As the Blue Jays look to steal a few games from the Yankees with the playoff race coming into shape, they turned to a hometown legend for inspiration.
Auston Matthews threw out the first pitch ahead of Tuesday’s contest, a game that will draw national attention due to Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge’s pursuit of the American League single-season home runs record, currently sitting on 60 dingers, one shy of Roger Maris’ 61 homers in 1961.
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The reigning Hart Trophy winner didn’t fare too badly, much to the delight of the Rogers Centre crowd. Matthews got to the park early, signing autographs for eager fans, before taking the hill to rowdy applause.
Matthews delivered a dart that rode a bit high to Blue Jays star pitcher Alek Manoah, and two of Toronto’s brightest stars shared some advice with each other right after.
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"I wasn’t much of a pitcher, honestly. I had a pretty wild arm, so I usually caught. I pitched a little bit, but not very good," Matthews said earlier on Tuesday via Sportsnet's Luke Fox.
"It’s been a minute since I’ve thrown a baseball, but I’m looking forward to it."
Prior to Matthews taking the mound, several Maple Leafs weighed in on Matthews’ baseball credentials, perhaps hoping he’d air-mail his ceremonial pitch. Mitch Marner and Michael Bunting also joined Matthews for the game, where they hung out with Yankees infielder and former Blue Jays star Josh Donaldson.
“I mean, he’s a baseball player growing up, he knows how to throw a baseball,” Marner said.
“We were joking around with him saying what’s he going to throw tonight, and is he going to confuse whoever’s catching for him. I’m sure he’ll do great with the throw — it would be fun if he does chunk it or throw it like s—t. We’ll see what happens. It would be quite funny but he’s American, he’s been in Arizona his whole life, I’m sure he played a lot of baseball.”
Auston Matthews catching up with Josh Donaldson before the #Leafs 60-goal man throws out the first pitch before Jays-Yanks. Mitch Marner and Michael Bunting also in the building. pic.twitter.com/GbzCF5lPH8
— Joshua Clipperton (@JClipperton_CP) September 27, 2022
It appears that Matthews’ teammates were trying to psyche him out, letting him know that all eyes, at least momentarily, were on him.
"I think it's going to be pretty packed because of what Judge is chasing. So, there might be a little bit extra pressure. He was talking about using some Spider Tack, so we'll get the umps out and make sure it's legal," Morgan Rielly said.
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