On Thursday, Major League Baseball presented “Opening Day at Home” -- a full slate of 30 games broadcast nationally across various platforms including networks, digital streaming and social media, creating a full-day event on what would have been Opening Day. The experience was intended to invite fans to feel a sense of community and unity on a day many were looking forward to while underscoring the importance of staying home to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Using the hashtag #OpeningDayAtHome, fans could connect with each other while watching their team’s selected game at a set time. The Blue Jays got going with Game 5 of the 2015 American League Division Series against the Rangers, better known as the Bat Flip Game.
“Opening Day at Home” also was an opportunity for MLB to raise awareness for several worthy charities that are helping provide relief to the most vulnerable communities impacted by the pandemic. Last week, MLB and the MLBPA made a $1 million joint donation to Feeding America and Meals on Wheels, in addition to a $30 million commitment made by MLB clubs to emergency relief for ballpark employees. If so willing and able, fans can contribute toward these charities, MLB official charity Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and additional causes at MLB.com/give.
José Bautista’s iconic blast in this game stands as one of the club’s greatest moments for this generation of Blue Jays fans, dramatically capping a series comeback from down two games to win the ALDS, 3-2.
This game was a classic from start to finish, but the 53-minute seventh inning is where the magic really lives.
The fun started in the top of the seventh with the Rangers' Rougned Odor on third and Shin-Soo Choo in the batter’s box. Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin attempted to throw the ball back to pitcher Aaron Sanchez after a pitch to Choo, but it bounced off Choo’s bat and rolled towards third base. The umpires ruled it a dead ball at first, but eventually overturned the call, allowing Odor to score.
"It never happened in my life before. I don't really know what the rule is,” Martin said after the game. “He was in the box. I mean, it's just one of those moments and it created an opportunity for us to do something special. José, the hero. My college teammate picking me up right there. Unbelievable man."
Then, the blunders. In the bottom half, the Rangers quickly became the first team in postseason history to record three errors in one inning of a win-or-go-home game, and all three came before they recorded an out. After Josh Donaldson tied things up on a pop fly that went for a forceout, Bautista stepped to the plate with the stadium shaking.
Bautista turned on a 1-1 pitch from Sam Dyson and left no doubt, launching an epic bat flip while giving the Blue Jays a 6-3 lead that they’d hang on to.
"The guy's amazing. He's my hero," Donaldson said. "For myself, personally, I haven't been able to make it to this next step that we're about to reach, and I'm very excited to be a part of that. Our team is just amazing."
The drama wasn’t done, though, with a pair of bench-clearing incidents to follow. Remnants of this rivalry still live on between the Blue Jays and Rangers, but for the two-year stretch in 2015-16, it was always an inch away from boiling over.
"I've never seen anything like that in 19 years in baseball," said R.A. Dickey. "It was like a novel that you don't want to put down."
This week, MLB unlocked its expansive vault and is offering fans special access to the most unforgettable moments. MLB has made the entire 2018 and 2019 game archives free to all fans through MLB.TV. Fans can also access more than 200 full classic MLB games on YouTube including timeless World Series games, memorable postseason matchups, no-hitters and perfect games.