TORONTO — Carlos Delgado said he’s “completely honored and flattered” that the Toronto Blue Jays are adding him to their Level of Excellence.
The Puerto Rican slugger, who hit 473 home runs in his 17 year career, will become the 10th person to have his name added to the facade inside Rogers Centre in a ceremony before today’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
“It’s a very special day for me,” Delgado said Saturday. “This city treated me like family. It’s always great to come back, there’s so many good memories and good moments that I’ll always remember.”
Past recipients of the award include former AL MVP George Bell, 1993 World Series star Joe Carter and Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar.
Delgado played parts of 12 seasons with the Blue Jays before signing as a free agent with the Florida Marlins in 2005. He remains Toronto’s franchise leader in more than 10 offensive categories, including home runs, RBIs, doubles, runs and intentional walks.
He’s also the only Blue Jays player to hit four home runs in a game, doing it against Tampa Bay in September, 2003.
“Obviously I remember a lot of moments, but how do you forget four home runs?” Delgado said. “I guess you don’t, so I didn’t.”
Of the 16 players to hit four homers in a game, Delgado is the only one to do it in only four at bats.
Asked about other highlights moments from his time in Toronto, Delgado recalled making his big league debut at the end of the 1993 season, cracking the opening day roster for the first time in 1994, and homering off Pedro Martinez on his birthday to help the Blue Jays beat Boston in June, 2000.
He also recalled lasting friendships with teammates including Alomar, Shawn Green and Jose Cruz, and the invaluable hitting advice he received from manager Cito Gaston
“He was a big part of my learning process,” Delgado said of Gaston. “He was very influential.”
Delgado also spoke of his pride in being an icon for other Latin baseball players.
“It’s great to represent Puerto Rico, it’s great to represent Latin America,” he said. “In Latin America and the Caribbean, there’s such a rich baseball tradition. We’re very proud about that. Since you’re two years old you’ve got a bat and a ball in your hands.
“Having that opportunity to come in on the biggest stage and play and perform and sometimes be compared with some of the great Latin-American players, it’s a great honor.