3 lead. The Jays made a charge in the bottom of the ninth inning, but dropped the game 9-6.
However, this game was truly special. It featured such a memorable baseball moment that it left Jays' slugger Vernon Wells to comment to reporters:
"I think that was the happiest loss that any of us have encountered in our professional careers."
Blue Jays backup shortstop John McDonald certainly isn't known for his bat, but he is a magnificent defensive player and known to be one of the true greatest guys in the sport. All of this has made McDonald one of the most popular athletes in Toronto, a player fans around town hope will remain with the organization as long as possible, far after his playing days are over.
He returned to the team from the bereavement list yesterday, following the passing of his young father from a battle with cancer.
His father and him had planned to spend time today chatting with winners of a local radio station's contest where kids and their could hang out with the local start and his own dad. John McDonald still came through and did what he could, as he was shown engaging with the lucky winners before the game.
In the ninth inning of today's Father's Day game, with the Jays far behind on the scoreboard, McDonald entered the game as a substitute for second basemen Aaron Hill. He came to bat in the bottom of the inning, and smashed a home run over the left field fence. It was his first of the year, and just the 14th of his 11-year MLB tenure.
McDonald rounded the bases with a first pump. Later, with tears in his eyes, he tried to answer the question of what his thoughts were at that moment:
"Probably the fact that I couldn't call my dad after the game."
He also recalled one of his final chats with his father, when talking about baseball. McDonald noted to his dad that he didn't hit a lot of home runs. His dad's response:
"Hit your next one for me."
McDonald came through with the improbable home run at the very first opportunity he had, on a day devoted to celebrating the impact our dad's have made in our lives.
It was as special and touching of a moment as you'll ever see in sports.