TORONTO — Brett Lawrie spent parts of four seasons lounging in the spacious Toronto Blue Jays clubhouse before games. On Tuesday, for the first time in his career, he found himself in the much smaller visitor's locker-room down the hall.
Traded from Toronto to the Oakland Athletics for MVP candidate Josh Donaldson in the off-season, Lawrie is back in the Canadian city for a three-game series against his former squad.
But the Langley, B.C., native wasn't too fazed by being in the tighter confines of the visitor's clubhouse.
"You come into the stadium and do your regular routine and yeah it's a little different, but it's a locker-room — same old same," Lawrie said before Tuesday's game.
"More or less any time you come across the border and have to show your passport, yes (it feels like a home-coming). But it's good to be back. It's nice to be here."
As a Canadian-born player, Lawrie was always considered a fan favourite during his time in Toronto. His numbers, when he was healthy, contributed to his popularity.
In 345 games with the Blue Jays over four seasons, Lawrie batted .265 with 43 home runs and 157 runs batted in.
For the most part, the former first round draft pick of the Milwaukee Brewers looks back on his Toronto days fondly.
"It was a great time," he said. "I was young and didn't really know what to expect. I was just coming into the big leagues with a new group and I was Canadian so everything was kind of a plus for me.
"Great reception wherever I went, everybody was definitely first class. It was great to be around the city and be Canadian and be treated the way I was. I'll never forget it."
While the A's are in the midst of a down year — sitting last in the American League West with a 51-62 record coming into Tuesday's game — Lawrie is enjoying a productive season, batting .268 with a .306 on-base percentage, 10 home runs, 45 RBIs and 95 strikeouts through 106 games.
He's also been able to avoid the disabled list, where he spent significant amounts of time with oblique and back injuries during his Toronto days.
"I'm good, I'm happy that I'm healthy," said Lawrie, who added that not playing on artificial turf has a lot to do with that. "I continue to work on that and try to stay on the field."
Lawrie said he hadn't thought about what kind of reception he'd get from fans during his first at-bat on Tuesday night, insisting instead that he would "just try to help the team win" against a tough Blue Jays squad that's won eight straight games.
His former manager John Gibbons was confident the reaction would be a good one, though.
"Brett was popular here," Gibbons said. "One thing Brett did, Brett got after it every night, played hard, never let up. I can't remember a time that Brett didn't go all out when he was on the field.
"So yeah, I would be surprised if he didn't get a good reaction."
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Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press