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Jose Bautista, Jays big winners in inaugural CityNews Awards

Last Updated Dec 31, 2015 at 6:01 pm EST

What a wild year.

The Liberals swept the 416 on their way to a majority government, CityNews reporter Shauna Hunt put the brakes on the crude FHRITP trend, Uber and cabbies went at it like Frazier and Ali in the Thrilla in Manila, and the Pan Am Games slowly won over a city.

We were consumed by the triumphs, tragedies, and trivialities of life in Toronto.

But it was the Toronto Blue Jays that captured the city’s collective imagination after ending an epic 22-year playoff drought.

They were also the big winners in the inaugural CityNews awards.

Jose Bautista’s bat-flip was a defining moment. The Jays slugger even admitted to CityNews in a Skype interview that he agreed with our viewers, who voted it the Moment of the Year, and Bautista the Badass of the Year.

“I got to admit myself, and I hate to toot my horn, but that moment was pretty badass,” he said with a smile. “I have to agree with them.”

“Hopefully I can do more things like I did this year, next year, and maybe we can get a championship back in Toronto, which is the ultimate goal.”

Bautista called the Jays season bitter-sweet. “It was a great run, it was a great season overall…It was just unfortunate that we came so close and didn’t win.”

He also sent CityNews viewers a personal message.

“I just wanted to thank everybody for all the awards received,” he said. “I get to enjoy every single one of them. I appreciate the fact that you followed me and the team and our success recently, and hopefully you continue to do so in the foreseeable future.

“Thank you for all the support and let’s all have some great holiday wishes for a great 2016 season.”

Badass of the Year: Jose Bautista

He flipped his bat after a monstrous homer, and simultaneously flipped a symbolic middle finger to anyone anywhere who thought Toronto lacked the swagger and gumption to strive for glory. The Jays may have ultimately fallen short, but Joey Bats gave us all hope and transcended sport to become a hometown hero. He also helped further bury the memories of whiny representatives like Vince Carter and Phil Kessel. Badass, indeed.

Runner Up: Doug Ford

Other nominees: Neil Young, Adam Vaughan, Giorgio Mammoliti

Blunder of the Year: Stephen Harper campaigns with Ford brothers

In a move that many felt reeked of desperation, Stephen Harper seemed to lean on support from the Ford brothers, Rob and Doug, as Liberal leader Justin Trudeau gained momentum leading up to election night. At a Conservative rally in Etobicoke, Doug Ford took to the podium ahead of Harper’s speech. “Make no mistake, God help this country. It would be an absolute disaster if Justin Trudeau and Kathleen Wynne were running this country,” Doug said, while Rob looked on. Harper later posed for a photo with the brothers. The Liberals went on to capture all 25 Toronto-area ridings en route to a majority government.

Runner Up: Bombardier can’t deliver streetcars

Other nominees: Justin Trudeau endorses Eve Adams, Maple Leafs replace Carlyle with Peter Horachek

Fight of the Year: UberX vs. Toronto taxis

This simmering battle reached its boiling point when Toronto’s beleaguered taxi industry staged an all-day protest against surging upstart UberX and its drivers in early December. Cabbies blocked traffic, including emergency vehicles, and taunted Mayor John Tory at City Hall. One agitated cabbie even clung to a moving UberX vehicle. Protesters finally dispersed after securing a sit-down with police chief Mark Saunders. Saunders emerged from the meeting, saying police were handcuffed when it comes to enforcing existing bylaws, because the language is vague and convictions are difficult to secure.

Runner Up: Ontario sex ed program vs. parents

Other nominees: Ford brothers vs. John Tory, province vs. teachers’ unions, hooligans vs. police at Nuit Blanche, Adam Vaughan vs. Olivia Chow

Tipster of the Year: Muslim boys soccer team refuses to play team with two girls

Viewer tips are the gasoline that fuels the CityNews engine. And in 2015, we received more than a few doozies. But one story struck a chord with our viewers. A boys’ soccer team from a private Islamic high school refused to finish a game during a tournament in Brampton because two females were on the opposing team. The story sparked furious discussion on social media and reinforced CityNews’ commitment to viewer-generated content. So keep those tips coming.

Runner Up: Traffic chaos at Queens Quay

Other nominees: Broken water pipe floods TCH resident’s apartment, coat check chaos leaves concert-goers coatless

Questionable fashion choice of the Year: The man-bun

American League MVPs who hit 40-plus home-runs a year named Josh Donaldson can rock man-buns.

Everyone else, move along please.

Runner Up: Rob Ford’s red sweatsuit

Other nominees: Pachi the Pan Am Games mascot, Raptors’ Drake-themed jerseys, guy walks through downtown TO in Kessel Pens jersey

Making a difference: Community comes together for Evan Leversage

A community came together to give a dying boy an early Christmas in what was surely the most moving and heart-wrenching story in recent memory. Evan Leversage wanted nothing more than to see another Christmas. But doctors said Evan, who had an inoperable brain tumour, wouldn’t live that long. So, St. George, Ont., staged Christmas in October with a sprawling parade that spread an ear-to-ear smile on the seven-year-old’s face. Evan died in early December but his spirit lives on and his story came to epitomize unity in the midst of a tragic situation.

Runner Up: Synagogue opens doors to Muslims after mosque burns down

Other nominees: Vigilante confronts pedophiles, kid returns ripped library book with an apology letter, pilot re-routes plane to save dog who was in cargo area, DooDoo the Clown saves women following assault

Questionable decision of the Year: FHRITP

It’s crude. It’s immature. And now, thanks to CityNews reporter Shauna Hunt, the consequences are clear. Hunt boldly confronted a group of young men who were planning to execute the boorish prank at her expense while she reported from a Toronto FC game. She called them out, put them on the spot and before long they were outed on social media. One of the men involved lost his lucrative job with Hydro One. He was later rehired, but the message was sent — shout FHRITP and you could end up screwing yourself.

Runner Up: Taxi drivers block downtown arteries in protest

Other nominees: Tory candidate Jerry Bance caught peeing in a coffee cup, Toronto doesn’t bid for 2024 Olympics, Liberals quash jets at Island Airport

Villain of the Year: Baseball commentator Harold Reynolds

Oh, Harold Reynolds. Your generalization that Canadians don’t grow up playing baseball accomplished something amazing on Twitter during the MLB playoffs. It proved another Canadian generalization wrong: we’re not always that polite.

Runner Up: UberX

Other nominees: Phil Kessel, Liz Sandals

Symbol of the Year: Toronto sign at Nathan Phillips Square

The colourful 3D sign was installed at Nathan Phillips Square for the Pan Am Games. The games came and went, but the sign stuck around, quickly becoming a beloved Toronto landmark and a selfie hot-spot that injected the Big Smoke with some colour and character. The sign will apparently be moved to different locations throughout the city, but there’s no word yet on where it will land next.

Runner Up: Jose Bautista’s bat flip

Other nominees: @Norm, Raptors’ new logo

Moment of the Year: Jose Bautista’s bat flip

*See Badass of the year

Runner Up: Liberals sweep Toronto

Other nominees: Maple Leafs hire Mike Babcock, Kanye West performs at Pan Am closing ceremonies

Celebrity of the Year: Drake

He rolls through The 6 with Dad. He used to call you on his cellphone. He started from the bottom. But Drake is undeniably perched at the top in the eyes of his legions of fans. The rapper and Raptors ambassador helped put Toronto on the map when it comes to popular culture clout. Who else could make lint rollers seem cool?

Runner Up: The Weeknd

Other nominees: #deadraccoon, High Park peacock, deadmau5

Disappointment of the Year: Bombardier fails to deliver streetcars

Toronto was slated to have 67 shiny new streetcars by now, but there are only ten currently on Toronto roads. So what happened? Bombardier bombed. Dropped the ball. Bailed. However you want to put it, the company failed to deliver, prompting the TTC board to take legal action. TTC Chair Josh Colle confirmed they will be suing Bombardier for at least $50 million to recoup lost costs. “They have consistently let Toronto and the TTC and its customers down,” added TTC CEO Andy Byford. “So we’re looking at every possible option to hold them to account.”

Runner Up: HOV lanes during Pan Am Games

Other nominees: Toronto Maple Leafs, Target shutting down Canadian operations, UP Express running at 28 per cent capacity

Animal of the Year: Toronto Zoo’s baby pandas

Ron Burgundy wasn’t the only one on Panda Watch. Every news station in Toronto followed suit in 2015 when two giant panda cubs were born at the Toronto Zoo in October. The zoo says the cubs, which are the first ever born in Canada, are doing well, but they’re not allowing media or the public to see them yet. The cubs have bonded with their mother Er Shun, who is on loan from China. They’ll stay at Toronto Zoo until 2018, before heading to The Calgary Zoo.

Runner Up: #deadraccoon

Other nominees: High Park peacock, white squirrel at Trinity Bellwoods Park, Turbo the Goat

Achievement of the Year: Toronto hires first black police chief

At his swearing-in ceremony, Mark Saunders explained that he lived by the motto, “I will, I can and I shall.” And he did all of the above, becoming Toronto’s first-ever black police chief. Born in England to Jamaican parents, Saunders came to Canada as a child and paid his dues on the front lines as an adult, spending 32 years as a police officer in Toronto before replacing outgoing chief Bill Blair. Saunders entered the fray in the midst of the contentious carding debate, and soon found himself embroiled in the UberX vs. cabbies battle. Blair advised that he would need to have “thick skin” as chief. Solid advice.

Runner Up: Liberals sweep the 416 in federal election

Other nominees: TTC finally accepts credit/debit cards, UP Express launches

Sports achievement of the year: Blue Jays make playoffs for first time in 22 years

Alex Anthopoulos pulled the strings off the field. The slew of stars he brought to Toronto did the rest, ultimately ending an excruciating 22-year playoff drought that saw the Jays claim the East Division title and fall just two wins shy of reaching the World Series. The impressive run galvanized a city and was marked by dramatic moments — none more dramatic than Jose Bautista’s defiant bat-flip after the homerun that put a bold exclamation mark on the team’s series-deciding Game 5 win over the Texas Rangers. The Jays would fall to Kansas City next, but disappointment couldn’t drown out the excitement the team brought to Toronto in 2015.

Other nominees: Canada wins 217 medals at Pan Am Games, Josh Donaldson wins AL MVP, TFC makes the playoffs for the first time ever

Person of the Year: Jose Bautista

Enough said

Runner Up: John Tory

Other nominees: Norm Kelly, Drake

Story of the Year: Toronto hosts the Pan Am Games

The Pan Am Games started with a whimper, and plenty of whining about traffic woes and HOV lanes, but they ended with a bang in the form of a dramatic fireworks display. In between, they slowly won over a city. Early concerns about ticket sales proved to be unfounded. The city rallied around the athletes. Kanye West was even recruited to give the closing ceremonies some international star power. Not that it was needed. Long before the bratty rapper tossed his mic into the air, the games were declared a winner that put Toronto on the world podium.

Runner Up: Liberals sweep the 416

Other nominees: Toronto hosts the Pan Am Games, trial of James Forcillo in death of Sammy Yatim, taxi drivers protest Uber, sex ed protests in Thorncliffe Park