It's always fun to see the Toronto Blue Jays bring aboard a Canadian player. Such an occurrence adds intrigue for followers of the team to see one of their own, while giving said player the opportunity of a lifetime to represent their home team.
When outfielder Michael Saunders was added to to the Blue Jays' roster in 2015, this was absolutely the case for him. Spending the first six years of his career in Seattle just south of Canada, Saunders was dealt to the Jays in exchange for southpaw J.A. Happ in Dec. of 2014.
At the time of the trade, Saunders had shown glimpses of promise at the plate - highlighted by a 19-homer showing in 2012 - but he struggled to stay healthy and at times ran into a bit of inconsistency at the plate. He only made nine appearances for the 2015 Jays, but things improved dramatically for him in the following year.
In 2016, Saunders made his first, and ultimately only, All-Star Game. He hit 24 home runs with 32 doubles, 57 RBI and a 116 OPS+; all full-season career-highs for the Victoria native. His big league career quietly fizzled out after that year, but he had already made his mark amongst Canadian baseball players.
This past Saturday, Saunders became the 12th member of Baseball Canada's Wall of Excellence. He not only put together a respectable career in Major League Baseball, but he also found a way to shine in a multitude of international games. As Kevin Glew noted in the article above, Saunders stepped up to the task in the 2007 World Cup, 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2013 World Baseball Classic. Pair these outstanding performances with a 6.0 bWAR MLB career and you have yourself a stud.
“I’m very humbled to have my name up there with the likes of the guys that are already up there,” said Saunders of the honour. “I was talking to my dad the other day and he said, ‘Isn’t it funny where things go after just playing a game of catch in the backyard when you were five years old?’”
Saunders' 81 home runs are the 12th most ever by a Canadian. Seeing as how he didn't even get into baseball until he was 15-years old, everything he's been able to accomplish in the sport has been extremely impressive. Becoming the newest entrant to the Wall of Excellence just feels like it was meant to be for a player that did such a fantastic job at representing the country.