By Bob Elliott
This game with the Mesa Solar Sox was his 171st of the season (a year ago he played 115).
The Arizona Fall League season ends Thursday.
And then he will rest.
For two weeks.
Next year’s Blue Jays opening day centre fielder needs it.
“I had heard (manager) John Gibbons said on radio (Prime Time Sports) if the season started tomorrow I’d be in centre,” said Pompey seated in the third base dugout of the Mesa Solar Sox. And he was told how his ears should have been burning 24 hours earlier as general manager Alex Anthhopoulos spoke glowingly of his talents at the GMs meetings 15 miles north.
We remember asking the late Bobby Prentice, Jays director of Canadian scouting in 1983 what his job was exactly. Prentice said it was to search Canada for players and all the better if he could find a local player to wear a Blue Jays uniform.
Toronto born Rob Ducey started 98 games from 1987-to-1992 (a high of 22 in 1989), East York’s Rob Butler started 28 games — 15 in 1994. Prentice signed both, with Walt Jefferies, Jim Ridley and Tim Wilken also in the loop. Ducey also started 11 games in 1987, then 15 the next year, 18 in 1990, 13 in 1991 and 19 in 1992. Butler also had 1w starts in 1993 and one in 1999.
He’s a home grown, home grown signed by Brampton’s Jamie Lehman with the potential to be an every day player. He could start 150 games next season.
The bright day turned to gloom as Pompey led off with a single to right and stole second on the first pitch with a head-first slide.
And there he laid.
Had the ball him in the face? Had he injured his knee? Or his ankle? Eventually he was removed from the game, walking off.
“It’s so wet (after the grounds crew water the infield) that when he slid he stuck and hit his head,” said Mesa manager Mike Mordecia later. “He’s
OK, just precautionary measures.”
And so now Pompey, who grew up playing at Rivergrove, Q Park, Greg Cranker Field and Clarkson in Mississauga; at at Neyagawa Park in Oakville, at Millcroft Park in Burlington will be in centre next year and the next and …
Let’s not move too fast — even if Jim Callis of MLB.com described him as the most dynamic player in the Fall League. He’s only played 17 games in the majors and scouts are taught not to fall in love with players in the spring or September.
But what a 17 games they were.
They came after 20 spring games, starting at class-A Dunedin (70), then double-A New Hampshire (31), the Futures Game and triple-A Buffalo (12) and before his 19 games with Mesa plus the AFL all-star game.
“I’m going to go into spring training as if I don’t have a job,” Pompey said. “Because if I think the other way, subconsciously I might go through the motions. That won’t happen.”
You think Brett Lawrie is big with the fans? Pompey and his magnetic smile could be bigger … more popular.
Like the night he hit the home run off Seattle Mariners Felix Hernandez.
“A bunch of guys from my school (John Fraser Secondary) were in the outfield, every time a ball was hit to me they’d yell ‘we know that guy’ or “John Fraser Jaguars pride.’”
Or the night against Baltimore when he doubled and hit two triples off Chris Tillman and fan would yell “hey remember the time I struck you out?”
“I really don’t, but I acknowledge that they took the time to come down and say hello,” said Pompey. “It’s a cool feeling … being the centre of attention.”
Pompey phoned Mississauga after an 0-for-3 day, with a walk and a strikeout on Monday. Not a good day at the office. He told his mom Valerie he had “missed some pitches,” he should have hit. Mom put things into perspective saying: “It’s Nov. 10.”
How many teammates did Pompey have over the years playing for Mississauga North Tigers and coach Dwayne Ervin, for Mississauga Majors and Chris Black, the Oakville Royals and coaches Mike Siena and Mike Swinton, Jason Booth and Derek Rothwell? How many teams did he play against in the Central Ontario Baseball Association or the Eastern Canada Premier League?
How many will be there to see him play for the Jays? Like the best he ever played with infielder Jose Torralba, who went to Canisius College, Jordan Boston and Ryan Clarke who went on to play with the Canadian Junior National Team as Pompey did.
Never once in the 171 games has there been a blip … well there was a minor one when he arrived in New Hampshire. He has hitting balls hard but had little to show for it.
“Stubby Clapp (hitting coach at Dunedin) was a big help with the mental aspects,” said Pompey. “He’s able to relate to me since we’re both Canadian. I had a few bunt hits and started to get some hits. But the first two weeks there were incredibly rough.”
So, next season fans may yell “hey remember when I struck you out?” at Pompey.
His goal as the Jays centre fielder is to not let the opposing pitcher say it.