*Brett Lawrie (Langley, BC), former Langley Blaze star, shown here with Team Canada coach Rob Ducey (Cambridge, Ont.) kept in touch with his pals after his promotion.
By Bob Elliott
Brett Lawrie phoned his pal Nick Bucci on Thursday.
“We text all the time, he doesn’t usually call out of the blue,” Bucci said from Melbourne, Fla., on Friday night, also known as NOD ... Night Of the Debut.
“So, I ask: ‘When you getting the call?’ and he said: ‘Skip told me this morning, headed to Baltimore tonight.’”
When Bucci left the mound after 4 2/3 innings in his start for class-A Brevard County, a 9-3 loss to Dunedin on Friday, he wasn’t pleased with his outing.
Working out in the trainer’s room, he asked Tommy Craig to check out MLB.com and saw his pal had delivered a run-scoring, single in his first major-league at-bat.
Two of the Langley, B.C., third baseman’s best pals with the Canadian Junior National Team were pitchers Evan Grills (Whitby, Ont.) and Bucci (Sarnia, Ont.).
We heard someone on a sports show say that the Jays now had their first Canadian superstar.
We read someone else compare Lawrie’s Canadian presence with the Jays to what Larry Walker was for the Montreal Expos.
We saw a headline of Lawrie’s promotion entitled “The Most Important Call-Up in Franchise History.”
Take a breath, a deep breath.
Lawrie, 21, in his third year as a pro, will awake Sunday with two games played in the majors.
Bucci, 21, a fourth-year pro with the Milwaukee Brewers, is in the Florida State League.
Grills, 19, in his second year with the Houston Astros, is with rookie-class Gulf Coast Astros.
The game chews up and spits out phenoms.
Advance scouts, pitching coaches and major-league pitchers with pinpoint control find weaknesses and exploit it ... see Travis Snider.
Take a breath and think of where Lawrie’s pals are and be patient.
“The three of us became close with the junior national team,” Bucci said. “Our personalities are alike: We play the game hard, off the field we’re laid back and like to have fun.”
Watching on MLB.com, Bucci saw the highlights: Lawrie’s run-scoring single, the quick shot of Lawrie’s sister and parents in the seats “with his mom wearing her Team Canada jersey.”
“Brett looked intense and aggressive, he’s always intense and aggressive,” Bucci said. “He’s a typical Canadian, he’s hard nosed and plays with a hockey player’s mentality. He’s different once you get to know him.”
Obviously the two have a good relationship.
After congratulating Lawrie on Thursday, Bucci said: “Enjoy batting ninth.”
Lawrie shot back: “I’ll hit lead off.”
Lawrie hit ninth.
“He has enough confidence, we like to chip away at it,” Bucci said.
After Bucci’s game, one in which he took the loss allowing five runs — three earned — on six hits and two walks to fall to 7-10 with a 3.65 ERA, he looked up the Jays box score.
Then, Bucci texted Lawrie:
“Congrats man, 2-for-4, with an error, typical day for u.”
Busy in Baltimore, Lawrie had not responded when we spoke to Bucci, but Bucci’s best guess on Lawrie’s response?
“What are u doing in ‘A’ ball?”
Not far away, in Kissimmee, Fla., Grills was unable to pick up the Sportsnet feed. He was anxious to hear how his friend fared.
“Brett deserves everything he gets,” Grills said. “He doesn’t care what everyone thinks, he’s always trying to become better than the next guy.”
Everyone, including Grills, knows about Lawrie’s five-homer doubleheader day in the Dominican Republic. The lefty also recalls another magic moment by Lawrie.
“We were playing Chinese Taipei about the third game of the World juniors in Edmonton,” Grills said. “I came on in relief, pitched the ninth and the 10th, then James Kottaras singled to lead off the bottom of the 10th. Brett hits a walk-off triple to right centre at Telus Field.
“I remember charging onto the field, it was a cool experience.”
That was way, way back in 2008 when life was good, they were teenagers wearing red and white Canada jerseys.
Be patient with Brett Lawrie.
Do not expect five homers every two games as he did in the Dominican that May afternoon.
A year ago at double-A Huntsville he had 16 triples and eight homers in 135 games.
This year in Vegas where the ball flies like chips at the black jack table as a drunken player watches the dealer draw an ace, Lawrie had 24 doubles, six triples and 18 homers in 69 games.
Take a deep breath.
REMEMBERING HIS ROOTS
Lawrie sent a personal note wishing Team B.C. good luck at the Canadian Little League championships, which began Saturday in North Vancouver. Lawrie’s note to former Langley coach Jason Andrews read:
“Hey guys, this is Brett Lawrie from the Toronto Blue Jays. I heard that you had won district and I want to send my personal congratulations to each and every one of you.
“I remember when I was your age, I played in the Cal Ripken World Series and had an absolute blast. I wish you guys the best of luck in your games and to have as much fun as you can. All the best guys. Go Canada.”
TWO MORE CANUCKS SIGN ON
Two more drafted Canadians signed this week.
C Justin Marra (Toronto, Ont.), selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 15th round, received a $110,000 US signing bonus.
OF Cory Scammell (Edmonton, Alta.), a 35th rounder, signed with the Seattle Mariners.
Earlier, RHP Vaughn Covington (Vancouver, BC) , an 11th rounder, signed with the Cincinnati Reds for $150,000.
Of the 35 Canadians drafted 20 have signed heading toward the Aug. 15 deadline. The top Canadian drafted, Tom Robson (Ladner, BC) chosen in the fourth round by Toronto, remains unsigned.
Marra’s ex-team, the Ontario Blue Jays, are 2-0 at the Mickey Mantle World Series in McKinney, Tex., the best start ever by a Canadian team.
With nine days remaining before the Aug. 15 deadline to sign drafted players, 18 of the Jays’ top 22 selections are unsigned.
Their first and fifth picks, both right-handed high schoolers, Tyler Beede of Groton, Mass., and Kevin Comer of Tabernacle, N.J., have been to Toronto for their physicals.
Beede was the 21st player selected overall and Comer 57th. Both have committed to Vanderbilt University.
The Jays have signed their second and third picks: Outfielder Jacob Anderson, a Chino, Calif., high schooler and right-hander Joe Musgrove, an El Cajon, Calif., high schooler.
Scouting director Andrew Tinnish (Ottawa, Ont.) gave Anderson a $990,000 US bonus, according to Baseball America, $90,000 above slot for the 35th player chosen in North America.
Anderson won the home run derby at the Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field last summer, a showcase Ryan Kellogg (Whitby, Ont.) and Gareth Morgan (North York, Ont.) and will attend later this month.