Panas striving to be Blue Jays hometown hero

 DUNEDIN, FLA March 6, 2017   Connor Panas stands out front of the Toronto Blue Jays' spring training complex, proudly sporting his hometown colours. This is Connor's second year in spring training. Last year he played a utility role with Lansing Lugnuts in the Class A Midwest league. Photo by Tristan Fitzpatrick

By: Tristan Fitzpatrick

Canadian Baseball Network

DUNEDIN, Fla; - Connor Panas was sitting at home with his family in Etobicoke on June 9, 2015, when his agent called. “You’re going to want to watch the Blue Jays’ pick in the ninth round,” he said.

Toronto selected Panas 252nd in that draft. Now he is working to become a Blue Jays hometown hero. 

Panas was born in 1993, just 254 days before Toronto won their last World Series and grew up idolizing the Blue Jays. 

“I think my dad actually threw me up in the air when Joe Carter hit that home run.” Panas said, standing in front of the Blue Jays’ spring training fields. 

Growing up in the shadow of the Rogers Centre, Panas’ idol was Jays catcher Darrin Fletcher. 

“His son played little league with me.” Panas said. “I would go in the clubhouse with him. At the time, I didn't know how big of a deal that was. I look back and reflect on that and it’s actually pretty cool. 

“Now, I’m actually a Blue Jay.” 

The long road to get back to that clubhouse as a member of the Jays started with the Lansing Lugnuts.

Time was limited with the Class-A Midwest League team; Panas started in a reserve role at first. 

“I finally got my chance to play every day and I took full advantage of it. Did well, hit a lot of home runs,” Panas said. 

That desire remained after he got to suit up in a spring training game and put on the Toronto uniform with the maple leaf emblem on for the first time.  

“Getting to put on the jersey and play with the big guys,” Panas said. “Never take it for granted.”