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Why John Axford hopes to return to Blue Jays as player, mentor

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With a few minutes remaining before last summer’s July 31 trade deadline, John Axford checked his phone. No texts, no calls. Perfect.

"I’m fine," he thought. "I’m in the clear."

His mind at ease, Axford returned to the brunch he was eating with a friend in Berkeley, Calif., just north of the Oakland Coliseum, where the Blue Jays were about to play the second game of a three-game series against the Athletics.

The relief didn’t last long. Moments later, Axford’s phone started buzzing with the news: he had been traded by the Blue Jays to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

On paper, it was a pretty considerable upgrade. He was leaving a team on its way to an 89-loss season for a team headed to the World Series. Soon enough, Axford would feel excited about the chance to contribute on a team with designs on winning it all.

At first, though, his thoughts turned back to Toronto. Even if the season wasn’t going according to plan for the Blue Jays, the Port Dover, Ont., native enjoyed playing for his hometown team, where his sons could easily attend games. Leaving Toronto wouldn’t be easy.

"My mind........

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