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

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The Toronto Blue Jays announced on Sunday that first base coach Mark Budzinski will be away from the team after the death of his oldest daughter. Julia Budzinski was 17.

“This devastating loss is felt throughout our organization and we grieve with Bud and his family,” Ross Atkins, the team’s general manager and head of baseball operations, said in a statement. “I have known Bud for over 25 years and have always admired his dedication as a father and husband first. He is loved and respected throughout our clubhouse and holds a special place in our hearts.”

Before a game in Toronto on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays, players and coaches from both teams lined the foul lines for a moment of silence when an image of Julia Budzinski was displayed in Rogers Centre.

Budzinski had left a game on Saturday against the Rays in the third inning. He was joined by Manager Charlie Montoyo, who was temporarily replaced by bench coach John Schneider, while bullpencatcher Luis Hurtado took over as first base coach.

After the Blue Jays game on Sunday, a 7-3 Rays win, Montoyo told reporters that “everyone in our clubhouse is thinking about Bud.”

“There are good men and great men. He’s a great man,” said the manager said† “You’d long for anyone, but he’s a special kind of person.”

“This tragedy reminds us what is more important in life,” Montoyo added† “As a father and husband, my heart breaks for Bud and his family.”

Rays Manager Kevin Cash said before Sunday’s game that his thoughts were with Budzinski and the coach’s family, as well as the Blue Jays organization as a whole.

“I know yesterday was a hard day; today is a tough day,” Cash said. “So we are also heartbroken.”

Richmond television channel WTVR reported on Sunday that Julia Budzinski was killed in a snake accident. The station quoted sources as saying she fell from her subway into the James River on Saturday.

The Principal of Julia Budzinski’s High School in Henrico County said on Twitter that a celebration of her life would be held outside of school on Sunday evening. When reached via email, a school spokesperson declined to comment.

Budzinski, a 48-year-old resident of Severna Park, Maryland, is in his fourth season as the Blue Jays first base coach. He played in four Major League-games in 2003 as an outfielder for the Cincinnati Reds before ending his playing career in 2005.

After several years as a real estate agent in Virginia, Budzinski returned to the game in 2014 and began leading minor league teams in the Cleveland organization. In addition to the opportunity to be a major league coach, Budzinski was drawn to Toronto because of his longstanding friendship with Atkins, a former teammate during their minor league playing days.

Tigers manager AJ Hinch, another former minor league teammate of Budzinski, expressed his grief on Sunday.

“He’s someone I consider a good friend,” Hinch told reporters before a game against the Kansas City Royals. “His daughter is the same age as my daughters. Tough morning.”

The Blue Jays said Budzinski would spend time with his family, including his wife and a surviving daughter and son.

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