Toronto's Bautista garners global attention
Though he plays north of the border, slugger's seen as All-Star far and wide
CINCINNATI -- There has been a long-standing stereotype in professional sports that athletes competing north of the border don't receive the same type of attention as their American counterparts. Jose Bautista seems to be proving that's a myth.
Bautista has been one of the most recognizable figures in Major League Baseball since he hit 54 home runs during a breakout 2010 season. He's become one of the game's top power hitters and has garnered a reputation as being one of the league's toughest outs.
The success Bautista has experienced over the past five years hasn't gone unnoticed by the general population. He broke a record for All-Star votes in 2011 and has been named a starter in each of the past three seasons. Bautista also appears well on his way to another Midsummer Classic as he once again leads the Major Leagues in fan ballots.
"It's always a great feeling, it's always an honor," Bautista said. "I don't want to count my chickens before they hatch. I'm obviously leading, but it's not official. I just hope to continue to get votes and keep playing well and see what happens. But if I do get voted in again it's going to be a thrill just like the last time."
Most of the attention Bautista has received can be tied to his production on the field, but he has proven to be incredibly savvy off the diamond as well. He has a number of endorsement deals, and several years ago made a very significant investment in Marucci Sports, where he also sits as a voting member on the company's board of directors.
With the type of business acumen that Bautista possesses, it should come as no surprise he has mastered the use of social media. It's the type of forum that can be useful to not only interact with a fanbase, but also to help promote a personal brand.
Last year, Bautista came up with the unique strategy of attempting to follow all of his fans on Twitter. He follows more than 225,000 people and the number increases on a daily basis. Whenever he follows someone it creates a buzz with fans frequently posting screenshots when they officially get noticed by one of the game's best players.
Bautista's strategy helped him advance to the semi-finals in MLB Networks's "Face of MLB" campaign this spring. It also provides a perfect opportunity for Bautista to promote the Blue Jays, his products, the Bautista Family Education Fund and a large number of other initiatives.
"It's part of being an athlete today," said Bautista, who has more than 500,000 followers on Twitter. "If you're not taking advantage of social media, using it to interact with your fans and giving them a sneak peek into your personal life and how you prepare and what you're about, shame on you. I'm glad and happy that I've been able to use it in the right way I believe, and just connecting with the fans and getting them the access that they wanted for so long."
The social media component is something that doesn't come with a border, so it's easy to understand how Bautista is able to generate a large following not only in Canada, but also the United States, his home country Dominican Republic and countless other places around the world.
But all of the attention would be almost impossible to get if the production on the field didn't live up to the hype. Even though he dealt with various injuries from 2012-13, Bautista ranks second in the Majors with 167 homers since 2010. The only person he trails is Detroit's Miguel Cabrera, who leads by one as of Saturday afternoon but also has played in 100 more games over that same span.
When Bautista first broke out in 2010 he was known as strictly a power hitter, but in the ensuing years he has become a lot more than just that. His best season arguably came in 2011 when he hit .302 with a league leading 132 walks and a 1.056 OPS. This season, he's made even more adjustments, and with almost every team implementing a shift during his at-bats, Bautista hasn't been afraid to go the opposite way.
Bautista has 15 hits to right field this season compared to 11 all of last year. Overall, he entered play Saturday hitting .307, with 15 homers, 49 RBIs, a league-leading 59 walks and an impressive .969 OPS. When everything from the past five years is combined, it displays remarkable consistency.
"The longevity, the amount of time that I've managed to stay around and get opportunities, and finally start playing good, all that stuff matters," said Bautista, who recorded career hit No. 1,000 earlier this week. "It's kind of down the same path -- hitting 200 home runs, hitting a thousand hits, all that's important. Yeah, it makes me feel proud and happy about all the things that I've accomplished and the way the way that I've done it."