Blue Jays continue to grieve with the Budzinski family during a non-stop baseball schedule

OAKLAND, California — During the third inning on Saturday-evening, Cavan Biggio singled, arrived at first base and found Luis Hurtado as coach instead of Mark Budzinski. What’s going on, he asked?

Not everyone knew at the time, but a few turns later, he and others learned that Budzinski’s 17-year-old daughter Julia had died in a boating accident, causing immediate shock and heartache.

“I’m going for my third at bat and it was a pointless at bat, that’s how it felt. I had never had that feeling in my life,” Biggio recalls. “It’s a top league game, playing against a great team and not much baseball was going through my head at the time. Sure, something like that offers a bit of perspective and makes you look back in your corner. My mind and heart immediately went to Mark and his family.”

Framing the grief and fear was nearly impossible for the Toronto Blue Jays to work off that 11-5 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday, and it couldn’t have been easier Sunday or Monday as they opened a series against the Oakland Athletics. with a listless 5-1 loss.

Baseball doesn’t stop there, which can make playing games a necessary escape from reality or make it even harder to accept the incomprehensible. Charlie Montoyo learned the hard way back when his son Alex was in hospital fighting for his life and he scrambled out of the Durham Bulls games to be by his side.

Part of that hit Montoyo when he learned of Julia’s death and led him to hand over the reins to bench coach John Schneider so he could help care for Budzinksi at the clubhouse.

“That’s what I felt the other day when I had to tell Mark to go in so he could find out the news,” Montoyo said. “I said, ‘Okay, I’m done with that game, it’s more important to be with my friend.'”

Two Sundays earlier, the Montoyo and Budzinski families had gathered for morning mass in the dome and, “Julia actually hung out with Alex all day,” Montoyo said, adding that the power of Budzinski’s faith became apparent immediately after.

“Some people may say that, but to see it when something like that happens, he’s (a man of faith),” Montoyo said. “He’s strong in the way he’s handled it and he’s writing a note to the team that’s going through this about moving on and I’ll see you soon and all those things, that’s incredible.”

The Blue Jays discussed not playing Sunday, when Montoyo said “you could tell everyone was feeling it”, while fresh memories of the loss arose on Monday, as the Athletics honored Julia with a moment of silence as the Blue Jays took her initials. had, JB , engraved on their caps.

There wasn’t much energy for them either, especially after Manoah gave up three runs in the first, one on a sacrifice fly by Stephen Vogt and two more on an Elvis Andrus-double just past a diving Matt Chapman on third base.

Alejandro Kirk’s RBI single in the fourth hinted at a rally, but solo shots from Ramon Laureano in the fifth and Vogt opening the sixth pushed the game out of reach before an announced Independence Day attendance of 24,403.

The loss was their fourth straight and third since learning of Julia’s death.

“I don’t want to make that an excuse, but of course we feel it because we are people and we are a team and we care about Bud,” said Montoyo. “We do feel it. But today was more our approach on record, I think.”

The five runs (four earned) against Manoah was a season highlight on a night when his average fastball speed of 92.4 mph was noticeably lower than his season mark of 94. He didn’t have much to say about an outing he was planning” throw in ‘the trash, forget it and move on’, and wasn’t sure how the recent gloom was affecting the team’s play.

“Personally, I tried to come out and spark the team, but I couldn’t,” he said. “So on to tomorrow, bring some energy to the dugout and get this thing rolling.”

There is no choice there, because the schedule continues.

Biggio recalls feeling “an aura around our dugout and our clubhouse” that he described as “just heavy,” and the way “our whole head and heart immediately went away from that game we were playing.”

While Budzinksi’s role is as first base coach and his duties include working with the outfielders, he affects players across the roster. Biggio brings extra flyballs as part of the defensive play around the diamond and praised him for his readiness and dedication to his players.

“He’s one of the best people you’ll ever meet in this game,” Biggio said. “He’s always positive and to always be so positive in this game when it’s so easy to be negative says something about the type of person he is.”

That’s the kind of person others want to take care of, especially at a time of immense grief like the one he and the Blue Jays are going through right now.

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