* The first thought Dalton Pompey had when he walked into the Blue Jays locker room this year was a conversation he had with Vernon Wells four years ago when he told the veteran Blue Jay he’d be playing centre at Rogers Centre one day.
By Melissa Couto
Dalton Pompey always knew he’d be playing for his hometown Toronto Blue Jays one day.
He just wasn’t sure when he’d get there, or who he’d be patrolling the big league outfield with when he finally made it.
Standing on the Rogers Centre turf last week — days after his major league debut — Pompey recalled a memory from 2010, when he met Vernon Wells while taking a tour of the Toronto clubhouse after being drafted by the organization.
That day, the then 17-year-old had a message for the former Blue Jays centrefielder.
“I told him he would have to move over to left because I was going to play centre one day soon,” the Mississauga, Ont., native said. “Obviously he’s not here anymore but the fact that I’m here and it’s actually come to light, it’s so cool.”
Pompey says that memory was the first thing he thought of as he walked into the Blue Jays locker-room four years later.
Placed on the 40-man roster and called up to the big leagues from triple-A Buffalo at the beginning of the month, Pompey made his debut for the Blue Jays as a pinch runner on Sept. 2 versus the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg and took his first at-bat — an RBI groundout — a week later at Rogers Centre.
On Wednesday, Pompey got his first dose of the outfield, staying in the game after pinch hitting for Anthony Gose in the seventh inning of the Blue Jays’ eventual 6-1 loss to Baltimore at Camden Yards.
No matter his role with the team, Pompey says he’s happy and grateful to be getting a shot in the big leagues.
“It’s just pretty special to see my name on the locker,” Pompey said. “So many odds were against me being a late round draft pick and now I’m here.
“It’s exciting for sure and I’m proud of myself.”
Drafted in the 16th round out of John Fraser Secondary School in Mississauga, Pompey started his pro career modestly, hitting .191 through 11 rookie-class Gulf Coast League games in 2010 and .239 through 60 games between the GCL Blue Jays and Bluefield Blue Jays the following year.
But things began to improve from there for the speedy switch-hitting outfielder. This season, Pompey dashed through three minor league levels before reaching the big leagues, batting .317 with a .392 on-base percentage and 43 stolen bases in 50 attempts through 113 games from high-A Dunedin to triple-A Buffalo.
He’s appeared in seven games with Toronto over the last two weeks, but is hitless in three at-bats with one strikeout and one RBI.
BLUE JAYS NOTES: C George Kottaras (Markham, Ont.) became the 20th Canadian to appear in a game for the Blue Jays when he came on as a defensive substitution in the seventh inning of Wednesday’s game. The 31-year-old played 13 games at triple-A Buffalo this season after signing with Toronto in early August. … RHP Marcus Stroman is appealing the six-game suspension imposed on him by Major League Baseball for throwing at the head of a Baltimore hitter on Monday.
CANADIANS IN THE MAJOR LEAGUES
Colorado Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau is a step closer to clinching a batting title in his first season in the National League after a 3 for 4 performance on Wednesday raised his average to .320 with 10 games to play.
Morneau, from New Westminster, B.C., hit a three-run homer and a two-RBI single in the Rockies’ eight-run first inning before doubling to lead off the fourth and hitting a sacrifice fly in the fifth as Colorado downed the L.A. Dodgers 16-2.
“It was one of those things,” Morneau told reporters, downplaying his six-RBI night after the lopsided victory. “You play this game a long time, you see some things you haven’t seen.
“Obviously, having guys on base was important to come up there with the opportunity.”
Morneau would become the first Canadian to win a batting title since Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker did it, also with the Rockies, in 2001.
The former Minnesota Twin heads into Thursday’s games with a two-point lead over Pirates right-fielder Josh Harrison (.318). Pittsburgh has 11 games left on its schedule.
Six games were played on Wednesday at the second annual Tournament 12 showcase:
Miles Gordon had two RBIs and pitchers Nick Virdo, Michael Brettel and R.J. Freure struck out a combined 12 batters through seven innings to lead Ontario Green (1-0) over Futures Navy (1-1).
Dallas Taylor, Eric Thrower and Tyler Whitbread combined on a one-hitter through seven frames as Ontario Black (1-0) downed Alberta (1-1). Jacob Sims picked up two RBIs for the Ontario team.
Dakota Curry and Trevor Lofstrom had two RBIs apiece, and BC (1-0) broke a 2-2 tie with three runs in the seventh inning to get past the defending champion Atlantic team (0-2).
Ben Komonosky and Tyler Wood each drove in a run on two hits and starter Pat Kelley struck out four through three scoreless innings as the Prairies (1-1) toppled Quebec (0-1).
Luke Van Rycheghen hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh to score Cooper Davis from third as the Futures team handed the Atlantic its second straight loss.
Zack Kunkel gave Alberta its first win of the tournament in walk-off fashion, hitting a ground ball to centrefield to plate Kobe Hyland after trailing the Prairies 5-0.
— Follow Melissa Couto on Twitter @throwinsmoke