2016 Canadian draft list
Letters of Intent
By Bob Elliott
MESA, Az. _ A November phone call changed Brett Lawrie’s thought process.
“Ì was in the kitchen getting a drink … worrying about who was going to pitch for the Blue Jays in 2015,” said Lawrie on Wednesday.
He went back in his bed room where he’d left his phone to discover he had a missed call from Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos as well as a text from the GM.
The text read: “Call me … important.”
Lawrie wondered what he had done?
“Was I in trouble?” Lawrie remembered thinking on Nov. 28 the day his phone rang and he didn’t answer.
He dialed 416.
“Alex gave me the news and I found myself with another team, looking for a place to stay … with a team on the other coast.”
And in another state for spring training.
Lawrie, who replaces Josh Donaldson at third base, sat at his locker inside the Oakland A’s clubhouse at HoHoKam Stadium before the first day of full workouts, did a media scrum with plenty of cliches, spoke about his tattoos explaining some of them and how happy he with Oakland.
“Donaldson is what the Jays expected Brett to be when they got him from Milwaukee,” an executive said this winter. “If only Lawrie had stayed healthy.
At age 25, he’s still young. Remember all the injuries Paul Molitor had in his 20s? He was healthy as a Clydesdale in his 30s and 40s. He has time on his side.”
How does Lawrie think his old team will fare this season?
“They have some guys who can do some damage,” Lawrie said. “They have a good team. It’s a funny game, you never know what is going to happen.”
But how do you think they will do?
“I’m here to talk about the A’s,” Lawrie said politely. Emphatically.
Later the A’s travelled a few blocks down the road to Futch Park for their first work out. Lawrie hit in the same group as Ben Zobrist, Marcus Semien and Eric Sogard. Then he took infield with coach Mike Gallego hitting one hoppers and slow rollers.
Futch Park is where a Chicago Cub free agent arrived in the spring of 1991 after he left Toronto as a free agent. The Jays were not interested. That was when Bell famously predicted the 1991 Jays would have less wins than the 1991-92 Toronto Maple Leafs. The Jays won 91 times to win the American League East, seven games ahead of the Boston Red Sox, while the Leafs were last with at 30-43-7 record.
So, we tried again three hours later, but Lawrie was not biting and was not vindictive of the team, Canada’s team, that traded him saying “Antyhing can happen. Guys get hurt. Health is an issue for every team. Like I told you this morning, baseball is a funny game.”
As in odd …
The A’s commercials, including one yet-to-be-aired TV ad starring right fielder Josh Reddick and Lawrie, will likely be funny … as they commercials usually are.
“They flew us both in for a filming,” Reddick said, “that was the first time I met him. He picked my brain, I picked his.
“I can’t tell you what the ad is about, it’s secret, but it should be funny.”
With a Canadian touch?
“Maybe,” said Reddick.
Lawrie is replacing a stud and a fan fave at the O.Co Colesium in Oakland.
“I’m not trying to be the next Josh Donaldson, I’m trying to be Brett Lawrie,” said Lawrie, “try to help us get to the post season, like Toronto.”
When did Lawrie realize how popular he was in Toronto?
Was it an Aug. 26, 2011 signing the Jays Shop at Sears in the Eaton Centre where fans began lining up at 7 a.m., the wrist band quota was met two hours later with 300 fans cramming the aisles of the department store and onto Yonge Street?
Was it in Baltimore when Hall of Famer Jim Palmer exclaimed after the Jays took two of three in 2011 — Lawrie hit .385 (5-for-13, with two doubles, two homers, six RBIs and a half dozen highlight reel plays) — “where do they find players like Brett Lawrie?”
Was it looking into the seats and seeing all the Lawrie No. 13 Jays jerseys?
“Playing in Canada, playing in front of Canadians at home and on the road,” said Lawrie, wearing No. 15 in green and gold Wednesday? “It was very cool to play in front of Toronto fans, especially wearing red on Canada Day.
“When I went home to B.C. people wanted me to stop and have their picture taken with me. That never happened before … before I’d only played for the Langley Blaze and in the minors. I really hadn’t done a lot.”
And it was the same in Toronto as Lawrie, drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers as a first rounder in 2008, lived downtown on Fort York Blvd. (“right near Sobeys”).
“People would stop me, ask if they could have their picture taken with me.”
Lawrie was accommodating. We saw that first hand.
The reason he’s in Arizona and not Dunedin, Fla. is the fact that people couldn’t take his picture on the field often enough. Lawrie played 347 games out of a possible 536 (64.7%) since promoted from triple-A Las Vegas due to oblique injuries, fractured fingers (twice, once fielding, once hit by pitch), wrecked an ankle from sliding into second and injured his leg from falling into a Yankee Stadium photographer’s well.
Playing on the coast means an easier flight to games for his mom Cheryl and pop Russ from Vancouver. Plus extra trips to Seattle compared to the one the Jays make per season. And his sister Danielle, her husband Andrew Locke and their daughter, Madison Nicole, move soon from Boston the Seattle this year. Brett used to catch bullpens for Danielle on her way to pitching for Canada in the 2008 Olympics and breaking the school strikeout record and the Pac-10 shutout record with the Washington Huskies.
Lawrie explained how he’s a golfer “flipping balls into the pool,” but never going to the range the way “the pitchers do.”
“Sometimes the pool guy fishes out 350 balls,” said Lawrie. “I wouldn’t mind playing in the AT@T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.”
He credits his parents, Greg Hamilton of the Canadian Junior National Team, Langley coach Doug Mathieson and former teammate Mark DeRosa for helping him get to where he is.
He’ll miss his favorite dining places in Toronto — Barberian’s, Lou Dawg’s B-B-Q and Real Sports — and street meat.
Street meat? Where is that?
“You know those hot dog vendors on the street … good food,” said Lawrie.
The move to Oakland cost Lawrie endorsement deals — Spitz sun flower seeds and an contract with Rogers Communications.
“He’s a good roomie, but he’s only been at my place two days,” said Lawrie. “It’s good to see one of my old buddies, maybe my best friend. He’s going to do well in Milwaukee. He’ll play every day, hit 20-to-25 homers, help them into the post season and make some money.”
The only players in the A’s clubhouse Lawrie knows are former Jay pitcher Jesse Chavez and catcher Luke Carlin, of Aylmer, Que. Lawrie and Carlin were teammates on the 2009 WBC team which played at the Rogers Centre.
Lawrie is looking forward to the next World Baseball Classic in 2017. He was injured in the final exhibition game before the 2013 event against the Cincinnati Reds and didn’t get to play.
“The ball got by the relay man, I over extended to make the play and pulled a lat muscle,” Lawrie said. “I’d like to play for Canada again.”
Lawrie’s legion of Jays fans and his new A’s fans would like to see him play this season … a lot … like about 155 games.