Born in Trail, B.C. in 1978, Jason Bay played for his hometown squad in the 1990 Little League World Series. A standout athlete in high school, the right-handed hitting outfielder graduated to play two years at Gonzaga University where he earned first-team All-West Coast Conference honours in his junior and senior seasons. His strong collegiate performance convinced the Montreal Expos to select him in the 22nd round of the 2000 MLB draft.
Following two seasons in the Expos organization, he was dealt to the New York Mets and then to the San Diego Padres in just over a four-month span in 2002. After making his big league debut with the Padres in 2003, Bay was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, and it was in Steeltown that he’d become a star. He assumed starting left field duties for the club on May 7, 2004 and never looked back, hitting .282 and belting 26 home runs in 120 games that season to become the first – and still only – Canadian to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award.
Bay continued to excel for the Pirates over the next four seasons, registering back-to-back 30-home run, 100-RBI campaigns in 2005 and 2006 and earning all-star honours in each of those years. But his game was more than just power, the athletic Canadian swiped 21 bases in 22 attempts in 2005 to lead the National League in stolen base percentage (95.46%). He was also a solid defender, twice finishing second among NL left-fielders in assists (2006, 2007).
After socking 22 home runs in 106 contests to begin the 2008 campaign, he was dealt to the Boston Red Sox at the July 31 trade deadline. In Beantown, he continued to be a power threat, socking nine home runs down the stretch to help the Red Sox to a playoff berth. In the American League Division Series against the Los Angeles Angels, he batted a team-best .412 (7-for-17) to help his club advance to the American League Championship Series. Bay returned to Fenway the next season to club a career-best 36 home runs and register 119 RBI. In the field, he topped AL left fielders in assists (15) and posted a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage. For his efforts, he earned his third all-star nod, a Silver Slugger Award and a seventh-place finish in the MVP voting.
Following that season, he signed a four-year deal with the New York Mets and he would finish his 11-year major league career with the Seattle Mariners in 2013.
Bay ranks in the top 10 in most of the all-time offensive statistical categories among Canadian major leaguers, including fifth in home runs (222), sixth in slugging percentage (.481), on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) (.841), walks (636) and seventh in doubles (240) and RBI (754). His 1,200 hits also make him one of only 13 Canadians to record 1,000 or more hits in the majors.
Over the course of his career, Bay was named the winner of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Tip O’Neill Award, as top Canadian player, three times (2004, 2005, 2009) and suited up for the Canadian national team at the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics, He was added to Baseball Canada’s Wall of Excellence in 2014.
“It was a very pleasant and somewhat unexpected surprise to get that call from the Canadian Hall of Fame,” said Bay. “I’m proud and honoured to be recognized with great people who have helped build baseball in Canada in various ways, to the elite level it has become. I’m looking forward to it!”