Blue Jays add Jeff Beliveau on a MiLB deal

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TORONTO – A day removed from announcing a MiLB agreement with T.J. House, the Toronto Blue Jays added another left-handed hurler by inking Jeff Beliveau to a minor league pact that comes complete with an invite to spring training next February.

Beliveau, 29, hasn’t pitched in the Majors since getting in to five games with the Tampa Bay Rays before succumbing to a season-ending torn shoulder labrum in April of 2015.

Having appeared in only 58 big league games since breaking in with the Chicago Cubs in 2012, the 18th round draft pick has pitched to an overall ERA of 4.00 with a WHIP of 1.511 and a K/9 of 9.4 across 45 innings of work.

In 2016, the 6’1″ product of Rhode Island, NY posted a combined ERA of 2.54 with 66 strikeouts against 29 walks and only three home runs allowed over 49.2 frames between high-A Frederick and double-A Bowie.

Although Beliveau has limited left-handed batters to a combined OBA of .243 over 86 plate appearances in the Show, he’s struggled with control walking nine and hitting a pair over that sample sized showing.

With Brett Cecil out of the mix,Toronto will be looking to add another lefty to join Aaron Loup in the bullpen next season. Current candidates for that vacancy include House, Chad Girodo, Matt Dermody and, following Thursdays transaction, Beliveau.

-Follow Andrew Hendriks on Twitter (@77hendriks)

Blue Jays minor league catcher Mike Reeves named to ABL All-Star team

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This year’s Austrailian Baseball League All-Star game will feature a pair of Canadian imports as catcher Mike Reeves and outfielder Malik Collymore were named to the circuits World team on Wednesday.

Reeves, 26, recently completed his fourth year of affiliated ball by establishing new single-season highs in stolen bases (7), doubles (8) and home runs (3) over 53 games as a member fo the Dunedin Blue Jays in 2016.

Selected by Toronto in the 21st round of 2013’s June amateur draft, the Peterborough, ON native is currently hitting .309 with a team-best nine extra-base hits and an OPS of 1.003 through the Canberra Cavalry’s first 16 games of the season.

Collymore, 21, is a product of the Milwaukee Brewers organization who has combined to slash .254/.323/.362 across 184 minor league games since signing with the St. Louis Cardinals in the 10th round of 2013 draft.

Through 16 games with the Sydney Blue Sox, the product of Mississauga, ON, is leading the club in nearly every offensive category including stolen bases (6), hits (20), doubles (5), batting average (.333), home runs (3) and RBI with 15.

The ABL All-Star game pits the league’s top imported national players up against some of Australias most promising talent in an annual showcase down under.

Presented by Boral, this year’s event is scheduled to take place on December 22nd in Melbourne, VIC, and will be streamed live via ABLtv.com, the ESPNGO app and MLB.com.

– Follow Andrew Hendriks on Twitter (@77hendriks)

Head Groundskeeper needed at historic Nat Bailey Stadium

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Vancouver vs. Portland at Capilano Stadium, 1956. (Photo via vancouversun.com)

Brooks Robinson, Reggie Jackson, Ozzie Smith, Tony Gwynn and Ken Griffey Jr.? These are just a few of the household names who kickstarted their professional careers with stops at the corner of Ontario and East 29th Ave in the heart of Vancouver’s Riley Park neighborhood.

Designed by local architect William Aitken, Capilano Stadium first opened it’s doors in the summer of 1951 and has been a staple on the Canadian sports landscape ever since.

Although the old yard has undergone many structured sets of renovations, a few coats of paint and one name change since its inaugural year in ’51, the park itself looks virtually identical to the way it did back in baseball’s golden age.

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Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium, 2016.

The preservation efforts put forth on this historic gem of a stadium have been headlined by many individuals over the Cap’s 65 years in operation, the most recent being John Stewart.

After cutting his teeth as a clubbie with the Greensville Astros of the Appalachian League, Stewart joined the Vancouver Canadians as the Visiting Clubhouse Attendant ahead of the 2016 campaign and was later promoted to Coordinator of Stadium and Clubhouse Operations come season’s end.

This winter, Stewart has been tasked with the responsibility of finding an individual who will tend to arguably the most important element of Vancouver’s throwback ballpark; the field itself.

Now accepting resume’s for a vacant Head Groundskeeper position with the Canadians, Stewart is in search of an individual who shares in his astute attention to detail, quality workmanship and overall passion for the game.

In order to considered for this position, applicants must have experience in the field and be either a Canadian citizen or be legally able to work in the country.

Since becoming an affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011, a handful of players including Marcus Stroman, Roberto Osuna, Kevin Pillar and the 2016 American League ERA champ Aaron Sanchez have called Nat Bailey home as they began to make their way up the professional baseball ladder.

Perhaps you can follow in their footsteps with a job at the Nat this summer.

Those interested in learning more about the position are asked to contact Stewart via email (jstewart@canadiansbaseball.com).

– Follow Andrew Hendriks on Twitter (@77hendriks)

Report: Blue Jays to sign LHP T.J. House

 

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Added on a minor league deal, T.J. House will look to compete for a job in the Blue Jays bullpen next season. (Photo via Cleveland.com)

 

In a continued effort to source out viable left-handed relief options following the departure of Brett Cecil, the Toronto Blue Jays are close to acquiring T.J. House reports Darren Wolfson fo 1500ESPN Minneapolis.

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House, 27, is a veteran of 27 major league contests, 22 of which came out of the starting rotation for the Cleveland Indians between the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

Signed by the Tribe in the 16th round of 2008’s June amateur draft, the product of Picayune, MS has pitched to an overall ERA of 3.96 with a WHIP of 1.479 across 217 games since making his professional debut with the Lake County Captains (SALL) in 2009.

In 2016, House went 5-3 with an ERA of 3.98 over 33 games with triple-A Columbus. The 6’1″ southpaw made four relief appearances with the World Series-bound Tribe last year, allowing a run on six hits through 2.2 innings of work prior to being designated for assignment and later outrighted off the team’s 40-man roster in September.

Having limited port-sided hitters to an overall opponents batting average of .267 with 35 strikeouts and only five walks over 141 big league plate appearances, House’s future value will likely come as a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen. That said, his impressive 2014 rookie campaign may lead to additional looks as a starter so long as his once bothersome shoulder issues remains a thing of the past.

Reportedly inked to a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training, House is expected to compete with fellow lefties Matt Dermody and Chad Girodo for a spot in Toronto’s bullpen next season.

OF NOTE

House’s last start in the majors came against the Blue Jays on April 30th, 2015 at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

After holding Toronto to only a hit through the first three, Jose Bautista led off the fourth inning with a walk prior to going from first to third on a line drive single off the bat of Edwin Encarnacion. Danny Valencia then singled to cash in Bautista, and Russell Martin doubled to deep right field to plate Encarnacion. Martin was promptly ushered in by a Kevin Pillar double before Cleveland’s shell-shocked starter received the hook without recording an out in the frame.

Replaced by Tyler Holt, House was put on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder inflammation on May 1st and would go on to miss the better part of 2015.

– Follow Andrew Hendriks on Twitter (@77hendriks)

 

Dalton Pompey celebrates his birthday by giving back to those in the community

Dalton Pompey isn’t like most 24-year olds.

In addition to being lightning fast on the basepaths, the former Oakville Royals standout is also truly cognizant of his role as an ambassador for the game.

Just over three years removed from making his Major League debut in September of 2014, the promising young outfielder celebrated his birthday in inspiring fashion this weekend.

Rather than throwing an elaborate celebration, the former 16th-round draft pick took to the streets of Toronto on Sunday afternoon, handing out Tim Horton’s gift cards to those less fortunate than himself.

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“I have a  lot be thankful in my life.” wrote Pompey in an Instagram post on Sunday afternoon. “There’s no better way for me to thank God for blessing me than trying to make someone else’s day.”

Raised only a stones throw away from Rogers Centre, Pompey has been afforded the ability to play for his hometown team and the Mississauga native has often demonstrated an understanding of his role as a mentor to those in the community.

“Thanks to everyone who has wished me a happy birthday and helped me in some capacity throughout my life” added Pompey prior to shouting out his friend Matthew Romeo for the inspiration to follow through on Sunday’s act of kindness.

Having put together an impressive slash line of .270/.349/.353 with 18 stolen bases over 93 games with the triple-A Buffalo Bisons in 2016, the young speedster is projected to play a big role in the Blue Jays outfield next season.

 Follow Andrew Hendriks on Twitter (@77hendriks)

Blue Jays select RHP Glenn Sparkman in the 2016 Rule 5 Draft

 

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Glenn Sparkman pitching for the Wilmington Blue Rocks in 2014.

 

With the 24th selection (38th overall) in 2016’s Major League  Rule 5 draft, the Toronto Blue Jays picked right-handed pitcher Glenn Sparkman on Thursday.

Sparkman, 24, is a product of Ganado, Texas and has appeared in 69 minor league games since being picked by the Kansas City Royals in the 20th round of 2013’s June amateur draft. To date, the 6’2″hurler has recorded an overall ERA of 2.68 along with a WHIP of 1.092 and a K/9 of 9.5 across 238 innings as a professional.

Roughly a year removed from undergoing Tommy John Surgery, Sparkman reached as high as double-A Arkansas in 2016, making 16 starts while pitching to an ERA of 5.67 in only 60 and a third innings on the year.

Having picked another right-handed hurler in Philip Walby 28th overall, Toronto also added an arm in the triple-A portion of this year’s draft.

Drafted in 2013, Walby, 24, is a former 12th round selection of the New York Yankees and owns a career ERA of 3.67 to go with an overall WHIP of 1.572 and a K/9 of 9.4 over 123 games, the majority of which have come out of the bullpen.

In 2016, the 6’2″ product of San Diego, California split time between low-A Hagerstown and high-A Tampa, allowing 42 hits over 43 and a third innings en route to posting an ERA of 3.50 for the year.

In addition to adding talent, Toronto also lost a trio of players on Thursday.

With the sixth overall selection in the triple-A portion of the Rule 5, Philadelphia snagged middle infielder Jorge Flores prior to the Yankees picking catcher Jorge Saez Jr. 13th overall and Texas selecting left-handed pitcher Matt Smoral with the 21st pick.

Sparkman now becomes the 33rd Rule 5 selection made by the Blue Jays dating back to 1977.

With the most recent being Joe Biagini in 2015, the former Royals farmhand will look to add his name to the ever-growing list of Toronto rule 5 success stories, a list that also includes Manuel Lee, Kelly Gruber and George Bell to name a few

Toronto will now pay Kansas City $50,000 for their selection. Should Sparkman be removed from the team’s 25-man roster at any point between now and the end of the 2017 campaign, the Blue Jays will be forced to offer him back to the Royals for $25,000.

– Follow Andrew Hendriks on Twitter (@77hendriks)

 

Blue Jays sign LHP Brett Oberholtzer to MiLB deal

As first reported by Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the Blue Jays reached a minor league agreement with left-handed hurler Brett Oberholtzer on Wednesday.

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Oberholtzer, 27, has pitched in parts of four seasons at the MLB level while amassing an overall record of 14-23 to go with with an earned run average of 4.86 across 82 big league games.

Unable to recreate the type of success that led to a 2.76 ERA over his first 13 games as a rookie in 2013, the former 8th round pick has witnessed his overall vitals continually inflate over the past three seasons.

In 2016, the product of Christiana, Delaware split time between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Los Angeles Angels while appearing in 37 games and posting a career-high WHIP of 1.621 over 70.1 innings of work, the majority of which coming as a reliever.

Having allowed a higher career OPS to lefties (.786), the likelihood of Oberholtzer serving as a left-handed specialist in the Blue Jays bullpen next season is relatively slim but, having made 44 of his 82 MLB appearances as a starter, the 6’1″ righty could provide Toronto with additional depth for their starting rotation.

– Follow Andrew Hendriks on Twitter (@77hendriks)

 

Report: Blue Jays sign Steve​ Pearce to a two-year, $12.5M pact

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As first noted by ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Toronto Blue Jays kicked off 2016’s Winter Meetings by signing veteran utility man Steve Pearce to a two-year, $12.5M deal on Monday.

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Pearce, 33, joins the Blue Jays having played for a total of seven MLB franchises since breaking in with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a 24-year-old in 2007. Four of those teams hail from the American League East as the former 8th round pick has appeared with Baltimore, New York and Tampa Bay, respectively.

A career .254 hitter, the product of Lakeland, FL has slashed a respectable .269/.353/.499 with a career OPS of 8.52 off left-handed pitching since making his MLB debut with the Bucs and can play a number of different positions including both corner outfields as well as third, second and first base. That overall defensive versatility should help the 10-year vet see time next season as a possible platoon type with Justin Smoak at first base or in the outfield when needed.

Prior to a breakout campaign in 2014, Pearce was designated for assignment by the Orioles only to be claimed on waivers by the Blue Jays shortly after. Rather than accepting the claim, the then 31-year-old elected free agency and was later re-signed by Baltimore. He would go on to produce career highs in walks (40), stolen bases (5), doubles (26), home runs (21) and RBI (49) that season.

A string of injuries including both calf and hamstring ailments limited Pearce to only 85 games in 2016, a season that saw the former University of South Carolina standout slash .288/.384/.492 with 13 home runs and 35 RBI across 302 plate appearances on the year.

If there is a downside to the deal, it’s the fact that Pearce has battled injuries for the better part of his MLB career. Having undergone forearm surgery in September, it’s likely that he sees a lion’s share of his defensive innings at first base in 2017.

-Follow Andrew Hendriks on Twitter (@77hendriks)

Lindgren, Ross or Revere: Who the Blue Jays could be looking at following the non-tender deadline

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With 2016’s non-tender deadline having come and gone, the Toronto Blue Jays may look to supplement their roster with those left exposed following its passing.

In short, Major league clubs had until 8PM on Friday night to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players. If they failed to do so, that player immediately became a free agent, thus rendering himself available on the open market ahead of the annual Winter Meetings in Maryland.

Of the many individuals who found themselves eligible for salary arbitration in 2017, 35 were left exposed when the deadline passed on Friday.

Who could Toronto be looking at?

Current areas of need include a backup for Russell Martin behind the dish, additional outfield support, and, following the departure of Brett Cecil earlier this month, further reinforcements in a Blue Jays bullpen that also lost both Joaquin Benoit and Scott Feldman to free agency earlier in the year.

After being claimed on waivers at the beginning of last season, veteran right-hander Vance Worley was non-tendered by the Orioles on Friday. Worley, 29, is two seasons removed from recording an impressive 2014 campaign that saw the former 3rd round pick pitch to an ERA of 2.85 across 110.2 innings with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Used primarily as a reliever in 2016, Worley got into 35 games and struck out 56 batters over 86 and 2/3rd’s innings of work. If there is an area of concern, it would likely come in the form of the long ball as the recently declared free agent allowed 11 in 2016. This was one off his career high in 46 and a third fewer innings.

Having established career highs in starts (33), innings pitched (196) and strikeouts (212) in 2015, San Diego’s Tyson Ross was primed for a big showing last season. Unfortunately, the  29-year-old righty would be sidelined with shoulder issues after appearing in only one game with the Padres last April and would fail to take the hill for the remainder of the year.

Despite the injury, Ross pocketed $9.625M in 2016 and his shoulder concerns, coupled with a drop in velocity prior to the injury likely played a role in leading to being non-tendered on Friday. Having undergone thoracic outlet surgery in October, Ross, who will be a free agent in 2018, could garner a look as a reliever next season. But at what cost?

When Ben Revere was shipped to the Nationals in exchange for Drew Storen last January, many in Toronto were perplexed by the move as it left the Blue Jays void of a true leadoff hitter. Both Storen and Revere posted less than ideal showings for their new clubs. After recording an ERA north of six through 38 games with Toronto, Storen was flipped to the Mariners in exchange for Benoit prior to July’s non-waiver trade deadline. Meanwhile, Revere stayed in Washington where the 28-year-old struggled en route to posting an overall slash line of .217/.260/.300 over 375 plate appearances with the Nationals.

Having earned $6.25M in 2016, the arbitration eligible Revere was non-tendered by the Nationals on Friday and hits free agency as one of the more interesting leadoff types available this winter. A left-handed swinging leadoff type, to be specific. As it’s constructed now, Toronto’s lineup is predominately right-hand heavy and would certainly benefit from the addition of a proven leadoff man like Revere.

Other notables that were non-tendered on Friday and could be of interest for the Blue Jays include lefties in Cody Ege and Jacob Lindgren as well as catchers Ramon Cabrera and Wellington Castillo.

On the homefront, Toronto employs a quartet of players who are eligible for arbitration this winter, all of which received new contract offers from the team on Friday.

Headlined by 25-year-old right-handed starter Marcus Stroman, that list also includes utility infielder Darwin Barney, left-handed reliever Aaron Loup and outfielder Ezequiel Carrera.

As for the pitchers, Stroman was a lock to receive a pay increase however given a string of inconsistent play that dates back to the end of the 2014 campaign, Toronto could have rolled the dice on Loup. Arbitration eligible, the former bullpen stalwart is set to receive a pay raise despite his spotty work over the past two seasons, however, it’s worth noting that the Blue Jays in dire need of a reliable southpaw out of the pen and Loup has held left-handed hitters to an OBA of .209 over 339 career at-bats.

With regards to the position players, Barney and Carrera are nice luxuries to have but the pair could be seen as redundant given the fact that Toronto already employs a smooth fielding utility man in Ryan Goins and remains rumored to be in the market for another left-handed swinging outfielder this winter.

-Follow Andrew Hendriks on Twitter (@77hendriks)

Jays Care steps up to the plate for Whitby’s Ben Sheppard

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Originally posted on the Canadian Baseball Network,  July 27th, 2014

WHITBY – For over 20 years, the Jays Care Foundation, charitable arm of the Toronto Blue Jays, has been busy making a profound difference in communities across Canada.

Founded in 1992, Jays Care uses such initiatives as the annual Curve Ball Gala, Charity Golf Classic, Roberto Alomar Home Run Challenge and 50-50 draws to raise funding for local Rookie Leagues, scholarship programs and Field of Dreams ballpark renovations.

In addition to supporting a handful of impactful causes, the foundation also uses donations to support a number of individual charitable efforts.

Efforts such as helping a young baseball fan realize his big league dreams.

Under overcast skies, more than 400 participants gathered at Iroquois park in Whitby, Ont. earlier this July as the Blue Jays Baseball Academy hosted a special one-day Super Camp to help raise funds for Ben Sheppard, a local eight-year-old who is currently battling one of life’s most challenging curveballs.

Adopted by Robyn and Norman Sheppard at the age of five, Ben has been diagnosed with left hemiplegic spastic cerebral palsy and has battled pain stemming from tightness and spasticity in his muscles for most of his life. As he has matured, the condition has worsened to the point where it hinders Ben’s ability to run, walk and play his favorite game … baseball.

Although he currently struggles with mobility and often has to rely on a wheelchair as a means of getting around safely, the cerebral palsy hasn’t dampened Sheppard’s spirits or his desire to live out his dream of one day running the bases at Rogers Centre.

“He’s just a boy who loves baseball,” said Robyn Sheppard, Ben’s adoptive mother. “You can’t stop him. He plays baseball in our house, running up and down the hallways with his little foam bat that he carries around. Often times, he lays in bed and kicks his feet as if he’s running the bases as fast as his favorite Blue Jay, Anthony Gose.”

Ben believes he can be as fast as Gose someday. But in order to get there, the young baseball fanatic will need to undergo life-changing surgery.

Fortunately, a procedure called Selective Dorzal Rhizotomy (SDR) can release some of the tightness that has caused the youngster so much pain over the years. However, the surgery, which involves cutting certain spinal nerves in order to release muscle rigidity, is not available in Ontario.

Notably performed by Pediatric Neurosurgeon Dr. T.S. Park, the revolutionary SDR procedure comes with a price tag of $55,000 and is commonly practiced at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri.

In order to offset the impending medical, rehabilitation and travel costs, the Sheppard family set an overall fundraising goal of $100,000.

“We sent Jays Care some letters simply because Ben is such a big fan,” Robyn said. “We were just hoping that they would give us a plug. We didn’t really know what was going to happen. But shortly after, representatives got back to us, and over time this clinic somehow came to be and the whole experience has been amazing. We can’t thank them (Jays Care) enough for everything they’ve done.”

To help raise money for Ben’s surgery, the Jays Care Foundation enlisted the services of several Blue Jays alumni, including Roberto Alomar, Alex Gonzalez, Tony Fernandez, Devon White, Lloyd Moseby, George Bell, Carlos Delgado, Jesse Barfield, Duane Ward, Nigel Wilson and Brian McCrae who, alongside Whitby Minor Baseball coaches, helped instruct the three-hour clinic on Sunday afternoon.

“Ben’s dream is very simple, he wants to walk pain-free so he is able to play baseball with other kids,” said Alomar, the former Blue Jays’ second baseman and Hall of Famer, who currently serves as a special assistant to the organization. “After understanding Ben’s passion for baseball, it was a very easy decision to get involved and lend a helping hand to him and his family.”

A proud partner of the Toronto Blue Jays, Honda Canada also stepped up to the plate, agreeing to match all funds raised through the clinic’s registration with a one-time monetary contribution.

“Honda and the Blue Jays have been together for over 30 years,” said Barry Holt, a representative of Honda Canada. “Part of our sponsorship includes funding the team’s Super Camps, and when the Blue Jays approached us with this opportunity, we just couldn’t say no. It’s simple. Ben absolutely loves baseball and the fact that we were able to help him and do this camp here in Whitby, where so many of our families live, it was really special.”

In a scene that closely resembled that of spring training in Dunedin, parents lined the fences, peering in to catch a glimpse of their kids as they took the field alongside some of the greatest ballplayers to suit up for the Toronto Blue Jays. For many of the parents, the experience was just as exciting as it was for their children.

“It’s almost a dream come true for me,” said Matt Buehler, whose son Luke took part in Sunday’s camp. “I grew up watching these guys in the 80’s and 90’s. Robbie, George, Jesse, all those great guys. This is fantastic.”

Aside from the opportunity to have their children learn from some of the best, the fact that all funds raised through Whitby’s camp will end up going to such a great cause really touched home with many of the parents involved in Sunday’s clinic.

“Obviously, we wanted to come to the camp,” said Herb Wallace, whose daughter Bailey participated in her first Blue Jays clinic. “But because of the cause, it was a must. It’s great to see all the alumni come out and show their support. We saw Ben out on the field with Alomar earlier, and you know, you get a little teary-eyed. It was very emotional.”

Supporting key initiatives such as Challenger Baseball, Honda Instructional Clinics, and Tournament 12, the Blue Jays Baseball Academy, powered by Jays Care, has helped make a difference in the lives of thousands of children across Canada. On Sunday, the organization kept that trend going by helping Ben Sheppard realize his big league dreams.

“This is an unbelievable turnout,” said former Blue Jays slugger and 2013 Level of Excellence inductee Carlos Delgado. “It’s a good opportunity to help out a kid in need, and at the end of the day, we love baseball, so if we can get out there and teach it a little bit, it’s a great time for us alumni.”

In addition to funds raised through various initiatives around the Durham region, more than $68,000 was accumulated through the clinic’s registration fees along with the contribution from Honda Canada. After crunching the numbers, the Blue Jays were proud to announce that the goal of $100,000 had been met prior to Sunday’s event.

“When I pulled up to the park this morning, I saw a sea of people, and it touched me,” said Robyn. “To think that they’re here for my son. It was beautiful. This is an experience that Ben will take with him for the rest of his life.”

-Follow Andrew Hendriks on Twitter (@77hendriks)