DUNEDIN, Fla. — John La Prise has never been to Toronto, but he is genuinely hyped to be playing for Canada’s beloved Blue Jays and their minor league affiliates.
The second baseman was born exactly two months before the Jays beat his hometown Phillies to win the 1993 World Series. Now, 23 years later, he’s visibly grateful to be continuing his development among the franchise’s latest generation of prospects.
“I was just so excited that I was even drafted,” LaPrise said, leaning beside the entrance to the Jays batting cages. “It was always a goal of mine.”
“I grew up a huge Phillies fan, so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping for the Phillies, but when Toronto drafted me I was ecstatic.”
Scott Silverstein, a former University of Virginia teammate, plays within the Blue Jays organization, and spoke positively about the development branch of the franchise, which provided LaPrise with comprehensive support last summer during his recovery from hip surgery.
“It was definitely a long rehab process but I had to get it done,” he said, adding, “I feel good to go. I feel strong going into the season.”
Anyone who spotted the rookie high-kicking among his fellow infielders during Tuesday’s warmup would never guess his hip flexibility had ever been compromised. And he is equally malleable when it comes to his approach to playing second base.
“Anytime a good hitter is up you have to know what’s going on, how your pitcher on the mound is going to be attacking him, and be aware how the other defence is going to move,” LaPrise said.
“You should always know who the other team’s best players are, so you need to prepare and anticipate things. And at the end of the day you just have to react and hopefully you can just play good defence for your pitcher.”
LaPrise grew up in the small, idyllic town of Doylestown, Penn., just north of Philadelphia. He played three sports— basketball, soccer, and baseball. Although baseball was his favourite sport, it wasn’t until his junior year of high school that he started to take it seriously.
He zeroed in on baseball while looking at colleges and University of Virginia became the perfect fit. Until, of course, he was drafted by the Blue Jays in June of 2015. Nine months later, LaPrise is thriving among his fellow infielders, ready and willing to serve his new team.
Follow Andrea on Twitter: @andreamingham