09 October 2009
By Ezrom Serame Mokgakala, Toronto, Canada
Cito Gaston, the current Manager of the Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Team, considers Toronto as his second home. This is because he was born in San Antonio, Texas but has worked and lived in the City of Toronto for more than twenty years. He has earned his place in the Baseball Hall of Fame largely through his work in the city. This is the city that made him the first African American Manager of a Professional Baseball Team to win the World Baseball Series and then earned the right to manage a Baseball All Star Team. This is a City where baseball fans still doff their hats off to him. Which fans will forget the man who brought two World Championships to their city?
Cito Gaston was born in San Antonio, Texas on March 17th, 1944. His father was a truck driver whom he intended to emulate. However, baseball became the dominant ambition. His professional baseball playing career began in Atlanta with the Braves. He was later selected with a group of other stars to start a new franchise. He reached the zenith of his playing years in 1970 when he was selected to play in the National League All Star Team.
He came to the Toronto Blue Jays in 1982 as a hitting coach to a team of highly talented players. The soft-spoken Cito is credited with the ability to take a group of highly talented baseball players, with huge egos, and mold them into winning team. He was very popular with both the players and the fans. He told Ebony Magazine that when the job of manager was first offered to him he refused it as he was very happy with his hitting coach position. It was only after the urging by some of the players that he decided to take the job up. They promised to give him all the support he needed for a successful career. Because of this, he was able to manage a team that brought the World Championship to Toronto two years in a row and made Toronto a major Baseball destination. He believes that “when you speak softly to people, they listen to you. When you scream, nobody listens.”
Many observers believe that the Blue Jays Stars began to fade when age caught up with them (the players.) But for Cito Gaston, trouble seems to have started with the coming of Roger Clemens to his team. The two do not seem to have gotten along well. Cito blames Roger to be a very selfish player. “To Roger,” he told a reporter, “everything is about me, me…”
The Blue Jays chose Roger Clemens over Cito Gaston. Most people expected every baseball team in the league to run to acquire the services of a very successful manager. This was not to be. After many interviews, Cito decided that he will longer attempt to join any organization until he was offered the position. He felt that some teams only interviewed him for fear of being accused of not interviewing an African American prospect as their manager. The Blue Jays offered and he accepted the job without going through the usual interview.
Cito Gaston returned to the Blue Jays on June 20, 2008 to great expectations. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall Fame in 2002 and was granted a Doctorate of Laws by the University of Toronto. Despite talk of trouble in the Blue Jay locker room, Cito Gaston remains popular with the fans who hope he will bring a third World Series Championship to the City.