TORONTO – Watching George Springer during batting practice is like watching the baseball version of the life of the party.
He’ll shimmy when a Rick Ross track takes over the speakers at Rogers Centre. He’ll full-on dance while completing distance throws in the outfield and a Drake song comes on.
When it’s his turn to hit, Springer will joke with Toronto Blue Jays coach John Schneider and then cheer on teammate Vladimir Guerrero Jr., as he launches balls into the stadium’s second deck.
In short, Springer operates like a man who is completely comfortable in his surroundings.
Shortly after the Blue Jays outfielder signed the richest contract in franchise history – six years, $150 million – he told me that he wanted to be methodical about integrating himself into his new clubhouse. Springer said he needed to respect the dynamic that players had already established and it was entirely his responsibility to make sure the process went smoothly.
By all accounts, he seems to have been successful.
With that in mind, I decided to follow up with Springer on his acclimatization, as well as a few other topics. Here’s our conversation.
SPORTSNET: When we spoke during Spring Training, you said you were still trying to figure out who the clubhouse DJ was. Did you ever get your answer?
GEORGE SPRINGER: Oh, yeah. It’s basically Bo [Bichette] and Vladdy.
You said you were going to see if you could snatch the aux cord at some point. Any success?
I’ll throw on some stuff every once in a while, but I kinda just let Bo and Vladdy handle it. Marcus [Semien] will put some stuff on, too.
OK, so how have you settled into the clubhouse as the months have gone on? It seems like you are always smiling or dancing and having a good time.
I feel good. I love these guys and I love this team. This has been fun. I feel like a little kid again, every day. They love to have fun and just really enjoy the game. So hopefully I fit in with their mould a little bit, but with my own little twist.
These guys are young, but they’re very experienced. I guess that’s the right word. They understand what they need to do. They understand how to do it. But there’s a calmness about it. And that’s really fun to be around.
Where do you think that calmness comes from?
Man, I don’t know. I just think it’s how they were brought up in the organization. They understand what they need to do. I know a lot of these guys have had [John] Schneider for a long time [in the minor leagues] and he understands them and they understand him. They just understand each other and go out and play hard. And that’s really all they want to do.
Hit a homer, wear the jacket. ????
Members of the Blue Jays cast their vote for which teammate looks the best in the iconic Home Run Jacket. ????⤵️
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) September 16, 2021
The home run jacket. From the outside, it seems very emblematic of the clubhouse’s collective personality. How do you view that?
Oh, I think it’s awesome. It’s fun. When it is out or somebody has it on, it means that they did something good to help the team. And whenever it is out, there’s always somebody who’s running to stand up there and put it on somebody. So, it’s a camaraderie thing.
When we talked earlier this year, you said you were really looking forward to being in front of the Toronto fans. Because, you said, you’d seen the type of energy they brought during the 2015 playoff run. It’s not a full stadium yet, but now, you’ve had that chance. What’s that been like?
This has been awesome. I mean to be home, to be in front of our home fans here in the city, it’s been great. I know there are only 15,000 [fans], but it always feels like there’s more. And it means a little bit more to us to finally be back here and understand what it means to the city, and the country, to have their team back and playing some good, quality baseball here in late September.
When you look back at that period where you guys were essentially nomads, what goes through your head?
I mean, it’s crazy. But you don’t really think about it. You don’t really make excuses for it. It is what it is. You really can’t control a global pandemic, so you might as well just embrace it. And I think everybody on this team has. Once we got back here and were able to settle into being home, [there was a real sense of] it’s nothing like being home.
Outside of this ballpark, how has George Springer settled into the City of Toronto?
It’s been awesome and the weather’s been unbeatable for basically the whole time that we’ve been here. I love it up here. My wife and I are having a great time just walking around, enjoying the city, enjoying the surroundings.
Do you have a home here, yet?
Not right now, but we’re looking for one.
Nice. And do you have a favourite restaurant yet?
Oh, we have a lot. I mean, we haven’t really, like, gone out to eat, because of the baby. But we pretty much Uber Eats every place we could possibly think of from every different food perspective. So, I don’t know yet. I know every morning I have What a Bagel. I have that every morning.
I know you’re a hockey fan. The Leafs open their season Oct. 13. I guess if you have your way, you’ll still be playing by then.
Have you been able to have any interaction with the Leafs organization or their players?
No, I don’t know what their Covid restrictions are and all that stuff. We kind of just go from here to the house and house back to the ballpark. I think once things ease up a little bit and slow down, it’ll be easier to intermingle more.