A year after a most unusual lead-up to the Toronto Blue Jays' annual Pride weekend, the executive director of Pride Toronto says the organization's connection with the team is as solid as ever.   

"The relationship that we have with the Jays and Jays Care (Foundation), it's even stronger this year," said Kojo Modeste. "They've supported our community connect program.

"I think that the work that they do -- not just during the Pride Month -- but the work that they do throughout the year, in terms of really ensuring that the 2SLGBTQ+ community is represented, that the training happens, I think this for me is what's really important."

The team's fifth annual Pride Night is set for Friday against the Cleveland Guardians. The event features a rainbow rope corduroy hat giveaway, pre-game festivities, live performances and themed activities throughout Rogers Centre. 

A year ago, the buildup ahead of the game included a nearly two-week saga involving former Blue Jays reliever Anthony Bass, who shared a social media post that supported anti-LGBTQ boycotts. 

Bass initially made a brief apology but later said he initially didn't think the video post — which described the selling of Pride-themed merchandise as "evil" and "demonic" — was hateful. 

"That's why I posted it originally," he said at the time. "When I look back at it, I can see how people can view it that way and that's why I was apologetic."

Bass, who was slated to catch the ceremonial first pitch at the 2023 Pride Night, was demoted earlier that day. The 36-year-old remains an unsigned free agent.

Speaking during a recent pre-game media availability, Blue Jays manager John Schneider said "productive conversations" came out of the Bass situation.

"Guys learned from it," Schneider said. "You don't want to let one opinion really dictate how we feel as an organization obviously. I think you learn from past mistakes and learn how to handle future events a little bit better."

Bass, a native of Dearborn, Mich., played parts of 12 seasons in the big leagues. 

"Every disappointment could be used as an opportunity to learn," Modeste said. "I think if nothing else, I think all the players from the ballpark would have learned that your personal beliefs, it's one thing. 

"But when you play such an important role -- a role model to many people that would potentially never meet you in person -- you have to understand the impact of your statements."

On Friday night, the national anthems will be performed by Forte - Toronto Gay Men's Chorus. Rod Michano, a Canadian First Nations HIV/AIDS activist, educator, and supporter of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, will throw the ceremonial first pitch.

Jays Care Foundation and TD will donate more than $45,000 to organizations that support 2SLGBTQ+ communities, the team said. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 13, 2024.