The Toronto Blue Jays announced Sunday that first base coach Mark Budzinski will be away from the team following the death of his eldest daughter. Julia Budzinski was 17.
“This devastating loss is felt by our entire organization and we grieve alongside 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 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.”
Before a game in Toronto on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays, players and coaches for both teams lined up along the foul lines for a moment of silence as an image of Julia Budzinski was displayed at Rogers Centre.
Budzinski had left a game Saturday against the Rays in the third inning. He was accompanied by Manager Charlie Montoyo, who was temporarily replaced by bench coach John Schneider, while bullpen catcher Luis Hurtado took over as first base coach.
After the Blue Jays’ game Sunday, a 7-3 Rays win, Montoyo told reporters that “everyone in our clubhouse is thinking of Bud.”
“There’s good men and great men. He’s a great man,” the manager said. “You’d ache for anybody, but he’s a special kind of person.”
“This tragedy reminds us what’s more important in life,” Montoyo added. “As a father and a husband myself, 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 rough day; today is a rough day,” Cash said. “So we’re heartbroken as well.”
Richmond television station WTVR reported Sunday that Julia Budzinski died in a tubing accident. The station cited sources who said she fell from her tube 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 Sunday evening outside the school. When reached via email, a spokesperson for the school declined to comment.
A 48-year-old native of Severna Park, Md., Budzinski is in his fourth season as the Blue Jays’ first base coach. He appeared in four major league games in 2003 as an outfielder for the Cincinnati Reds before ending his playing career in 2005.
After spending several years as a real estate agent in Virginia, Budzinski returned to the game in 2014 and began managing minor league teams in Cleveland’s organization. In addition to the opportunity to be a major league coach, Budzinski was drawn to Toronto because of his longtime friendship with Atkins, a former teammate during their minor league playing days.
Tigers Manager A.J. Hinch, another former minor league teammate of Budzinski’s, expressed his sorrow Sunday.
“He’s someone I consider a dear 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 be spending time with his family, including his wife and a surviving daughter and son.