In a brief but emotional ceremony Sunday morning, the North Delta Blue Jays retired the jersey of former player Jonathan Côté, who passed away last spring after a two-year battle with brain cancer.
On April 7, ahead of the team’s home opener against the Whalley Chiefs, the team unveiled a commemorative banner on the left field fence bearing Jonathan’s name and number, 56. Côté died in May 2018, just three weeks after his 22nd birthday.
“The players that are here, most of them are juniors he didn’t even play with, but they’re all here because he still supported them, he always talked with them and helped them when he was a senior,” Jonathan’s mother, Candice Côté, told the Reporter following Sunday’s ceremony. “He was always giving and if somebody needed something, even if it was his glove, he gave it to them.”
“He’d be happy today, and quite frankly he’d be saying, ‘Aw, I don’t deserve this’ or stuff like that, but he was definitely most deserving because he was a really hard fighter and just always positive,” his father, Rob Côté, added.
“He definitely showed in his 22 years of living, that’s exactly what he did. He lived to the full extent every day. Working hard was his best attribute.”
|Jonathan Côté during his days as a North Delta Blue Jay. (Black Press Media file photo)|
The left-handed pitcher played a year with the White Rock Tritons before moving to the Blue Jays, where he led the league in strikeouts in 2014 — 78 in 51 innings played— and set a BC Premier Baseball League record of 14 strikeouts in one game. He went on to attend Colorado Mesa University (an NCAA Division-2 school) on a baseball scholarship, transferring to Otero Junior College in Colorado after a year.
But escalating bouts of vertigo starting May 2014 sent him to the hospital in June 2016, and Côté was subsequently diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a form of brain cancer that’s extremely rare in adults. He underwent brain surgery that year and returned to school, determined to get back on field, but the cancer returned twice more, and Côté passed away on May 28, 2018.
In tribute, the North Delta Blue Jays are dedicating their entire 2019 season to Côté’s memory, and the organization is establishing a $1,000 scholarship in his name to continue his legacy of helping younger players. The Jonathan Côté North Delta Blue Jays Memorial Scholarship will be awarded annually to a graduating Blue Jay who is attending a recognized Canadian university or college and who “meets the same high qualities and characteristics that Jonathan exemplified as a ball player,” general manager Gerry White said during Sunday’s ceremony.
“It was awesome to have everyone out to commemorate his memory and retire his jersey. He was an awesome kid, obviously a good ball player, but a better person off the field. Teammates loved him, he was just a great, great kid. It’s sad to see somebody go at that age,” White told the Reporter. “But to be able to honour him, and then have our scholarship which will definitely help keep his memory going and reward kids that meet our criteria and … have the same values and everything that he had, was just awesome to keep his legacy going.”
White said the organization is still working out the exact criteria, but that it will include looking at the player’s GPA, volunteer hours and community service.
“We’ve just got a rough draft right now so by the end of the week we’ll have that ready to go,” he said, adding the details will be posted to the team’s website once they’re finalized.
|Jonathan Côté pitching for Otero Junior Colege. (Photo submitted)|
The team plans to award the inaugural scholarship in July — “probably July 1,” White said — so current players will be able to apply.
“We have quite a few graduating players, so they’ll have to get their applications in then we’ll sit down — it’ll probably be myself, Candice [Côté] and a couple other parents — and kind of go through the applications and award it accordingly.”
For now, the scholarship will only be offered to a single player, however the team is accepting donations and hopes to eventually be able to extend it to a few people each year.
“If we can get more money towards it, right now we have $1,000 scholarship available for one player, but if we can offer a couple more that’d be a great thing to do,” White said.
Anyone interested in donating can contact White at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I think [what Jonathan would] be most happy about is his bursary, which we’re so appreciative of,” Rob Côté said, singling out the family of Jonathan’s former teammate Marc Ashford in particular as being “absolutely phenomenal” in helping initiate the scholarship.
“[Not only] the financial but emotional support that we’ve gotten from everybody has been phenomenal,” he said.
“The baseball community has come together unbelievably, and it’s very much a family,” he continued. “It’s just a testament that hard work and being a teammate on a team, it comes back to you, and this is what it means for it to come back.”