On Monday night, Cleveland Indians designated hitter/first baseman Edwin Encarnacion played in his first game in Toronto since leaving the Blue Jays in free agency to sign with the reigning American League champions.
And prior to his first at-bat, Encarnacion received a rousing ovation from the Blue Jays faithful before legging out an infield single to shortstop in the top of the second inning of a 4-2 Indians loss at Rogers Centre.
“It was something really exciting, the applause that I received from the fans,” Encarnacion said through Indians translator Anna Bolton following the game. “I feel very happy and good about them.”
Cleveland Indians' Edwin Encarnacion receives warm welcome in return to Toronto
Prior to joining the Indians, Encarnacion spent the last eight years of his Major League career with the Blue Jays. He made his Major League debut with the Cincinnati Reds in 2005, and spent four full seasons with them before being traded to the Blue Jays during the 2009 campaign.
During his final year with the Blue Jays, Encarnacion hit .263 (158 for 601) with 34 doubles, 42 home runs and 127 runs batted in over 160 games. He set career highs with the 158 hits, 99 runs scored, 76 extra-base hits, 127 RBI and 318 total bases. The 42 round-trippers matched his single-season career best.
Prior to the game, the Blue Jays played a 70-second highlight video of Encarnacion’s accomplishments with the ball club including a game-tying home run against the Texas Rangers in Game 5 of the 2015 A.L. Division Series, as well as a walk-off three-run homer in the 11th inning of the 2016 A.L. Wildcard Game against Baltimore.
At the end of the video, the Blue Jays focused in on a still photograph of Encarnacion’s name on a jersey as he celebrated a victory with teammates. On the left side of the screen were the words “Thank you, Edwin” with his familiar No. 10 on the right.
Then, as Encarnacion settled into the batter’s box, the Toronto fans gave him a standing ovation in appreciation of his accomplishments with the Blue Jays. After Encarnacion stepped out of the box to regather himself, fans began chanting, “Eddie, Eddie, Eddie!”
“At first, I wasn’t expecting the reception that I got, but then, when they stood up, that huge group of fans that stood up for me, they not only gained my respect, but also, the respect of all the other players that were there that saw it and heard it,” Encarnacion said.
Encarnacion went two for three with two singles and a walk in his first game against the Blue Jays with the Indians at Rogers Centre, and as he said following the loss, his new organization gained a measure of respect for Toronto fans.
“I thought it was a tremendous response to him, and you could tell just by the way he tapped (his heart),” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “I thought it was really classy by them, and he looked like he really appreciated it.
“He looked like he was really touched. I thought it was nice all the way around.”