By: Alexis Brudnicki
Canadian Baseball Network
GLENDALE, Arizona – For the second straight season, Brett Lawrie has found himself in new surroundings, with a different team and another fresh start.
After four years in the majors with the Toronto Blue Jays, the Canadian infielder was traded last off-season to the Oakland Athletics, with whom he spent the duration of the year. In December, Lawrie was once again dealt, heading to the Chicago White Sox organization in exchange for two minor leaguers.
“It’s been great,” Lawrie said before a spring training game at Camelback Ranch. “This is a new opportunity, a new position, a new city, and a bunch of new guys, so it’s been great so far.”
Welcomed immediately by his teammates, the 26-year-old drew praise from Triple-A Charlotte Knights manager Julio Vinas – with the big-league club for spring training – for coming in and not only making the transition to playing full-time at second base seamlessly, but for being a part of the dynamic infield duo – alongside fellow White Sox addition Todd Frazier – that has been a big boost to the squad on and off the field.
“I come in and just be myself,” Lawrie said. “I don’t think anyone has wanted me to be anybody but that, so it’s been very easy. Everyone is very easy to get along with in here, and once we get out on the field everybody likes to ramp it up. Everyone likes to have fun in here as well, and that goes a long way…
“Obviously if I was somebody else it would be a little bit different, but I am who I am and I’m thankful that it’s going the way it’s going. It’s been great so far.”
A consistently high-energy player, Lawrie has matured and evolved over the years as he’s gained from his difference experiences along the way. Learning a lot from himself, finding out what works and what doesn’t to get through the grind of a 162-game season sandwiched by spring training and the potential of playoffs, it’s the downtime away from the field that has helped the second baseman the most.
“I love the game and whatnot, but I also like to do other things as well,” he said. “I can’t be baseball all the time because it’s one of those things and everybody has another life when you get away from here...Being able to branch out and go do other things will ultimately make you a better baseball player because you want to go back to doing that when you do other things.
“But everyone is different. Some people want to do it all the time and that’s what they like to do, but some people like to get away from it for a little bit and then when they get back to it, it makes them that much more excited to get back to it.
“I fall kind of more into that category where I like to get away from it for a little bit, but at the same time it makes me want to come back and get back into it that much more because I haven’t done it in a minute. I like the diversity between the two. I don’t like to do it consciously all the time, but I like to have that even balance of being able to be athletic and go do other things besides baseball – play basketball a little bit, do other things that challenge me athletically, and make me want to be a better baseball player at the end of the day. I need to do other things to keep me honest with myself.”
Heading into the Chicago clubhouse this year, Lawrie has found similarities within each of the locker rooms he’s called home over the years, making every transition a little bit easier, and knows that the end goal is the same no matter what colour uniform he’s wearing.
“In every clubhouse, you’ve just got to be able to hang out,” the 2008 first-round pick of the Milwaukee Brewers said. “You know you’re not going to run into too many guys who are too different. You know you’ve got Dominican guys, you’ve got some country guys, and you know you’ve got the relatively same mix in every clubhouse.
“So you start building the bridges with guys and get to know them a little bit before the season starts, but it’s about building that camaraderie and continuing to do that every day.”
Ready for the season to start, and to take his place in the middle infield at U.S. Cellular Field, Lawrie is excited for what his new beginning could bring.
“I’m looking forward to the continued process of getting into the grind again and doing it with a new group,” Lawrie said. “This is a new unit and we’re trying to build that championship team, getting ready to make that push toward the playoffs. We’ve got to take it one game at a time, and just go out there, play our game, have fun, and keep each other accountable in here.”