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Blue Jays Take Back Gaston

Cito Gaston left the Toronto Blue Jays as a bitter man after being fired in 1997.

Two years later, he's back with club, this time as Toronto's hitting coach, a role he filled for seven years before being hired as manager in 1989.

"It's a surprise, but ever since I was terminated, (Blue Jays general manager) Gord Ash has kept in touch and asked me to come back in a different capacity," Gaston said.

Gaston had coaching offers, none managerial, from other teams, but decided to return to Toronto, where he still has a home.

"I love the city of Toronto and it gives me a chance to be home," he said.

Tuesday's hiring was surprising because Gaston left on a sour note in 1997. The Blue Jays were in the midst of their fourth consecutive losing season. He labeled certain media members as racist and said he never got the credit he deserved from the media or the fans. Some fans even threw rocks at his car.

"As a coach you don't get all that heat," Gaston said.

Gaston, 55, has kept a low profile since his firing, spending most of his winters in the Bahamas and Florida.

"I also spent my summers in Toronto, playing golf, and went a couple of times to Europe just taking it easy," Gaston said.

"I had some offers over the last couple of years.

  • But I just decided the last couple of years that I needed to get away from the game a little bit. I guess I can only play so much golf."
  • Gaston replaces Gary Matthews, who was fired along with four other coaches in the last week of this season.

    Matthews helped Toronto to the highest-scoring season in franchise history, highlighted by Carlos Delgado's 44 home runs and 134 RBIs and Shawn Green's 42 homers and 123 RBIs.

    Green can be excused for not feeling overjoyed at Gaston's return. The right fielder was upset that Matthews was fired. Moreover, Green had trouble cracking the starting lineup under Gaston and didn't blossom into a star until Gaston was fired. Gaston said he will apologize to Green.

    "I think I'll sit down and talk with Shawn like I've always done with people that didn't seem to get along with me," Gaston said. "There is an apology there. I can say I'm wrong. You turned out to be a great player."

    Green, who is a free agent after the 2000 season, is currently mulling over a long-term offer from the Blue Jays. Ash called Green and Green's agent, Jeff Moorad, prior to the hiring.

    "I'm confident that Gord Ash would not have hired Cito without reminding him that he owed Shawn Green an explanation and an apology for what occurred several yers ago," Moorad said. "I don't think Cito's hiring will be a factor in Green's decision."

    Gaston, who managed the Blue Jays to World Series championships in 1992 and 1993 and was the team's longest-serving manager from 1989 to 1997, doesn't see a problem working under current Blue Jays manager Jim Fregosi, who lost to Gaston when he managed the Phillies in 1993 World Series.

    "He's the manager and I'm going to go do my job. I'm very proud of the job I do with kids and to improve people," Gaston said. "I think he'll give me free range and let me go do those things."

    ©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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