Lawrie introduced in Milwaukee
Young slugging catcher meets press, takes BP with Brewers
MILWAUKEE -- Like the architects of the Milwaukee Brewers' success story, 18-year-old Brett Lawrie speaks with a Canadian accent.
Lawrie also expects to contribute to that story sooner rather than later.
The catcher from British Columbia, three months after being chosen with the 16th overall pick by the Brewers in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft in June, took batting practice and worked out with the Brewers before meeting with media prior to Saturday's game.
From the same country that produced general manager Doug Melvin and assistant GM Gord Ash, Lawrie (pronounced "Loe-ree") became the highest-drafted Canadian position player in the history of the format and sixth-ever Canuck taken in the first round.
"He's got a very nice swing; he's a strong young man," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "He kind of reminds me of Brauny [Ryan Braun] a little bit when he came in, maybe a little more muscular. It looks like he's really focused and anxious to get here."
That's an understatement. Lawrie said he wants to be in the big leagues by the time he's 20 years old, despite not yet having played a single game in the Minor Leagues. Typically a team that signs top picks early, the Brewers didn't come to terms with Lawrie until Aug. 5, partly because he was training with the Canadian Olympic team on his way to an appearance in Beijing.
Prior to his trip overseas, Lawrie competed with the junior national team, and he won a triple crown of awards at the World Junior Baseball Championship in Edmonton. Lawrie earned the Top Hitter award in the tournament with a .469 average and finished with the most home runs (3) and RBIs (16) of any player in the showcase.
Scout Marty Lehn had an inside scoop on the young backstop, having served as a coach on Lawrie's junior national team.
"[Lawrie's] grown leaps and bounds," Lehn said. "He's an explosive player; he can run, throw, hit, hit with power."
Lehn recalled one now-legendary day when the Canadians traveled to the Dominican Republic, and Lawrie belted five home runs over the course of a doubleheader against the Seattle Mariners' Dominican club.
"Brett started off hitting one out to right field, and then started moving to right-center, to center field, to left-center and finished off with his fifth one of the day down the left-field line," Lehn said. "I don't think anyone from the Dominican side ever saw anything like that as well, because they shot some photos with him. I think they thought they had a big leaguer in front of [them] and a potential All-Star kid."
Scouting director Jack Zduriencik, who has had no shortage of Draft successes in his tenure with Milwaukee, hopes the same.
"Right at the very end, we sent our scout, Tom McNamara, to the Dominican Republic," Zduriencik said. "He said the worst thing about the Dominican Republic was that he couldn't use his cell phone to call me every night and tell me how good he was doing."
Lawrie reiterated what the Brewers wanted to hear: that he was willing and able to play the catching position after spending time at second base, third base and the outfield during his development.
"Last year, Greg Hamilton, my coach with the national team, guided me to the catching position," Lawrie said. "He said, 'We had Russell Martin here as well, and you're as good a catcher as he was or maybe better than when he was with the junior national team.' I feel comfortable back there."
Lawrie has met and spent time with Martin, an All-Star with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He has also been using wooden bats since he was 14, something that wasn't lost on Brewers scouts.
"I haven't hit with metal in a long, long time, and I don't plan on it," Lawrie said.
JR Radcliffe is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.