Jays’ Hawkins is prepared to perform

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Watching Chris Hawkins stroke bombs over the right field fence at the Toronto Blue Jays’ minor league camp on Tuesday, you easily got the sense that this guy was here to perform.

Hawkins, who spent 2011 playing in the outfield with the Bluefield Blue Jays of the Appalachian League East, used the off-season to work on his already impressive skills and is excited to put them to the test this season.

“I’m really trying to get a little bit quicker, and a little bit stronger as well,” he said, outside the batting cage. “Hopefully hit for a little bit more power and try and steal some more bags.

“There’s always stuff that you can work on. I worked very hard on my swing and improving a lot of aspects of my game this off-season, so I’m excited to get going and see what happens.”

Hawkins was drafted in the third round (93rd overall) of the 2010 first-year player draft and immediately signed with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays.

After a strong season in the GCL, Hawkins led Bluefield in many offensive categories in 2011, winning the Jays’ R. Howard Webster award for exemplifying excellence in leadership, work ethic, and overall statistics.

“Last year was a very successful year. It came from a lot of hard work and a lot of people that batted before me got on base too and helped everything out,” said Hawkins.

“I’m very proud of that (award). You know what though, I was more proud of how our team made it all the way to the championship series.”

Hawkins displays a humble team-first mentality and adds a lighter, humorous side to the sport, while discussing the superstitions of the Bluefield team.

“We carried a rally monkey around and we carried a poster cut-out of Jack Sparrow, and they were at every single game with us, helping us win,” Hawkins said. “Jack Sparrow, the guy works hard. He’s been left out to dry a lot but he never gives up.

“He’s a grinder.”

The young outfielder has a gritty style, using speed on the bases, and a good average to produce runs. Hawkins hit .318 last season while scoring 49 runs, the third most in the league.

Being selected by the Blue Jays was a dream come true for Hawkins.

“I was happy to go to the Blue Jays. It’s a very proud and successful organization,” Hawkins. “What I liked about Toronto was that it’s such a clean city. The Rogers Centre and CN Tower are beautiful. It was very unique, unlike any city I’ve ever been to.”

“It was one of the happiest days of my life.”