For Jays fans, and for Toronto sports fans in general, Lawrie’s offensive dominance since being called up from Las Vegas AAA at the beginning of August has not only allowed the 20-year-old to quickly become a favorite among fans, but his play has also been a breath of fresh air and quite frankly, a sigh of relief.
Too many times Toronto fans have been told of top prospects or draft picks and too often they’ve been left disappointed. Not to say that Lawrie’s seven homeruns and 20 RBI’s in 28 games is going to translate into 35-plus homeruns and 100 RBI’s next season, but he has definitely given Jays fans something to watch out for going into next season and beyond.
“It’s harder than it looks,” Lawrie told the Toronto Star
after hitting the game-winning homerun against Baltimore on September 1st. “I’m just playing the game and having fun and just competing and never giving anyone a chance to say I’m not hustling or anything like that. Play every inning and play every day like it’s your last. I’m out there competing and trying to contribute.”
It hasn’t been so simple for prospects to blossom in a Toronto atmosphere that is often heavy on criticism from the media and fans. Most recently Nazem Kadri and Kyle Drabek have fallen victim to high expectations. Drabek who was the major piece the Jays retrieved in return for ace-pitcher Roy Halladay a year and a half ago. However, while he showed signs of progress at the beginning of the 2010-2011 season his inconsistent play, forced Jays manager John Farrell to send Drabek to Las Vegas where the 23-year-old continues to struggle.
For Nazem Kadri it’s been inconsistent play as well that has left Leaf fans questioning his potential and work ethic. Kadri, who the Leafs selected seventh overall in 2009, spent much of his first NHL season going up and down between the Leafs and the minor league Toronto Marlies when some had hoped the 20-year-old would be a top-six forward or at least a regular roster player in his first Leafs season (not counting 2009-2010 as he was still play for London in the OHL).
Lawrie’s immediate success in the Majors is not a knock on the progress of Kadri or Drabek, both could very well have immense success in their respective sports in the near future, but to a city that hasn’t won a major sports championship in almost 20 years and only has two since the infamous year of ’67, seeing instant progress from a major prospect is a reason to want to look ahead.
“When you're younger, you watch guys like [Derek] Jeter, and then all of the sudden, you're playing against those guys,” Lawrie told MLB.com
. “I think the biggest thing is, I have not forgot how to compete. The whole point of the Minor Leagues is to train yourself so that when you do get up here, you're gonna be okay and not be overwhelmed. It's a matter of just going out there to compete. You don't have to change who you are.”
Sure it’s fun cheering for an underdog like John McDonald, but it’s even more enjoyable to watch a homegrown talent with star potential.