Home run jacket returns as Bichette makes good on manager’s prediction

May 23rd, 2024

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays’ cleanup spot was a mess.

Their No. 4 hitter hadn’t homered all year, a stretch of 195 plate appearances that was the longest in franchise history within a single season. No team had gone more games than the Blue Jays (47) without a homer from their cleanup hitter since the 1997 Astros, who went 60.

Faced with this depressing information at 3:59 p.m., manager John Schneider leaned back in the black leather chair in his office and made a prediction.

“Bo’s going deep tonight.”

A few hours later, as the Blue Jays piled on seven runs in the second inning of their 9-2 win over the White Sox, it happened. launched a 413-foot shot to center, his third home run of the season. As the ball cleared the wall and the Rogers Centre fog horn wailed, that bizarre stat disappeared with it.

“That’s weird to me. Maybe I need to hit [Danny] Jansen fourth?” Schneider said before the game, still smiling about his prediction. “That’s a crazy stat, especially when that spot is named the cleanup hitter. That’s got to turn. That’s got to turn in a hurry.”

The fun wasn’t over, though. As Bichette ran back to the dugout, José Berríos was at the top of the steps holding the famous home run jacket. It’s back from the dead. This new version has undergone a redesign, perhaps a bit of tailoring, too. The Canadian flag is now emblazoned on the right arm while the back still boasts the home countries represented by players and staff throughout the Blue Jays’ organization, the CN Tower rising up from the bottom of the jacket below.

On the chest, the Blue Jays logo rests over the heart while “PLAKATA” -- written like you’d see “Ka-POW!” in an old comic book -- sits on the right side. It’s all a bit chaotic, but at this point, the Blue Jays could use some chaos. Wednesday’s win was one of the first times this season that the Blue Jays felt wild and untamed. It all felt so alive again, so refreshing after a stretch of baseball that’s been anything but.

“I’m up for anything, whether it’s a jacket, a bathing suit, a red carpet, whatever it is,” Schneider said. “With anything that we or any team does around the league, it just brings you together. The guys have been talking about it a little bit, trying to bring back some good vibes about hitting homers. It’s all player-driven and it’s cool they got on board with it.”

This team needs moments like this right now. They need nights that feel easy. They need to goof around, laugh about something, celebrate something all together, all at once.

“You need to have fun,” Schneider said. “This game is hard. The more you can come together and pull in the same direction, it’s great. We’ve talked about being professional and doing what you’re supposed to do, but at the same time, you have to have fun. You have to enjoy it.”

The series win is the Blue Jays’ first since taking two of three from the Padres over a month ago, April 19-21. Bichette’s blast was the Blue Jays’ only home run of the day, but this win was still built on power. Absolutely everything was hit hard.

The Blue Jays’ offense has been the story of the season for all the wrong reasons, but at the root of that problem is this lineup’s lack of power. They sit 29th in baseball in runs scored (182) largely because they are tied for 27th in home runs (40). This lineup isn’t built on speed by any means, so without the big blows, the Blue Jays are relying on stringing hits together. That’s a tough road to travel in the modern game against big-league pitching.

Good vibes don’t create home runs out of thin air and one win against the lowest-scoring team in baseball doesn’t change the realities the Blue Jays face, but it doesn’t hurt, either. Wins like these are what the Blue Jays can use as “step one”.

“There’s more energy, more fight,” Bichette said. “Today, we scored runs and we kept scoring runs, which is incredibly important, down or up. We kept getting after it. It’s definitely been better.”

Now 22-26, the Blue Jays have to keep climbing this hill. They’ll take all the help they can get, too, from jackets to John Schneider’s crystal ball.