Blue Jays use WWE belts to celebrate players
After a win, championship belts are given to a position player and pitcher to recognize their performances
There are high fives and “good jobs,” but Luke Maile wanted to do something extra this season to commemorate the Blue Jays’ victories.
“We were trying to have a little bit more of a special kind of theme to a postgame celebration after our wins,” Maile said. “It’s something I believe strongly in, and I think it should be a fun environment after you win a game at this level.”
Maile was inspired for the celebration after the Blue Jays listened to a playlist with wrestling-themed music in May. The fifth-year catcher wanted to present a deserving player with a replica WWE belt to recognize his role in the victory. At first, the Blue Jays borrowed a belt from a member of the clubhouse staff, who happened to be a WWE fan.
It wasn’t long before the Blue Jays took the presentation to another level. Ken Giles had participated in a similar celebration as a member of the Astros, when Carlos Beltran had two championship boxing belts made in 2017. Giles suggested the Blue Jays expand the recognition from one noteworthy performance to two -- a position player and a pitcher -- to spread the acknowledgement. Turns out, he had a connection to someone who could custom design and produce the belts.
“I wanted something that said, ‘Tag Team,’” Giles said. “I thought that was a perfect duo -- two guys, two tag teams. Tag team champions.”
One of the fun aspects of the belt is there is no specific criteria for the recipients. The basis for the awards can run from the obvious to the unexpected.
“It’s subjective,” Maile said. “Typically, it’s a guy who had a big moment. It could be a guy that gets five hits one night, or it could be a starter that throws seven innings of two-hit ball. But it could also be a reliever that came in the game early and got out of a big jam .... It could be a position player that had three punchouts the first three at-bats, but finds a way to get on base, steals second and scores the winning run.”
Ultimately, the belt signifies the hustle and effort made in that particular victory.
“It’s just one of those motivational things where you credit what they did today that made a difference,” Giles said.
After a win, players confer to choose the honorees. Once that teammate enters the clubhouse, the ceremony -- which Maile said “looks pro” after a home win thanks to the lighting at Rogers Centre -- starts.
“You feel it out. We don’t have a board of directors or anything like that. We don’t have it that official,” Maile said. “A lot of times, the guy that ends up having the biggest game is usually interviewed down on the field. So we’re waiting for him, and when he comes in, the presentation begins.”
On a team mixed with rookies and veterans, the belt resonates with players of all levels of experience.
Second-year player Lourdes Gurriel Jr. donned the belt during his postgame interview in Boston last month after recording three hits. Rookie Cavan Biggio estimates he has received the belt three times in his first season, including after he hit two home runs in a game in Baltimore.
“I just think it’s fun,” Biggio said. “When you win a game, you always want to celebrate it... It brings us all together for a little bit and kind of celebrate the win as a team.”
Justin Smoak was the recipient of the position player’s belt last week after smacking a homer and scoring two runs against the Red Sox. The 32-year-old fastened it around the chair at his locker for the remaining two games of the series.
“It’s always fun after a win anyways,” Smoak said. “But when we’re whatever our record is and we’re a young team … it makes it a little fun after a win to keep the mood good around here.”
The belts stay in the possession of the honored players until the next win. As the Blue Jays continue to develop their roster, the goal is to pass the belt around quite often in the future.
“It’s a great way to show a lot of positive attitude throughout the team,” Giles said.