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Blue Jays’ Pillar takes away homer with one of the greatest catches in franchise history

Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Kevin Pillar makes a catch on the other side of the wall hit from Tampa Bay Rays Tim Beckham during seventh inning AL baseball action in Toronto on Wednesday, April 15, 2015.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

There is kind of this loose rule at Rogers Centre where the baseball players are not supposed to be messing around with the padded coverings that protect the front of the outfield fences.

Kevin Pillar ignored that edict Wednesday night and, in doing so, made what will be hailed as one of the greatest catches ever seen in franchise history.

Pillar, who is basically viewed as a place holder until Michael Saunders has recovered enough from knee surgery to return to the lineup and play left field, literally robbed Tim Beckham of a home run in the seventh inning.

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The Tampa Bay Rays hitter lifted a high, fly ball to left field that sent Pillar drifting back where, at the last possible moment, he leapt up and flung his glove over the top of the wall.

The ball nestled neatly into the pocket and Pillar returned to earth after making an unearthly grab, sending the small audience of 15,086 into a frenzy of cheers.

"That's right up there," Toronto manager John Gibbons said when asked if that was one of the greatest catches he had ever witnessed. "Kev can do that. You know, he really has such good feel for the play in the outfield, great instincts – his routes, his jumps. He can run but he's not a blazer. You watch him climb the wall, that's got to take perfect timing."

In a game where the offence was popping for the Blue Jays in a 12-7 win and included three home runs by Jose Bautista, Devon Travis and Dalton Pompey, it is likely Pillar's catch will be remembered most.

"The way he's played this first week and a half or two weeks, just give him the Gold Glove right now," said Mark Buehrle, the Toronto starting pitcher who got the win. "He's made some great catches out there defensively, thrown guys out on the bases. And then obviously what he's doing offensively, he's hitting the ball pretty well, too."

Pillar also contributed two hits in the 13-hit Toronto barrage, including a double, raising his regular season average to .314 in the process.

Pillar knew it was special as soon as the ball landed safely in his glove. He told reporters afterwards that he'd already watched it a couple of times on his smart phone in the clubhouse.

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"I take a lot of pride in my defence and being able to take back a home run it feels just as good as hitting a home run to me," he said.

Pillar was asked if there was any way players could practice making such catches. He said it's not likely, at least at Rogers Centre.

"We're kind of told not to climb on the wall, the padding's there," he said. "You don't want to put holes in it unnecessarily.

"I think they'll gladly replace it now."

Pillar said he kind of thought when Beckham made contact he might have a chance.

"It wasn't a ball that was hit on a line that you knew it was no doubter unlike some of the other home runs that were hit today," he said. "But it had some pretty good height and I was at least going to go back to the wall to see if I had a chance to make a play."

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And that he did.

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