Doug Ault 1980
Photo by Jeff Morey, Syracuse
TORONTO – If only life were as easy for Doug Ault as that day nearly 28 years ago when he became the very first Toronto Blue Jays hitting star. Shivering fans who were at Exhibition Stadium on 7 April 1977, will remember Ault as the rookie first baseman who clubbed two home runs to help the Jays defeat the Chicago White Sox 9-5 in their inaugural game.

The less palatable memory will be the one created last week, when the 54-year-old car salesman was found dead in his Tarpon Springs, Florida, home in what police are calling a suicide. "There's no foul play apparent here," said a police official in Tarpon Springs, Florida.

It's an active investigation. It's ongoing, but preliminary reports indicate that this was an apparent suicide. Those who knew Ault say he'd struggled to find a niche for himself in the years after his lengthy coaching career in the Jays' minor-league ranks ended in 1994. Friends from his days in Toronto knew little of Ault after he left other than to acknowledge "things weren't going great" for him.

Ault had divorced his first wife, Julie, the mother of his son, Joshua, and daughter, Cydney, in 1990. It was around that time that Ault's lengthy minor-league coaching career with Toronto was winding down. It would end for good in 1994 after a three-year managing stint with an Australian Baseball League team the Jays had been affiliated with. He got into the car selling business in the mid-1990s in his native Texas before eventually making his way to Florida.

"Ault was hired as a late-model car salesman in 2003 by PJ's Auto World in Clearwater, near the Jays' spring training site, but the job didn't last long. He was with us about a year", said Terry Bennett, manager of the dealership, adding that Ault's employment ended last March "by mutual agreement".

Bennett wouldn't elaborate about why Ault left and didn't know what had happened to him since. Around the time Ault -- a regular at Blue Jays alumni events – and the car company parted ways, he had been seen at Toronto's spring training site in Dunedin, Florida, accompanied by his second wife, Lynn Marie.

The pair had married in 2000 when she was a practising obstetrician-gynecologist working under her maiden name of Davidson. Friends say they had separated for a time and had only recently reconciled when seen at the spring training complex sporting Jays caps and T-shirts. Ault and his wife had gone through their share of hardship together. She had her medical licence suspended in April 2001, and revoked permanently in June 2002 for violating Florida statutes dealing with "being unable to practise medicine with reasonable skill and safety to patients".

The exact nature of the complaint wasn't specified in court documents, but Ault's wife did file for personal bankruptcy protection a month after losing her licence. Court records show that last January 7, the couple sold their home on Waterside Court in Tarpon Springs for $286,500 US. Ault's wife had bought the home in 1995, before they were married, and placed it in both their names in 2002. It wasn't clear where the two were living after the sale.

A few months after the house was sold and Ault left his job at the car dealership, his first wife Julie passed away. The dark end to Ault's days stands in stark contrast to the shining way his career began. Friends recalled a bright and usually smiling first baseman whose otherwise uneventful major league career was defined by the first two at-bats he took for the Jays franchise.

"He had a great life for a short while," said Jays radio announcer Tom Cheek. "He was a great guy, someone who could make you laugh almost all the time. He was great in the clubhouse ... he was an older guy on a new team, and he fit in pretty good there." Ault batted third in that original opening day lineup and he never thought the game was going to get off the ground. Some 44,000-plus fans filled Exhibition Stadium, and to them, a little April snow shower and some near-freezing temperatures were normal occurrences.

"I was in the clubhouse and we looked out and said, 'No way, we aren't playing this one,' " Ault recalled back in 1985. "I was thinking it was so cold, there was no way we were going to play. And then there were 44,000 people in the stands, and I thought there was no way we wouldn't play." Ault had some fun in the snow that day, and went on to say he might have hit 50 homers that year if it had snowed every game. As it was, he clobbered two in his first two at-bats, and added an RBI double.

Ault hit only 15 more major league home runs and his major league playing days were over by 1980. He wound up playing in Japan in 1981, then moved to a pro league in Mexico before taking up managing in the Jays' minor-league ranks. In his first year managing the Triple-A Syracuse SkyChiefs in 1985, Ault was named manager of the year in the International League for guiding the team to its first pennant. That would be a career highlight for Ault, who lasted three seasons in Syracuse and never made it back to Triple-A again. The funeral will be held in Beaumont, Texas.


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