Langley's Lawrie living the dream
Brett Lawrie stood just outside the visitor’s dugout alongside the third-base line.
It was a little less than two hours before game time at Seattle’s Safeco Field on Aug. 1.
Lawrie had finished taking his cuts during batting practice, launching several bombs over the fence, including one that reached the upper deck and elicited oohs and aahs from the Toronto Blue Jays fans who swarmed the section behind the dugout.
Family, friends and fans all clamored for Lawrie’s attention.
Taking in the scene, he admitted it was all a little surreal.
“This is a lot of fun for me; this is my first taste of it,” Lawrie said.
Aug. 5 marks the one-year anniversary of Lawrie’s Major League Baseball debut.
Last summer, Toronto called up the talented young ball player from Triple AAA Las Vegas after he demonstrated that he was ready for his MLB debut.
Just 22-years-old, he is one of the youngest members of the Blue Jays. But he is showing that he belongs.
In his abbreviated 2011 season — which was cut short by injury — Lawrie hit .293 with nine home runs and 25 RBIs in 43 games.
This season, through 99 games, Lawrie is hitting .283 with nine home runs and 40 RBIs.
He leads the team with 112 hits and 32 multi-hit games and is tied for the lead with 20 doubles.
His offensive numbers rank him among the top for his position in the American League.
Like he has all his life, Lawrie was not tentative when he earned his call-up last August.
In Lawrie’s first big league at-bat, he drilled an RBI single against the Baltimore Orioles.
In his third game, he belted his first career home run.
And in his fifth game — and just his second appearance in front of the home crowd at Toronto’s Rogers Centre — Lawrie hit a grand slam.
Last August, Lawrie also made the trip to Seattle to face the Mariners, but at that point had less than 10 games experience as a big league ball player.
“It is different because last year was my first real kick at things,” he said on the field at Safeco, prior to the Blue Jays’ 5-3 defeat.
Lawrie went hitless in the first and last games of the series, but was 2-for-4 with a double and a pair of RBIs in the middle game of the set.
Having what amounts to nearly a full season — he entered the weekend series in Oakland with 142 career games under his belt — has allowed Lawrie to figure things out.
“You get a flow of things and now I can just go out and play, which is what it is all about,” he said.
“Now it is about getting out there and helping my teammates out as best as I can.”
As long as Lawrie can remember, being a professional baseball player has been his dream.
And he showed the talent, right from a young age, winning MVP awards as a member of the Canadian junior national baseball team, and representing Canada at the Beijing Olympic Games.
Lawrie was just weeks removed from graduating high school at Brookswood Secondary and having played for the Langley Blaze Premier Baseball League program, and now he was representing Canada alongside players 10 years his senior.The average age on the team was 26 with his eldest teammate being 41.
Earlier that summer, Lawrie made history, becoming the highest Canadian positional player (non-pitcher) selected when the Milwaukee Brewers selected him 16th overall pick in the first round.
After three years in the Brewers organization, he was traded to Toronto in December 2010.
And after 73 games with the Jays’ minor league affiliate — where he hit .347 with 18 home runs and 62 RBIs — he received his shot at the big league level.
“I have always been relatively confident in myself that I was going to get here,” Lawrie said.
“Getting here is one thing, but making sure I stay is another. The work doesn’t stop when you get here, you always have to work.”
The key is to prepare for the long grind of a grueling season.
“It is not a sprint, it is a marathon, so you have to pace yourself a little bit.”
A typical day begins by catching a bus to the ball park at 2 p.m. and preparing for the night’s game. There is massages and the hot tub to help deal with any nicks or aches and pains. At 5 p.m. the players hit the field for stretching and batting practice.
“It is all about getting ready for seven o’clock and that first pitch,” he said.
The life can be tough — he only returns to Langley once an off-season — but said the fact he left home at age 18 has helped him.
“Doing it at an early age has helped me,” he said.
“I realized this is my career path, what I chose to do.
“It comes along with the package.”
It is also a special feeling, playing for the only Canadian team in MLB.
“It is a privilege. I got to play for Team Canada growing up and now I get a chance to do it everyday,” Lawrie said.
“I get to hear my national anthem every day, which not a lot of guys get to do.”