‘Mini Bautista’ a big hit with Blue Jays fans

TORONTO (AP) The guy everyone wanted to talk to outside the Blue Jays dugout before Game 4 of the American League Championship Series wasn’t a coach or player, but a 9-year-old boy wearing a fake beard.

His name is Oscar Wood, and he has become known as Mini Bautista because of the painted black beard he wears in tribute to his favorite player, Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista.

Accompanied by his father, Benn, Wood was invited to watch the Blue Jays take batting practice from up close before Tuesday’s game against Kansas City.

Mini Bautista has become an online sensation among Blue Jays fans following a video his father shot at Game 5 of the AL Division Series against Texas.

When Bautista is at bat, Oscar likes to stand up and pretend he’s hitting, too. At Game 5, Benn recorded his son swinging a mock bat seconds before Bautista hit his tiebreaking three-run homer in the seventh inning. The camera panned toward the field, where Bautista’s ball can be seen sailing into the stands, then back to a jubilant Oscar, screaming and high-fiving with those around him. The video, later posted on MLB.com, has been viewed more than four million times, Benn said.

”When he hit it, the whole crowd just went `Ooooh,”’ Oscar said Tuesday. ”That’s all I heard. Then when it was sailing up in the air all I heard was `Yay!’ and the screaming of everyone.”

Baseball is a family affair for the Oscar and his father. Along with little brother Jasper, 6, big sister Bella, 11, and their mother, the family makes multiple trips to Rogers Centre each season from their home in Thornton, Ontario, about 60 miles north of Toronto.

The Woods moved to Canada from Swindon, England, 80 miles west of London, six years ago. Five years ago last month, Benn attended his first Blue Jays game with a neighbor.

”We waited until the following season before we brought the three kids out,” he said. ”All of us got hooked.”

Oscar’s face-paint beard first gained notoriety three years ago, when he was picked to accompany Bautista onto the field for the national anthems before a Saturday home game, a regular feature on `Junior Jays Day’ in Toronto.

His batting routine began during a family road trip to New York this season, where the Woods caught both games of a Sept. 12 doubleheader against the Yankees. Bautista had four hits that day, including two home runs in the opener.

”One of the Yankees fans said `Hey kid, no more voodoo,”’ Benn said. ”He just sort of smiled and carried on doing it all the more through the game. That was it, bat voodoo was kind of ingrained.”

Celebrity status has made life entertaining for Oscar, with a few exceptions.

”We were in the stands (Monday) night, everyone was coming down to take pictures with him,” Benn said. ”It takes 10 times longer to get everywhere because of stopping for photos and that sort of thing. But he’s been loving it, absolutely loving it, although one of the things he said earlier was `I don’t like it when the girls hug me.’ There’s been a few that grab a hold of him and he’s just sort of shell-shocked.”

Oscar was interviewed by several media outlets during batting practice Tuesday. He also chatted briefly with manager John Gibbons and Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson. Donaldson then brought Oscar back into the clubhouse, where the youngster posed for a photo with Bautista that the slugger shared on Instagram.

Benn Wood said Oscar’s fame has been ”a wild ride” for his family, and for relatives back in England.

”They can’t quite get their heads around all of it,” he said. ”Honestly, none of us can. It’s just been a roller coaster.”