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Delgado joins elite company in Toronto

TORONTO -- An impressive group of all-time Blue Jays' greats were on hand Sunday afternoon to welcome Carlos Delgado to the Level of Excellence.

George Bell, Tony Fernandez, Roberto Alomar, Cito Gaston, Pat Gillick and Paul Beeston all took part in the ceremony that saw Delgado's name placed on the facade of the upper deck in left field.

Delgado's family was in attendance as were some of his longtime former teammates, including Shawn Green, Alex Gonzalez and Jose Cruz Jr. It was a memorable day for the slugging first baseman who became the 10th person in franchise history to receive the honour.

"I can't tell you how excited and how honoured I am to be here today," Delgado said from the on-field podium. "Twenty years ago, on this very same field, I started living a dream as a Major League player.

"I want to say thank you to Pat Gillick, Paul Beeston and the Toronto organization for giving me the opportunity to come to professional baseball, for giving me the opportunity to become a Major Leaguer."

Delgado addressed the crowd at Rogers Centre, received a Level of Excellence suit jacket and was presented with a painting montage of his playing days in Toronto by current Blue Jays Jose Bautista and Jose Reyes.

The 41-year-old Delgado went on to throw out of the ceremonial first pitch and left the field to a standing ovation as the fans paid tribute to the best homegrown power hitter the Blue Jays have ever produced.

Delgado still leads the franchise in virtually every major statistical category. He's first in home runs (336), RBIs (1,058), OPS (.949), runs (889), extra-base hits (690) and walks (827).

The native of Puerto Rico also ranks second in on-base percentage (.392) and third in hits (1,413), while playing the second-most games of any Blue Jays player with 1,423. He's a two-time All-Star and received MVP votes after seven of his 17 big league seasons, including 2003, when he finished second to Texas' Alex Rodriguez.

"When you're in the middle of playing, or you're in the middle of the season, you're not thinking about retirement, you're not thinking about level of excellence you're not thinking about anything except going out and trying to have the best season that you can," Delgado said.

"Having said that after you retire and you get that phone call, this is a very special day for me and I want to have friends, family here, so the whole crew is here, because I want to share that moment with them. So, it's an honour to accept this."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. Evan Peaslee is an associate reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @EvanPeaslee.
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