Ben Revere still thinks about his final at-bat in a Toronto Blue Jays uniform.
It was Game 6 of the 2015 American League Championship Series, one out in the top of the ninth inning, runners on second and third. Toronto was trailing the host Kansas City Royals by a run and facing elimination.
He still thinks about the pitch from closer Wade Davis, high and outside, the one called “strike two” by home-plate umpire Jeff Nelson, which gave Revere a 2-2 count instead of a hitter-friendly 3-1, wherein a simple fly ball would have tied to game. He remembers striking out swinging on the next pitch, leaving the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on second. He remembers the beating he laid in frustration on a trash can in the dugout. He remembers Josh Donaldson grounding out to third to end the game, the Royals celebrating a 4-3 victory and trip to the World Series.
“I still have it in my head to this day, but I’ve got to tell myself to turn the page. It’s behind you,” Revere said Tuesday before his first home game with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons. But it’s difficult.
Revere’s ALCS memories didn’t come flooding back when the outfielder signed a minor league contract to rejoin the Blue Jays’ organization on April 27, because they never left.
Revere, the National League hits leader with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2014, batted .319 in 56 games with Toronto after being traded to the Blue Jays midway through the 2015 season. He was dealt to the Washington Nationals the following offseason, still raw from the loss in the ALCS and that controversial strike two.
“I was [upset]. I couldn’t sleep,” Revere said. “It was a cool thing, [former major leaguer turned sports analyst] Harold Reynolds called me and he said, ‘Ben, that wasn’t a strike. That put you in a bad situation. Don’t think for a second that you failed that at-bat. You had a beautiful at-bat, just the umpire [messed] you over.’ But there’s nothing I can do more about it. I wish I could. I’ve just got to move forward.”
Revere, 30, played in the majors for parts of eight seasons, the career .284 hitter bouncing from the Minnesota Twins to the Phillies to the Blue Jays to the Nats to the Los Angeles Angels, his last stop in the majors in 2017. He hit .275 in 109 games.
Revere played 40 games last season for the Angels' Triple-A affiliate in Salt Lake, hitting .277 in the Pacific Coast League.
He has hit .333 with two doubles and five RBIs in his first four games with the Bisons, entering the start of the team’s six-game homestand Tuesday. He’s played in left field, right field and as the designated hitter.
“Right now, we’ve got a lot of outfielders,” Bisons manager Bobby Meacham said. “A lot of priority outfielders, too, so we’re trying to do what [the Blue Jays are] asking of us, as far as getting [Lourdes] Gurriel time out there and put [Cavan] Biggio out there. They want to see him go out there. Obviously, we had [Jonathan] Davis and have [Anthony] Alford here, so it’s crowded.
“But it’s not a problem at all. The opportunity lies for [Revere] to see what he does at the plate. He’s been around for a while. They know what he can do in the outfield. But is he still capable of leading the league in hits? That type of thing. Obviously, Toronto needs some guys that are swinging the bats well to help out there, and everybody that’s playing here has an opportunity to show them what they can do. And hopefully he’s one of those guys that does that.”
Revere said he’s grateful for the opportunity to rejoin the Blue Jays’ organization.
“When I got the phone call, just working out at home in Kentucky, I’m thinking I wasn’t going to play this year,” Revere said. “Luckily, the Blue Birds called me and I was ecstatic. I was real happy and ready to get right into it. It’s a great organization, a great group of guys. I wish I had the chance to stay with them after the ’15 season. We just came up short against the Royals. But that’s the way the business works. I got traded to the Nationals, but I’m glad to be back with these guys again.”
Revere thinks he can continue to perform at a high level for years to come.
“I wish I could get five more years,” Revere said. “I think I can play into my late 30s. I’m still in good health. I still can run and hit, so I’m just trying to get opportunities. Just keep battling, fighting and hoping I get the opportunity to get back to the big leagues.”
The Blue Jays’ playoff run in 2015 remains his only trip to the postseason.
Revere hit .304 in the division series against Texas and .208 in the ALCS against Kansas City.
After defeating the Blue Jays, the Royals went on to win the World Series, upending the New York Mets in five games.
The Blue Jays also lost the 2016 ALCS to the Cleveland Indians in five games.
“I do wish that we kept the guys together,” Revere said. “Everybody, of course, including myself for a second season. Because I know they went back.
“Just hitting leadoff for those guys, with Donaldson, [Jose] Bautista, [Troy Tulowitzki], [Edwin] Encarnacion and so on, it was a fun time. I know all the guys aren’t here anymore, but hopefully I can get back to Toronto and see that beautiful city again.”