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Blue Jays adding Delgado to Level of Excellence

Blue Jays adding Delgado to Level of Excellence

Blue Jays adding Delgado to Level of Excellence
TORONTO -- Carlos Delgado now finds himself among the most highly regarded names in Blue Jays franchise history.

Toronto's legendary first baseman will become the 10th member inducted on the Level of Excellence when his gets banner raised during an on-field ceremony on July 21, 2013.

Delgado is arguably the best power hitter the Blue Jays had during a 12-year career with the organization, and now he's set to get the well-deserved public recognition.

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"I'm very excited, it's a great day for me to find out the news that I'm going into the Level of Excellence," Delgado said Friday afternoon. "Those who know me and what we did over the years, know how special Toronto was to me and how grateful I was for the opportunity to break into the big leagues and play the game that I love."

The Level of Excellence is an award handed out by the Blue Jays to recognize individual achievement. The past recipients include Dave Stieb, George Bell, Joe Carter, Cito Gaston, Tony Fernandez, Pat Gillick, Tom Cheek, Roberto Alomar and Paul Beeston.

That's an impressive list, but it has long been assumed that Delgado's name would eventually be placed alongside the small group. It's an honor that makes plenty of sense for a man who defined baseball in this city for more than a decade.

Delgado remains the franchise's all-time leader in home runs (336), RBIs (1,058), walks (827), slugging percentage (.556), OPS (.949), runs (889), total bases (2,786), doubles (343) and extra-base hits (690).

The Puerto Rico native also holds several Blue Jays single-season and career records. He won the Hank Aaron Award and Sporting News Player of the Year Award in 2000 and the Silver Slugger Award in 1999, 2000 and 2003.

"Not only was he one of the best hitters in club history, he was one of the finest first basemen of his generation," Beeston said. "More importantly, Carlos was a tremendous ambassador for the Blue Jays organization and the city of Toronto. His fun-loving attitude was infectious, and his tireless work in the community were truly his greatest assets."

Delgado will be officially recognized during an on-field ceremony prior to a game against the Rays. He will be joined by several special guests, while the first 20,000 fans to enter the ballpark will receive a commemorative Delgado baseball.

The two-time All-Star spent 17 seasons in the big leagues, including stints with the Marlins and Mets, but it's his time in Toronto that always will be remembered the most.

Delgado broke into the league in 1993, but he played sparingly until 1996. That's when he got to experience his first full season in the big leagues, and for the next 13 years, he appeared in at least 138 games -- including twice playing in all 162.

There were a slew of personal achievements to pick from, but when Delgado was asked for his top three, he didn't hesitate.

"Definitely Opening Day 1994," Delgado said. "That was a special year, having the opportunity to be here. Obviously have to go with the four home run night in September 2003 -- that was a great time. Then there was a game against Boston when I hit a home run off Pedro Martinez."

Delgado also took time to clear up his departure from the Blue Jays following the 2004 season. At the time, it was somewhat controversial, but in reality, there never was much of an opportunity for him to remain in Toronto.

The Blue Jays, under the guidance of then general manager J.P. Ricciardi, were in the midst of shedding payroll and didn't have the funds to re-sign their most prolific hitter. That led to Delgado eventually signing a multiyear contract with the Marlins.

There was a war of words from both sides, but all of that is now water under the bridge as Delgado only looks back with fond memories of his tenure with the organization.

"I think it was pretty clear after the 2004 season that the team wanted to go in a different direction," Delgado said. "The team had a plan to spend less money, and maybe I wasn't in the plans. I don't think I did anything so badly to go from what I was making to $6 million a year.

"I understand the business side of baseball. I have nothing but good things to say about the city of Toronto and the way that the Blue Jays family treated me. But at the end of the day, I understand too that they are running a business and they're trying to execute a plan."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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