x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Rookie Lawrie is turning heads in Toronto

The Toronto Blue Jays of Major League Baseball's American League finally have a Canadian player they say will make them fly high.

Rookie Brett Lawrie has slugged his way into the hearts of Toronto fans.
Rookie Brett Lawrie has slugged his way into the hearts of Toronto fans.

The Toronto Blue Jays have not been to the play-offs since they last won a World Series, in 1993.

In the age of improved competitive balance, the nearly two-decade span since the Jays' last title seems like much longer.

Trapped in the American League East with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, the game's superpowers, along with the recently over-achieving Tampa Bay Rays, the Jays regularly bump into a competitive glass ceiling. No matter how good they are, it always seems two, if not three, teams in their division are better.

That can be demoralising.

But if the Jays do not have realistic hope of another championship in the near future, they might have the next best thing: a superstar-in-waiting who just happens to be Canadian.

The Jays have had great players in their history, from Tony Fernandez to Dave Stieb to Roberto Alomar. And they have played against terrific opponents who are Canadians - Larry Walker, Justin Morneau to name two.

But they have not had a great player who also was Canadian.

Until Brett Lawrie, that is.

Lawrie made his debut in the first week of August, and came with lots of advance billing, as well as a Canadian passport.

For the Jays, he was a marketing dream come true. In his first 30 games with Toronto, the third baseman slugged eight home runs. That sort of pace over a full, 162-game schedule would result in a 40-plus homer season.

In the first month of his career, Lawrie has also shown a penchant for big moments. He had a run-scoring single in his first Toronto at-bat. There was a game-tying, ninth-inning double soon after. And, last week, a walk-off, 11th-inning homer to provide the only run in a win over Boston.

He may be a rookie, but Lawrie does not feel the pressure.

"He's very much under control," said John Farrell, the Toronto manager. "We're looking at a pretty rare individual here."

The Jays traded the hard-throwing Shawn Marcum to Milwaukee last December to get Lawrie. They liked his talent and his energy, and thought he was the kind of player around whom the franchise could build. So far, they seem right.

Fans have taken to him quickly. He gets the biggest response when pre-game line-ups are announced.

"He's 21 years old and you can dream of a 15-year career with the Blue Jays, growing into his prime," Paul Beeston, the team president, told The Toronto Star. "You can see this whole thing being a star for the future.

"That's what he's projected to be."

And did we mention that he is Canadian?