MESA, Ariz. – Brett Lawrie often is heard before he’s seen in the A’s clubhouse at Hohokam Stadium.
His locker is hidden behind a large wall, alongside some of Oakland’s other big-name newcomers, and out of view to those entering the spacious room.
But Lawrie usually is talking, and you know he’s near.
The A’s new third baseman rides a nonstop adrenaline rush -- always chirping, always moving. Even when he sits for an interview, his legs are bouncing up and down as if he’s chained to the chair and itching to break loose.
“He’s pretty much been that way,” said Lawrie’s father, Russ. “He’s never been a guy to sit down and watch a TV program. He’ll watch a bit of golf, but he put a putting green in his family room so he can putt while watching golf.”
When people talk about the 25-year-old British Columbia native, they always reference the wired personality and non-stop motor. But as Lawrie begins his A’s career after being acquired in November from Toronto, he hopes his production on the field dominates the conversation.
Lawrie was ranked the No. 1 prospect in the Pacific Coast League in 2011, but his three-plus seasons with the Blue Jays were marked by numerous injuries. Oblique strains were most problematic, and he missed 184 games total from 2012-14. The A’s aren’t looking for him to duplicate the numbers of All-Star Josh Donaldson, the player they shipped to Toronto for Lawrie and three others. But they believe Lawrie will make an impact if he can stay healthy.
Lawrie is hopeful that getting away from the artificial turf of Toronto’s Rogers Center will help, but he’s also being proactive in trying to maintain his body. He’s incorporated acupuncture sessions into his spring training routine as part of that effort.
“I’m trying to take care of my business and what I need to do,” Lawrie said. “My approach in spring training, and this year, is a lot different than what done I’ve done in the past because what I’ve done in the past isn’t working. I’m trying to take a step back and try to become a better professional.”
Lawrie made for quite the story when the Blue Jays called him up in 2011 at age 21 – a high-profile native Canadian playing for Canada’s only major league team. But Lawrie wasn’t even the most famous athlete in his own house growing up.
His older sister, Danielle, was a stud softball pitcher who would go on to lead the University of Washington to a 2009 national championship. She played in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and is now a Pac-12 Network softball analyst after retiring from her professional playing career.
“The way my Dad did it, he never really separated the two of us,” Lawrie said. “So we competed against one another, whether that was who could jump and touch the roof, who could do more sit-ups, who could do more pushups.”
Russ Lawrie remembers coming home from work and seeing Brett and Danielle waiting on the front porch with baseball gear, hoping to go practice.
“They competed doing the dishes,” Russ said with a laugh. “Brett was always in the shadow of her. When Danielle was getting more publicity, Brett hadn’t come around yet. We always said, ‘Your time will come.’”
That competitiveness took root in Lawrie. There’s a YouTube clip of him diving over a dugout railing at Yankee Stadium in 2012 as he tried to catch a foul ball. In a game at the Rogers Center, he hurdled himself into a camera well going after another foul.
When he first arrived in the majors, his brashness could rub opponents the wrong way. Ironically, one of those moments came against the A’s in 2011. Lawrie hit a go-ahead grand slam off Craig Breslow in Toronto, then pumped his arm demonstratively rounding first base and slammed his helmet down in celebration when he reached the dugout.
Some A’s players thought it was a bit much. Second baseman Eric Sogard broke into a smile recently thinking back on that moment. He said players who show the passion that Lawrie does can get under someone’s skin until they become a teammate.
“It’s kind of like Donaldson,” Sogard said. “I played against Donaldson coming up through college and the minor leagues, and I couldn’t stand playing against him. He goes at it hard every single day and has his teammates’ back. We’re excited to have Brett over here.”
A’s manager Bob Melvin thinks fans also will notice a similarity between Lawrie and the man he’s replacing at third base.
“Our fans are gonna love him, once they get a load of him and how he goes about his business,” Melvin said.
The manager also recalled his first phone conversation with Lawrie after the trade. It wasn’t easy for Melvin to squeeze in a few sentences.
“If you do sit down and have a conversation with him, it tends to be a little one-sided at times because he’s real enthusiastic and real energetic,” Melvin said. “I like it.”