Toronto Blue Jays: Edwin Encarnacion gets the hero’s welcome he deserves

May 8, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Cleveland Indians designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion (10) embraces Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (19) during batting practice before a game at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
May 8, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Cleveland Indians designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion (10) embraces Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (19) during batting practice before a game at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports /

Edwin Encarnacion returned to Southern Ontario for a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays and it was as emotional as one would have expected.

In mid-December, Toronto Blue Jays fans were left heartbroken when the news came out that Edwin Encarnacion was taking his parrot to the Cleveland Indians. Most fans felt betrayed that he was leaving the team and were desperate to bring him back to the team.

Once the signing was announced, Blue Jays fans went to their calendars and circled May 8, signifying his return to Toronto. Since then, the talk of the town was how Encarnacion would be received when he made his return with the Indians in an ALCS rematch from the previous year.

Some people were saying he deserves to be booed for turning down the Blue Jays’ offer and was greedy for doing so (despite him eventually signing for less with Cleveland). Others were saying he should be praised for his time in Toronto, especially for this swing during the 2016 AL Wild Card game against the Baltimore Orioles:

Once the day arrived, fans all over social media were giving their input on how the fan base should react to Encarnacion. It’s fair to say, the response was mainly positive as fans were hoping for a great ovation:

As game time approached Monday evening, updates were flowing in and the Blue Jays faithful were starting to see how happy he was to reunite with his former teammates:

Then, just before Marcus Stroman threw the first pitch of the game, the Blue Jays presented a special video package that had everybody wondering who was cutting an onion around them.

That is what Blue Jays fans should remember.

Take a step back and put the politics about the contract issues to the side for a few moments.

Encarnacion is and always will be a very important member of the Toronto Blue Jays. His numbers as a Blue Jay will have him in consideration for the Level of Excellence, if they ever decide to update the list that hangs above the 200 level inside Rogers Centre.

He played 999 games with Toronto, one shy of 1,000. He hit 239 home runs, third all-time in franchise history (behind only Carlos Delgado with 336 and Jose Bautista with 267, respectively). He batted in 679 runs (sixth all-time in franchise history), and finished with a slash line of .268/.355/.522.

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Apart from his numbers, he’ll mainly be remembered for his in-game moments that got fans to their feet and jumping up and down. From his home run hat trick against the Detroit Tigers in August 2015, to his game-tying homer during that epic Game 5 playoff game against the Texas Rangers, to, as mentioned above, the AL Wild Card home run.

Blue Jays fan Justin McKoy, who got a ticket to Monday night’s game, felt the importance to go and pay tribute to the former Blue Jay.

“I was at the wild card game last year. Edwin gave me the best sports memory of my life.” said McKoy at the Rogers Centre. “I feel like he should have his name up on the Level of Excellence.”

Blue Jays fans truly loved seeing the parrot going around the bases when Encarnacion went yard. Fans also gave him a standing ovation with in his first at-bat in the second inning of a 4-2 Blue Jays victory over the Indians.

Following the game, Encarnacion through a translator gave his thoughts surrounding the game and the reception. Speaking to FOX Sports Ohio and other members of the media, It’s fair to say he was emotional throughout the night:

"“It was really exciting. The applause that I received from the fans, I feel really happy. 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 gained not only my respect, but the respect of all the other players that were there that saw it and heard it.”"

Yes, some fans out there will always be bitter at how the offseason went in terms of trying to bring him back. If anything, rightfully so with the controversy surrounding his agent and the handling of the negotiations, or management not willing to give up such a huge contract.

Ultimately, he decided to go where he has the best chance to get that coveted World Series ring and maybe Cleveland is the place for him to do so. So far its been working for him, as the Indians currently lead the AL Central with a 17-14 record and are up on the Twins by a game.

However, just because he now wears a different uniform and plays in a different city, it doesn’t take away what he’s done for the team, especially during its back to back playoff runs. After being worried on what he reception would be here in Toronto, he got an ovation that was heard all around MLB.

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Make no mistake about it, when the blue uniform was on, he played hard and tried to bring a World Series to the city of Toronto. His efforts and his determination will never go unnoticed with the Blue Jays faithful. For that, Blue Jays fans will always thank him.