The mid-week opening of a boys and girls clubhouse isn't usually cause for a major media event, but the appearance of a very special guest made it unique.
Toronto Blue Jays third baseman and Langley native Brett Lawrie was part of Tuesday's unveiling of the Jays Care Community Clubhouse at Douglas Park.
Around lunchtime, Lawrie joined Carolyn Tuckwell, president and CEO of Boys and Girls Clubs of South Coast BC, and Rob Drynan, interim executive director of Jays Care Foundation, for an official unveiling, jersey presentation, and photo opportunities.
When he strolled into the room, Lawrie was greeted with an audible gasp from star struck students who attend nearby Douglas Park Community School.
"It's good to see all these kids, because they're so excited," Lawrie later said.
The 22-year-old has blossomed into a bona fide major leaguer since being drafted 16th overall, the highest ever selection for a Canadian position player, by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2008 MLB draft.
In 125 games with the Blue Jays this past season, Lawrie hit .273, while belting 11 home runs and 48 runs batted in. He also recorded 73 runs and 13 stolen bases.
But Lawrie, who answered a series of questions from the students and listened with a big smile as they sung their slightly altered rendition of Take Me Out to the Ball Game, wasn't the focus this day.
He helped direct the spotlight on a fully-accessible, 2,666 square foot centre that each day will serve more than 250 kids in the Douglas Park community. That's twice the capacity of the previous portable, that took up just under 1,000 square feet.
It'll be a place for kids to take part in organized sports, do homework, and to just hang out with their friends.
"This is great, what the Blue Jays are doing," Lawrie said. "We're not only Toronto's team, we're Canada's team. I think that's what the Blue Jays are really pushing for and I feel like this is a grand gesture. This is obviously great for these kids. It gives them an opportunity to play sports and get involved in some after- school activities."
The centre was in the works just after Lawrie was acquired by the Blue Jays in a trade for pitcher Shaun Marcum in December 2010.
Modeled after the Blue Jays clubhouse, the project was made possible through a $250,000 Field of Dreams grant from the Foundation.
Locally, the Rotary Club of Langley Central contributed $80,000, the largest single donation in the club's history. The funds were generated from past Fraser Valley Wine Tasting Festivals, held each November at the Willowbrook Shopping Centre.
On Tuesday club president Ken Baker presented the final cheque of $38,442, the balance of the $80,000 commitment.
"It's a grey, miserable day outside but it's a sunshiny day in this facility," Baker said during the presentation. "This is an absolute dream come true. It took a while to put this together but we're just happy to be part of this great facility."
The upbeat Lawrie appeared equally pleased to be part of the opening.
"Obviously it promotes the Blue Jays and it promotes a good cause and this is what it's all about," he said.
The presence of arguably B.C.'s most recognizable baseball player attracted a crush of television and print media from a variety of outlets. Once he extricated himself from a scrum that followed the ceremonial ribbon cutting, Lawrie reflected on returning to his hometown after a lengthy absence.
"It's hard for me to get home, because of how busy I am," said Lawrie, who now resides just outside of Phoenix, AZ. and arrived in B.C. Dec. 2. "It's been about a year since I've been back, here. It's always nice to get home, to the rain. It's good to be back and be back here and give all these kids an opportunity."
Lawrie's dad Russ said both Brett and his sister Danielle - a Canadian Olympic softball pitcher who splits her time in Japan and Florida - are home for the holidays. The family patriarch said he is reveling the banter around the house and simple things like watching TV together.
"It's not very often that my wife and I get the kids home together," Russ said. "[Brett] is a home boy and to come down here and get an opportunity to do something in his own backyard, that's where it means the most to him. It's special when you can do something less than a mile from your house."
About the Jays Care Foundation
Established in 1992, Jays Care gives kids access to programs that promote regular physical activity, encourage the pursuit of higher education, and impart fundamental life skills.
The foundation makes possible the construction of dedicated, accessible, safe youth spaces for recreational programming.
In 2012, Jays Care contributed more than $1.9 million to initiatives and facilities across Canada and provided 23,000 young people access to programs and services through its Field of Dreams funding, Grand Slam Grants, Home Run Scholars program, Rookie League camps and the Jays Care Community Clubhouse.