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The Blue Jays’ 50/50 lottery is making a huge impact for a cause: ‘Is this for real?’

TORONTO — Thomas can’t remember what he said or heard during a meeting last month.

That’s because only minutes before, he was informed by Sportsnet anchor Evanka Osmak that he had won half a million dollars.

A few days earlier Thomas, who asked to use a pseudonym to preserve his privacy, bought a ticket to the Jays Care 50/50 raffle on a whim after a marketing email landed in his inbox. And then he forgot all about it.

“When you play these things,” he said, “you don’t really anticipate you’re going to win.”

When his phone rang while at work at his IT job on May 13, he nearly rejected the call from a private number. “I’m glad I didn’t,” Thomas said. Instead, he picked up to hear Osmak, the host of Sportsnet Central, inform him that he was the winner of the 50/50 grand prize. She asked if he knew how much he had just won. Thomas responded that he thought $50,000 would be great. “Then she said, ‘Yeah, $50,000 would be great. But it’s actually (CAD) $538,908.’”

Thomas didn’t have long to process his shock. He had to head into a meeting right afterwards.

“I don’t know what I said. I was clearly talking and answering questions, but my mind was completely elsewhere, just thinking, ‘Is this real? Did that just actually happen?’” said Thomas, who had only entered the 50/50 a handful of times prior.

Over the years, the Toronto Blue Jays’ 50/50 raffle has become known for its eye-popping jackpots and life-changing winnings. The jackpots have caught the eyes of many in baseball, including former Cleveland Guardians manager Terry Francona, who saw the $82,000 total during the 2016 ALCS and told catcher Mike Napoli, “We gotta get in on that.”

The 50/50 raffle, run by Jays Care Foundation, the charitable arm of the Blue Jays, awards half of the ticket sales to a winner, while the other half goes to charity. It has crowned nine millionaires so far. Already the biggest raffle of its kind in Major League Baseball, it strives to set new records every year.

One of those nine millionaires is a man named Andrew. He had just gotten home from the cardiologist when his phone rang. Thankfully, his heart was in good condition when a representative from Jays Care called.

When Andrew answered, he was asked if he received a call earlier that day and was told to check his voicemail. When he did, there was a message from Blue Jays broadcaster Buck Martinez. In his unmistakable raspy voice, Martinez informed Andrew that he was the lucky winner of $2.6 million.

“It was quite an amazing moment,” said Andrew, who asked to be identified only by his first name to protect his privacy.

The win came at an especially opportune moment for Andrew, who said he had been dealing with personal challenges.

“It’s been a very sombre last few years, and it was nice to get some extremely good news,” Andrew said. “And this money would help me do a lot of positive things.”

Andrew, above, initially missed the call informing him that he was a 50/50 winner. (Courtesy of Jays Care)


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