The Toronto Blue Jays have had their share of fan favorites since their inception in 1977. Doug Ault, Alfredo Griffin and Dave Stieb paved the way for Tony Fernandez, Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter who then passed the torch on to Vernon Wells, Carlos Delgado and Roy Halladay.
The term “Fan Favorite” can be assigned to a player for a number of reasons. Winning attitude, grit and determination are common traits that are found in such players as John MacDonald, Dustin McGowan and Mike McCoy.
Frank Catalanotto is no exception as he embodied all of these characteristics and epitomized the saying “Hustle and Heart” long before the Blue Jays adapted the term as their slogan.
The Cat came to Toronto via Free Agency in December 2002 a season removed from posting career highs in BA, OBP and SLG %. The 29 year old Catalanotto appeared in 133 games that first season in Toronto setting career highs in HR’s while being utilized as a corner outfielder, 1st baseman and DH. His versatility, hustle and ability to work the count made him an instant hit among Jays fans across the country.
Catalanotto played 4 seasons with the Blue Jays posting an overall BA of .299 to go with a .361 OBP in 1783 PA’s. His greatest moment in a Blue Jays uniform came May 1st, 2004.
The Blue Jays were in Chicago for a 4 game tilt vs the 2nd place White Sox. After dropping game 1 on Thursday of that week, Game 2 was postponed due to inclement weather forcing a double header on the Saturday and setting the stage for one of the greatest single game performances in Blue Jay history.
Catalanotto began the day with a .280 BA and was used as a pinch hitter late in game 1. Manager Carlos Tosca decided to start Cat in game 2 and had him slotted in to the 2 spot hitting in front of power hitters Vernon Wells and Carlos Delgado.
In the first inning, Catalanotto sent a 0-1 Dan Wright offering up the middle for his 1st of 5 singles hit during the game. In the 7th, he hit a double to CF off of Chicago’s 3rd pitcher of the afternoon Michael Jackson (not making this up). To cap it off Catalanotto laced a line drive to left centre for his 6th and final hit of the day leaving him with a .329 BA, .59 points higher than where started the day.
Catalanotto would become the first Blue Jay to record 6 hits in a single game, tying an AL record in the process and proving that hard work and hustle pays off.
In the years following, Catalanotto would refer to this game as his favorite memory from his 14 years in the Bigs, something that Blue Jay fans can certainly take a lot of pride in as they reflect on his stellar MLB career.
You can keep in touch with the Cat on Twitter – @fcat27.