TORONTO – An exhausted miniature Jose Bautista took the day off Thursday to recover after a long Blue Jays game where his special voodoo — captured on video — propelled him to international stardom.
Nine-year-old Oscar Wood — affectionately known by Jays fans, and now even his own father, as Mini Bautista — was filmed swinging a phantom bat while donning his painted Bautista-esque beard at the precise moment the real Blue Jay launched a game-changing homer.
By the time Oscar woke up Thursday morning, the video (http://bit.ly/MiniBautista) had gone viral online. News organizations across the United States picked up the story and it made its way to the United Kingdom.
“I’ve got Mini Bautista next to me, he’s all swung out and his arm is tired from high-fiving people,” said Oscar’s father, Benn Wood, who skipped work to stay home with his son.
Oscar has a long connection with his idol, known to fans as Joey Bats. It began innocently enough when his father was getting ready to take the family of five to a Jays game three seasons ago.
Wood had grown out a beard and was wearing his Jays hat and sunglasses.
“Oh Daddy,” he recalled his daughter, Bella, saying at the time, “you look like Jose Bautista and Oscar should have a beard too, and so should Jasper and you guys should go as the Bautista brothers.”
So his wife, Charlotte, painted beards on the boys — “straight up, dollar store fancy black face paint,” Wood said. They brought a sign that said “Bautista Brotherhood” and went down to take part in Junior Jays festivities — events organized by the team designed for kids.
Wood said a Blue Jays employee noticed the brotherhood and invited their three children to join the team on the field. Oscar was paired up with Bautista that day.
“The two of them stood there with their beards, hats in hand, singing the national anthem,” Wood said. Bautista hit a home run that day and gave some credit on Twitter to Mini Bautista for the good-luck mojo.
Oscar has been sporting the beard every time he goes to watch the Blue Jays play. But the special voodoo began in September when the family took a road trip to New York to watch a crucial doubleheader against the Yankees.
Oscar mimics Bautista’s entire batting routine, from his warm-ups in the on-deck circle to the slugger’s tics in the batter’s box. Bautista hit two home runs in the first Yankee game and had two hits in the second. The kid’s voodoo worked.
Then, Wood said, a Yankee fan yelled: “Hey kid, no more voodoo!” So it stuck.
Oscar tried it again at a game against the Tampa Bay Rays in Toronto. It worked again, Wood said. Bautista hit two more dingers.
Wednesday’s decisive Game 5 victory was the first playoff game the family was able to get tickets to.
Oscar said he felt Bautista was bound to do something great in the game. The boy took a little off one of his phantom swings in the stands — and Bautista hit a double.
Then in the seventh inning, Oscar felt good and really laid into his ghost swing from the nosebleed seats — and Bautista delivered with the historic home run.
Wood said he failed as a father earlier when the family noticed Josh Donaldson riding into the stadium on a scooter before the game started — a moment he forgot to capture on camera.
“I was saying, this is a life lesson kids. When there is an opportunity, capitalize on it — not like your dad did — but you know you gotta learn from this.”
He took his own advice and he redeemed himself by capturing Oscar’s special powers on camera for the world to see.
Then the family weasled their way to the front row to celebrate with the Jays.
First baseman Chris Colabello came out and was on top of the dugout spraying champagne on fans.
“I was screaming ‘yeah!’ and got a bunch in my mouth — it tasted horrible,” Oscar told The Canadian Press from his home in Barrie, Ont.