Baseball came a distant second for the Blue Jays on Sunday.
The Jays collectively played with heavy hearts in the series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays at the Rogers Centre, their thoughts with first base coach Mark Budzinski.
Julia Budzinski, the eldest daughter of Budzinski and his wife Monica, passed away suddenly on Saturday at the age of 17.
“This tragedy reminds us what’s more important in life,” Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said after the Jays lost 7-3.
“As a father and a husband myself, my heart breaks for Bud and his family. They are in our thoughts and prayers.
“He is a special person. Before he left (on Saturday) he wrote a note for me to read to the team. Going through that tragedy, that tells you everything you need to know about Mark Budzinski and family.”
Montoyo said that not playing on Sunday in the last outing of a five-game series against the Rays “came up” in discussions but did not go beyond that.
Budzinski departed during the game on Saturday night upon getting the news, and Montoyo left the dugout to be with him.
“That moment that happened, my heart was with Bud,” Montoyo said. “We have coaches who could do the job.”
Ross Stripling, who started for the Jays and lasted 4 2/3 innings before giving way to Trent Thornton, acknowledged the difficulty in managing emotions as he went about trying to work on Sunday afternoon.
“It’s really tough,” Stripling said. “This is not a situation that I bet any of us have ever been in, where someone so close to home has such a tragic loss.
“I think it hits everyone a little different, especially those of us with children. You could tell it really weighed on us.
“I think Bud would have wanted us to play and go out there and try to win a series and beat the Rays. It’s just not the way it unfolded. He was heavy on everyone’s hearts.
“He is probably one of the most genuine, nice, family-oriented Christian men that you can meet in all of baseball. We all told him that we love him and go be with his family and we hope to see him soon. I’m now a dad. My son is 16 months. I sat with my wife (Saturday) night and we were emotional thinking about it.
“That has to be every parent’s worst nightmare, to get a phone call like that. We want him to be home with his family and we will see him whenever that is.”
Before the game, a moment of silence was held for Julia.
“The Budzinskis have been part of our Blue Jays family over the last four seasons,” Jays general manager Ross Atkins said in a statement released by the team. “This devastating loss is felt by our entire organization and we grieve alongside Bud and his family.
“I have known Bud for more than 25 years and have always admired his commitment as a dad and husband first. He is loved and well-respected by our entire clubhouse and holds a special place in all our hearts.”
The Jays added: “Our thoughts and prayers are with Mark and Monica, and their children Josh and Lily, at this time.”
An ugly fifth inning for Stripling (4-3) and reliever Thornton — including three Rays home runs with two out — was the difference before a crowd of 35,757 … The Rays got to Stripling and then banged up Thornton, who came on with two out. By the time Kevin Kiermaier grounded out to end the top half of the inning, the Rays had sent nine batters to the plate and scored six runs to run away from a 1-1 tie … Stripling was done after giving up a two-run home run to Harold Ramirez, which had followed an RBI single by Yandy Diaz … “I thought I executed really well for four innings and went out there for the fifth, a lead-off double comes around to score, and then I’m staring at two out with nobody on,” Stripling said. “It just unravels and all of sudden it’s 7-1. Those are frustrating. Those ones stick with you. Good starting pitchers know when to keep the pedal down, keep the gas on and finish an outing. I wasn’t able to do that.” … The second pitch thrown by Thornton was hit over the wall in right by Ji-Man Choi. After Isaac Paredes singled, Thornton served up another home-run pitch, this one to Randy Arozarena … After taking the first two games of the five-game set with their division rivals, Toronto lost the final three games of the series and was outscored 24-10 in those games … The Jays threatened in the ninth, scoring a run on a double by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. With the bases loaded and two out, ex-Jay Jason Adam struck out Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and pinch hitter Alejandro Kirk to end the game … Rays starter Shane Baz (1-1) scattered seven hits and struck out seven before giving way to Cristofer Ogando to start the seventh … Twice, the Jays loaded the bases but couldn’t take advantage. In the first, Gurriel grounded into a double play. In the fourth, Guerrero grounded into a force out … Montoyo on Kevin Gausman, who took a ball off the right ankle on Saturday: “I don’t want to say he’s going to make his (next) start but he’s doing better, for sure.” … The Jays reinstated righthander Trevor Richards, who had been on the 15-day injured list with a neck strain, and optioned righthander Thomas Hatch to triple-A Buffalo.