* Hall of Fame candidate Tim Raines, Blue Jays prospect Daniel Norris and new Jays 2B Devon Travis were at the 37th annual St. Thomas Sports Spectacular to support Special Olympics Ontario. Travis, shown above tagging Ryan Goins in a game at Lakeland, will compete with Maicer Izturis.
By Alexis Brudnicki
ST. THOMAS, Ont. – This off-season has brought about an array of emotions for Devon Travis.
Just days after being named the top prospect in the Detroit Tigers system by Baseball America in the late fall, the 23-year-old infielder received a call from the organization’s director of player development letting him know that he had been traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for outfielder Anthony Gose.
“I got called at 10:15 at night,” Travis said. “I just got home from dinner and it was our farm director. It was so weird, before I even picked up the call is aid to my parents, ‘Dave Owen is calling me; I think I’m about to get traded.’
“I picked up the phone, we talked for two minutes, he asked how I’m doing, I told him everything’s good, he said it was really cold in Texas, I said it was really warm here and [I thought], am I just having a conversation with my farm director? Sure enough, that’s when he told me.
“First he just said I had been traded, and another 30 seconds later I’m sitting there [wondering], are you going to tell me who I got traded to? He finally got to it and told I was traded to the Blue Jays, and that’s how I found out.”
The rest of that night – and even several days that followed – were a little bit hectic for Travis, who retold his tale at the 37th annual St. Thomas Sports Spectacular on Thursday, an event in support of Special Olympics Ontario that brought the Floridian into Canada for the first time.
“It was Alex [Anthopoulos] who actually called me [from the Blue Jays],” Travis said. “I hung up the phone with Dave Owen with the Tigers and literally five minutes later a Canadian number calls me.
“Now I’ve got a frog in my throat, I’m freaked out because I just got traded, I’m sweating and thinking what’s going on, and now I’ve got a new number calling me. I pick up and it’s Alex Anthopoulos. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you the conversation. I don’t know what I said, I don’t really know what he said; it was all just a complete blur.”
Even though the West Palm Beach native didn’t have much to deal with logistically, with the move happening in the middle of his off-season, the bittersweet moment meant an end, a new beginning, and a period of adjustment to the transition.
“I was pretty sad, if I were to be completely honest,” Travis said. “You get comfortable somewhere, just like anything else. About a week after, I didn’t even know what to do. All the questions go through your head – Is this good? Is this bad? Did I do something wrong? Why are they trading me?
“At the end of the week I finally sat and [realized] it’s a business. It’s easy to get caught up in the fact that baseball is a game, but at the end of the day it’s a business and I definitely am thankful for my opportunity here.”
In three years of professional baseball with Detroit since signing in the 13th round out of Florida State University in 2012, Travis has posted a slash line of .323/.388/.487 with 29 home runs, 13 triples, 50 doubles, 178 runs scored, 139 runs driven in and 41 stolen bases over 257 games. He spent all of last season with the Double-A Erie SeaWolves and hit .298/.358/.460 in 100 of those games.
With a much clearer path to the majors in Toronto than with the Tigers, the opportunity for the second baseman is incredibly significant for Travis, who will be attending big-league spring training for the first time in February.
“Being so close to the big leagues is honestly a little bit surreal for me,” Travis said. “For me, this is all a dream. I’ll continue to wake up every day and say I’m living my dream and not really working. It’s pretty special.
“So I’m looking forward to going into spring training and the fact that I have a chance to win a job out of spring training in the big leagues is completely unreal for me. I try not to think about it too much because I probably won’t sleep, but I’m so excited. I’m looking forward to everything and I’m really happy to be a Blue Jay now.”
Excited for what the future has to offer, Travis has also experienced some other emotions as the spring draws nearer.
“First off, I’m nervous as heck,” Travis said. “Walking into a clubhouse of veteran guys [like] Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista is pretty scary, especially for me, [who as] a young kid really grew up watching those guys play. They’re people that you look up to, it’s pretty scary now that we could be teammates…
“Going to spring training and meeting a whole new group of everybody is a little nerve-wracking for sure. I do [feel like the new guy at school]. I finally got comfortable after three years with the Tigers – you get settled in, you get the routine of how everything goes down, you know everybody by their first name – and boom, it’s something completely new.
“I’m looking forward to it. I’ve always enjoyed meeting new people and it should be fun going forward.”
The locker room at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium will hold a few faces familiar to Travis.
“I played against Daniel [Norris] two years ago in Low-A,” he said. “Dalton Pompey, we played on the [Midwest League] all-star team together that year. Marcus Stroman and I are pretty good friends; we played each other for a few years in college [Stroman with Duke University and Travis with FSU]. Aaron Sanchez I know pretty well from the [Arizona] Fall League, and I never liked facing him so that’s always good. But other than that I don’t really know too many people.”
Welcomed immediately by Toronto’s fan base, it didn’t take much time after joining the new organization for Travis to feel the love.
“It was actually pretty awesome,” the 5-foot-9, 195-pound middle infielder said. “Twitter is obviously the new thing and that was pretty cool, having a chance to get a bunch of tweets from all the Blue Jays fans. I definitely felt pretty welcome and it was a cool experience.”
Not long after that, Travis was offered his first opportunity to venture north of the border.
“When I first got asked about [attending the St. Thomas Sport Spectacular], I was honestly pretty honoured,” he said. “I saw the people who have been here before and I had the opportunity to A, leave the country for the first time; B, go to a place that I just got traded to; and to come and be around a bunch of people like this for such a great cause is definitely something that is pretty special.”
Even though he missed his original flight with his brand new passport because he didn’t realize he had to allow for more time at the airport when travelling internationally, Travis eventually made it to the province where he hopes to spend a lot more time in the future.
“It’s cold for sure,” he said. “The people all seem great. The one line that my agent told me that was pretty cool, when I was kind of beat up about the trade, he said, ‘You know when you make it to the big leagues you don’t only have one city rooting for you. You have an entire country.’
“So that’s something that’s pretty special and definitely gives you a lot to look forward to.”