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Lionel Messi and José Bautista. / MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

Toronto Blue Jays slugger and avowed FC Barcelona fan José Bautista fulfilled one of his dreams on Thursday when he met the Barça players after their training session at the Ciutat Esportiva in Sant Joan Despí, a suburb of Barcelona.

The Dominican-born right fielder, one of Major League Baseball’s biggest stars, finished eighth in the voting for the American League MVP this season.

Before the Blue Jays embarked on an inspiring post-season run that ended in the American League Championship Series, Bautista had spoken to fcbarcelona.com and had expressed his desire to attend a game at Camp Nou and meet the Barça players.

One of those boxes has now been checked. With the FC Barcelona players deeply immersed in their preparations for Saturday’s El Clásico against Real Madrid, Bautista got to hang out with the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar, Luis Suárez, Andrés Iniesta and other players, to whom he brought several gifts, including hats, gloves and jerseys.

Bautista gave a special greeting to Messi. Back in August, Bautista made news when he took a break from pre-game batting practice to trade the shirt off his back and a pair of baseballs for a fan’s Messi jersey, announcing to the world that the Barça number 10 was his favorite player.

Beyond getting up close with the Catalan club, Bautista’s trip will also take him into the Penedès — a wine-making region to the south of Barcelona where he’ll be able to explore another one of his passions.

Bautista will be on hand when Real Madrid and FC Barcelona face off at the Santiago Bernabéu on Saturday as well as for the Champions League match between Barça and AS Roma on Tuesday.


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