Blue Jays fall in front of special guests
Toronto celebrates reunion of 1992-93 championship teams
TORONTO -- It was an evening meant for remembering the glory years of Blue Jays baseball. On Friday, Toronto reunited dozens of players and staff members from the teams that brought consecutive World Series championships north of the border nearly two decades ago.
During a pregame ceremony, the players from the 1992 and '93 squads stepped out from behind the wall in center field, waving to fans as they made their way to the infield, standing around the pair of trophies they collected. The moment was not lost on Blue Jays rookie Ricky Romero, who was warming up during the loud standing ovation.
"You could feel the energy," Romero said following the Blue Jays' 7-5 loss to the Orioles. "You could feel it, and you just want to come out and pitch a good game. I definitely felt the adrenaline coming when all the fans were standing up. It was pretty cool."
Romero carried that pregame rush to the mound and was dazzling for five innings against Baltimore, surrendering just one hit to the first 16 batters he faced. Fittingly, during a day dubbed as the "Back2Back Reunion," the Blue Jays ran to an early lead behind back-to-back home runs from Vernon Wells and Alex Rios in the second inning.
On this special night, everything seemed to be falling into place for the struggling club. Unfortunately, the Blue Jays were unable to follow the script. Romero unraveled in the sixth inning, and the Orioles later jumped on the Jays' bullpen to add to Toronto's woes against the American League East. With the loss, the Blue Jays dropped to 12-25 in divisional play in 2009.
"It was a special day, having all those guys here," said a dejected Romero, who was charged with four runs over six innings. "You just want to go out there and play hard -- not only for the team, but for them -- for them to watch what we have here. It's just really disappointing to come out with the loss."
Nearly 40 members of the 1992-93 teams made the trek to Toronto for the event -- an idea of former Blue Jays great Joe Carter. Prior to the game, after the players took the field and were introduced individually to raucous cheers, Toronto manager Cito Gaston threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Gaston then was surrounded by his former players.
After the fourth inning, Dave Winfield took the field with the '92 team members and addressed the crowd. Carter, who won the '93 title with a walk-off home run in Game 6 against the Phillies, followed suit in the middle of the fifth with players from that team. Gaston -- brought back as Jays manager last season after an 11-year absence from the role -- said it was a night he won't soon forget.
"It was nice, from [Winfield] and from Joe Carter," Gaston said. "When I threw out the first pitch -- if you want to call that throwing it out -- when all the guys gathered around me, that was quite emotional and well appreciated from me. From my heart, all those guys, I love them all."
When the former players were heading off the field shortly before the fifth inning began, a few had words of encouragement for Romero, who was throwing warmup pitches on the mound. To that point, the young left-hander had allowed no hits and Toronto was clinging to a 2-0 lead, thanks to the consecutive homers off Orioles starter Jason Berken (2-9) by Wells and Rios.
"A lot of the guys were saying stuff like, 'Good job. Keep it going,'" Romero said with a smile. "Dave Stieb turned around and he kind of gave me the thumbs up. It was a really, really fun day, especially to have all those guys out here. It was pretty cool."
That's one reason why Romero (10-5) was so frustrated that his struggles in the sixth inning proved so costly for the Blue Jays (51-57), who are a season-worst six games under the .500 mark.
With Toronto holding a 3-0 lead, Romero issued a leadoff walk to Matt Wieters and allowed two hits to load the bases with one out. Nick Markakis then pulled a pitch from Romero sharply toward first baseman Lyle Overbay, who attempted a backhanded stab at the baseball as it jumped off the turf.
Instead, the ball skipped off Overbay's glove and down the right-field line for a two-run double. A base hit from Aubrey Huff and a run-scoring fielder's-choice groundout from Nolan Reimold put the Jays behind, 4-3, before the inning was over.
"It's really frustrating," Romero said. "It seemed like the momentum was on our side pretty much the whole game, from the start of the first pitch until that inning. It kind of started with me. That leadoff walk, a couple bad breaks and next thing you know, we're down."
After the Orioles (46-63) padded their lead with three runs off Blue Jays reliever Brandon League in the eighth inning, Toronto responded with two runs in the home half of the frame to cut Baltimore's advantage to 7-5. That was the extent of the Jays' rally, though, bringing a sour conclusion to an otherwise special night.
"It's long overdue," former Blue Jays player Paul Molitor said of the reunion. "The response and the participation of the players and everyone making the effort to come back, you can see we were kind of hungry to do something like this."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.