Blue Jays coach Mark Budzinski leaves team following daughter’s death

Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports
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TORONTO — Toronto Blue Jays first base coach Mark Budzinski will be away from the team following the death of his eldest daughter. Julia Budzinski was 17.

“The Budzinskis have been part of our Blue Jays family over the last four seasons,” general manager Ross Atkins said in a statement. “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 Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays lined up along the foul lines before first pitch for a moment of silence. Rays manager Kevin Cash said his team was “heartbroken.”

Tigers manager A.J. Hinch, who roomed with Budzinski during his minor league career, expressed support for his grieving friend before Detroit hosted Kansas City.

Elsewhere, Red Sox manager Alex Cora offered a similar message from Chicago, where his team was facing the Cubs.

Bullpen coach Luis Hurtado coached first base in Budzinski’s absence.

Budzinski and manager Charlie Montoyo left the dugout in the third inning of the second game of a doubleheader against Tampa Bay. The Blue Jays’ clubhouse was closed after the 11-5 loss.

Budzinski played four games for Cincinnati in 2003 and retired in 2005. After managing in Cleveland’s minor league system, he joined the then-Indians big league staff in 2017. Toronto hired Budzinski in November 2018.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.