'My arm is still good.' Jays' batting-practice pitcher celebrates 28th season with team
Jesus Figueroa joined the team in 1989 as left-handed batting-practice pitcher
Do you know the name of the longest-serving member of the Toronto Blue Jays? Don't run through the lineup to figure it out. It's actually batting-practice pitcher Jesus Figueroa, who joined the team in 1989.
Figueroa, who was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, figured his gig as the Jays' left-handed batting practice pitcher would be a short-term deal.
"I thought I would only be here for about three months," Figueroa told CBC News through an interpreter. But year after year the team brought him back. Now, he's celebrating his 28th season with the team.
"If you think about it, he's been as much of a fixture around here as anybody over the last I don't know how many years," Jays manager John Gibbons said.
It's been a major-league pitching career for a man who played just one season of Major League Baseball, and not as a pitcher. He was an outfielder and pinch-hitter for the Chicago Cubs in 1980.
But he wasn't new to throwing BP when he joined the Jays.
"My brother had a team and I'd throw for them, and it was all for practice," Figueroa said. "I was doing that before I came here. That made it pretty easy."
Over the years, he's pitched to some of the game's biggest stars, including Hall of Famers Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor and Roberto Alomar.
"I feel great about it, throwing to these players," Figueroa said. "It's a source of pride."
He was also on hand for the team's back-to-back World Series victories.
"It's massive," he said. "To be with the champions of the entire league, that's incredible."
Despite those big moments, his biggest accomplishment might be his longevity. At nearly 60 years of age, Figueroa can still take the field day in and day out and throw hard enough for major-league hitters.
"He just throws and throws," Gibbons said. "He doesn't throw as much as he used to, you know. He's gotten a little bit older. But I've never seen his arm hurting."
His secret? Good old-fashioned daily exercise. Figueroa trains as hard as he did during his playing days.
"I walk, go to the gym and lift weight, all of this just to keep my arm in shape," he said.
Asked how long he thinks he can keep the job, he replied: "My arm is still good. I guess when my arm disappears, that's when the career disappears."
For now though, he has one goal in mind: celebrating another World Series victory with the team.
With files from Greg Ross