When you think of the Toronto Blue Jays, certain players come to mind. Ask any kid in a Blue Jays cap which player is their favourite and you’ll likely hear the names Donaldson, Pillar, or Stroman.
Last year I asked my 7 year old daughter who her favourite Blue Jay was. She didn’t hesitate and immediately said, “JA Happ.” I must admit, I was puzzled by this. I asked her, “Why Happ?” and she just said, “I think he’s a great pitcher and I like the way he plays.”
The more I thought about it, the more I admired her choice. She didn’t go for the player with the flash, the style, the swag that a lot of young kids love. She picked the player that quietly does his job and does it at a high level.
As I write this, Happ has 41 strikeouts in 29 innings pitched. He leads the AL in strikeouts per 9 innings pitched and owns a respectable 3.72ERA. Now, don’t worry, I’m not going to get stats heavy here but I think it’s worth noting just how good he’s been for the Blue Jays all while seemingly flying under the radar.
In fact, he’s been arguably their most consistent pitcher for the better part of three seasons. However, he doesn’t seem to get the recognition he deserves. Perhaps it’s because he doesn’t have that swagger, he doesn’t post on social media, he doesn’t have the witty sound bites, or perhaps he just prefers it this way.
When you walk around the Rogers Centre you will be hard pressed to see a Happ jersey. While I have seen adult sized Happ jerseys in the Jays Shop it is impossible to find one for a child. I know this as my daughter has been pining for one for a long while. Fortunately, a friend of mine found a men’s small Happ t-shirt for her. It may be a bit big but she is so happy to represent her favourite player and hopefully one day I can get her an official jersey without having it specially made.
While he may not be getting the big endorsement deals, the jersey sales, or the homemade fan signs in the crowd, he’s certainly putting together a solid season for himself and his team. His humbled approach to the game is very refreshing for a league where players with big personalities are celebrated and revered. Of course, those players are instrumental when it comes to growing the game and selling tickets but at the same time it’s almost more impressive to be able to perform at a high level without having the big ego to go along with it.
As for my daughter, I love that she picked Happ as her favourite Jay and looking back, it really shouldn’t have surprised me. My daughter is like JA in many ways. She is very quiet and unassuming all the while excelling in school and her extracurricular activities. As far as role models go, I think she picked a great one and we will both continue to watch him be sneakily good.