Blue Jays coach stepping away from team after death of daughter

By Sportsnet Staff

The Toronto Blue Jays announced Sunday that first base coach Mark Budzinski will be away from the team after the passing of his 17-year-old daughter Julia.

“The Budzinskis have been part of our Blue Jays family over the last four seasons. This devastating loss is felt by our entire organization and we grieve alongside Bud and his family,” said Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins in a statement. “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 Blue Jays organization added: “Our thoughts and prayers are with Mark and Monica, and their children Josh and Lily, at this time.”

Budzinski left during the third inning of the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Blue Jays informed via statement that he was “dealing with a personal matter” and was replaced by bullpen catcher Luis Hurtado.

Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo also briefly left the game, replaced by bench coach John Schneider, but returned to the dugout.

“The moment that happened, my heart’s with Bud,” Montoyo said. “The game? We’ve got enough coaches that can do a good job, so that’s why my job was to be with Mark.”

“There’s good men and great men. He’s a great man. You’d ache for anybody, but he’s a special kind of person. Brave. The only thing I can share about what happened: even before he left, he wrote a note for me to read to the team while going through that tragedy. That tells you everything about Mark Budzinski.”

“This tragedy reminds us what’s more important in life,” Montoyo said. “As a father and a husband myself, my heart breaks for Bud.”

“That has to be every parent’s worst nightmare,” added starter Ross Stripling. “We feel for him, love him, miss him. We obviously want him to be home with his family and we’ll see him whenever that is. We want him to take as much time as he needs.”

The loss resonated so deeply within the Blue Jays clubhouse that the idea of not playing came up. But in the end, the Blue Jays played, losing their third straight game to the Rays.

Before the game, the Blue Jays held a moment of silence before the game today for Julia Budzinski. Seemingly every player, coach and staff member from both teams lined up for the moment of silence – a rarity for a regular season game that signals respect for the Budzinski family. Thornton and fellow reliever David Phelps were visibly emotional as the team stood for the moment of silence.

“It’s really tough,” Stripling said. “It’s not a situation that I bet any of us have ever been in where someone so close to home has such a tragic loss. It hits everyone a little different, especially those of us with children. It definitely weighed on us … He was heavy on everyone’s hearts today.”

With Budzinski away from the team, bullpen catcher Luis Hurtado continued coaching first base Sunday. Internally, the Blue Jays are working through the details of how coaching assignments will be reassigned while Budzinski’s away from his typical first base and outfield defence duties.

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