Few baseball players have made the jump to the Major Leagues with as much fanfare and anticipation as Langley, BC native Brett Lawrie. After tearing up the minors, the 22-year-old wasted little time making his presence felt with the Blue Jays, turning double plays and driving home RBIs on a regular basis in his rookie year. Now in his first full season in Toronto, the homegrown third baseman is working on helping the Jays bring a World Series title to Canadian soil for the first time in two decades. We caught up with the versatile slugger to see how much inspiration he’s drawn from our national sport over the years.
The NHL brought the Jets back to Winnipeg after a 16-year absence. Isn’t it about time Major League Baseball gave Canada another franchise?
BRETT LAWRIE: I definitely think it can happen. Baseball is growing in Canada, and I say this all the time, but baseball is growing because of the sport of hockey. Look at British Columbia, where I’m from; if you look at how good the Canucks have gotten, I think baseball is that much better in the province because of them. Vancouver is a better sports city because of the Canucks’ success.
How special is it to be Canadian playing for the only Canadian team in MLB?
BL: It’s very special. I’ve always wanted the opportunity to play Major League Baseball. I was thrilled to get the opportunity to join the Blue Jays and I haven’t come down since. I’m very thankful that I get to wear the maple leaf everyday and that I can represent my country and the city of Toronto.
|Lawrie letting his true colors shine through. |
You’re from Langley, so we have to assume you’re a Canucks fan, right?
BL: I’m not a die-hard Canucks fan; they were never that good when I was younger! (laughs) But as I got older and as they got better, Vancouver became more of a hockey city and I kind of got a little more involved.
You might have only been a bandwagon fan, then, but how devastated were you when the Canucks lost in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011?
BL: I saw every game of the Finals because I was injured, even though I was in Florida. I really was devastated by their loss.
You were drafted as a catcher, switched to second base in Milwaukee and have since converted to a third baseman. Who really has it the hardest in the infield?
BL: Tough to say. Every position has its strengths. You’ve got to learn every position and you can’t just do it overnight. It takes a lot of repetition. I’m at the “hot corner” now. They don’t call it that for nothing.
|Lawrie's All-Time favorite Jay, Joe Carter. |
Who’s your favorite Blue Jay of all time?
BL: Joe Carter, because of what he did and the excitement that he brought to the city and the way he played the game. It was special, even if I was only three years old when that happened!
Did you look up to former Expos great and fellow B.C. native Larry Walker as a kid?
BL: Not really, since I was born a little bit after his time and he was almost on his way out. I was a little too young during his prime and I wasn’t paying as much attention to baseball on TV as I did when I got a little bit older. I would say more along the lines of Justin Morneau, Russell Martin, and Joey Votto. Those are the guys I idolized growing up.
Is it discouraging for you guys to play in the same division as big-spending teams like the Yankees and Red Sox, or do you look at it as a welcome challenge?
BL: For me, growing up watching Derek Jeter and all those guys I idolized... suddenly I’m at second base and I feel his presence right behind me, it’s pretty cool. I’ve always wanted the opportunity to compete with the best on a daily basis because that’s what every competitor and every athlete should want. I know that’s what all these guys want, too.
|Lawrie follows in the footsteps of fellow Canadian slugger, Larry Walker. |
You’re only in your first full season in the big leagues, but you’re already one of the most followed baseball players on Twitter. What’s the secret to your online popularity?
BL: (laughs) I don’t know! I think it starts with the fact that I’m Canadian and that I’m playing for the Toronto Blue Jays. A bunch of us are on Twitter and we’re trying to convince some other guys to join, too.
Have people in Toronto been trying to convert you to becoming a Leafs fan since you started playing for the Jays?
BL: (laughs) Not “convert” really, but I’ve been hanging out with guys like Tyler Bozak and Cody Franson of the Leafs. I’ve developed a good relationship with those guys and we’ve had lots of fun together.
Follow Brett’s every move on Twitter or head to bluejays.com to keep tabs on the Jays all season long.
This article, written by Hugo Fontaine, was published in CANADIENS magazine Vol. 26 No. 6.