Bautista Wants to Repay Jays Fans

A Cambridge, Ont., man who took home Jose Bautista’s memorable home run ball wants to give it back to the bat-flipping Toronto Blue Jays slugger.

Jeff Byma grabbed the ball from the floor beneath his seat after it bounced off the second deck on Wednesday night. Seconds earlier, Bautista launched the ball into the left-centre field seats in Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the Texas Rangers.

This photo captures the moment that fan Jeff Byma grabbed Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista's home run ball in the crucial deciding game of last week's game against the Texas Rangers. (Twitter)
This photo captures the moment that fan Jeff Byma grabbed Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista’s home run ball in the crucial deciding game of last week’s game against the Texas Rangers. (Twitter)

The home run propelled the Jays to their first playoff series victory in more than two decades and spread instant joy to baseball fans across the country. It also helped the Jays complete an improbable comeback after they were down 0-2 in the best-of-five series.

In an interview on CBC Toronto’s Metro Morning show Monday, Byma said there were a few frantic moments as he fought to get his hands on the home-run ball as it bounced around the floor of Section 138.

“It hits the wall above us, comes down right to my feet and I just jumped on it,” he  told host Matt Galloway. “Soon as I saw it come down near my feet, I went for it. Hands and knees on the ground, under my seat. Picked it up and it was amazing. I gripped it. I couldn’t believe it.

“I hugged my girlfriend right away [we were] screaming at the top of our lungs. It was unbelievable.”

He hasn’t heard from either the man known as Joey Bats or the Blue Jays.

Byma was asked what — if anything — he would seek by way of compensation for the ball.

“I’m not going to ask for anything in return,” he said. “It’s probably his biggest hit of his career, so if he wants it, I’ll be happy to hand it over to him. I’d love to at least meet him and shake his hand and congratulate him on his home run and return it to him.”

Hopes ball brings good luck

Still, Byma admits he’d be willing to accept any gifts, including game tickets, that the Blue Jays or Bautista might offer him.

“Let’s be realistic. If they offer me something, I’ll take it, but I’m not going to go in there demanding anything,” he said.

For now, Byma said he’s happy to keep the home run ball in “a secure location” inside a display case.

“I’ve got a couple of bodyguards watching it,” he joked.

The Jays return to action Monday night to face the Kansas City Royals. But since Bautista’s big home run last week, the team’s fortunes have fallen. Back to what the late Yogi Berra might have referred to as “déja vu all over again,” the Jays are down 0-2 in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series heading into tonight’s game.

Byma said he may take Bautista’s home run ball out of its case in a superstitious bid for a win.

“It’s been in the case the other couple of games, but maybe I’ll take it out and maybe bring some luck to the Jays,” he said.

Moments after Jose Bautista famously launched a home run and flipped his bat, a fan from Cambridge, Ont., scooped the ball off the floor under his seat. The fan says he's willing to give the ball back to Bautista. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
Moments after Jose Bautista famously launched a home run and flipped his bat, a fan from Cambridge, Ont., scooped the ball off the floor under his seat. The fan says he’s willing to give the ball back to Bautista. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)