09/18/10 12:14 AM ET
Bautista blasts franchise-record 48th homer
By Jordan Bastian /
Bautista belted his 48th home run of his magical season in the sixth inning of an 11-9 victory over the Red Sox, eclipsing George Bell's single-season franchise record. Bell's record of 47 blasts in a single campaign stood alone since 1987 and was equaled by Bautista on Wednesday in Baltimore.
That evening, Bautista received a phone call from Bell.
"I actually talked to him two nights ago," Bautista said after Friday's win at Fenway. "He's doing good. He's in the Dominican. He's very proud of me and he seemed happy. I talked to him and everything went well. Maybe I'll talk to him again tonight."
Bautista, born in Santo Domingo, and Bell, a native of San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic, have talked off and on since the Blue Jays outfielder joined the professional ranks in 2001. Bell took an interest in Bautista's career and met with him this past winter in their home country to offer hitting advice.
At that point in time, Bautista was preparing for a season as Toronto's leadoff man -- unsure of what this year would bring. No one, let alone Bautista, could have predicted the relentless power surge he was about to enjoy for the Blue Jays. He quickly found a home in the heart of the lineup and has not looked back.
With 15 games still left on the regular-season schedule, Bautista can already claim the most powerful campaign in team history.
"Jose, wow, man," manager Cito Gaston said. "It couldn't happen to a nicer person, as far as a player and teammate. I'm proud to be here to see it."
Bautista is proud to have his name linked to Bell's.
"He had a great career," Bautista said. "He played great for the Blue Jays and for Canada. To be able to keep it amongst Dominicans I guess is something that's pretty cool."
Bautista, who leads the Major Leagues in long balls this season, gave Toronto a 10-2 advantage with his milestone shot. Boston reliever Michael Bowden became Bautista's latest victim, watching a 3-2 pitch sail deep to left field for a two-run home run.
With that swing -- the type of violent hack that has become Bautista's signature throughout this season -- he also established a club record with 24 home runs in the second half. The previous mark of 23 after the All-Star break was set by Jose Cruz Jr. in 2001 and matched by Carlos Delgado in 1999.
That feat hardly touches setting the single-season club record, though.
"You think about it a little bit after it happens," Bautista said, "but you've got to try to get ready for the next at-bat as well. You let it go after a couple minutes, but I am enjoying what's happening. I'm just glad I'm doing well for the team."
Bautista, whose previous career best was 16 homers for the Pirates in 2006, did not enter this season with Bell's club mark in his sights. In fact, Bautista said that he avoided setting any offensive targets before the year began.
"I was trying not to think about hitting home runs," he said. "I didn't set a goal and I'm glad I didn't."
Things have changed, though.
Bautista now has a lofty goal within reach.
With two more home runs, Bautista would join the 50 home run club. Considering the wealth of sluggers the Blue Jays have had over the years, Gaston said prior to Friday's game that he was somewhat surprised no one has reached that milestone in Toronto's history.
"The only guy that I'm surprised never hit 50 is probably Carlos," said Gaston, referring to Delgado, who hit a career-high 44 homers in 1999 for the Jays. "Carlos knows how to hit. Carlos is a very intelligent kid and he knew what he was doing up there all the time. He really did."
Bautista has a realistic shot at becoming the first player to reach the half-century plateau. He also knows that he will likely be faced with daily questions about possibly accomplishing that feat, especially now that Bell's club record is in the past.
"We'll change the subject," Bautista said with a smile. "But I'll take the questions as long as I keep doing what I'm doing."