Dalton Pompey was like a lot of Blue Jays fans in the years following Toronto’s back-to-back World Series victories.
He was frustrated.
"Watching many teams come and go, always kind of like a .500 team, middle of the pack … everybody was always optimistic every year," Pompey said recently. "I always wanted a winning team in Toronto."
Born shortly after the Blue Jays’ first title in 1992, the native of nearby Mississauga, Ont., has no recollection of the club’s glory years.
But the 23-year-old outfielder was part of some new memories last season as Toronto returned to the playoffs for the first time in more than two decades, beating Texas in the American League Division Series before falling to Kansas City in the AL Championship Series.
"(I) always heard about 1992 and 1993," said Pompey. "Me being born in 1992, people always said ‘Oh maybe you’ll be the good luck charm."’
For all the warm feeling October brought, 2015 wasn’t a smooth ride for Pompey, who struggled after winning the job as the Blue Jays’ centre-fielder in spring training. He was demoted to triple-A in early May, worked on his game and got recalled in September, making a mark mainly with his blazing speed as a pinch runner late in games.
"It was pretty exhilarating for me," said Pompey, a 16th-round pick back in 2010. "I got the opportunity to be a part of that. Not only be there, but be on the team and contribute. I always think back and think about how lucky I was."
Now a year older and wiser, Pompey wants to grasp another opportunity with spring training just a few weeks away. The Blue Jays traded starting left-fielder Ben Revere to Washington last month, leaving that spot open for either Pompey or the oft-injured Michael Saunders.
"Dalton’s probably in one of the most exciting points of his life right now. There is so much ahead of him," said Toronto general manager Ross Atkins. "There’s several aspects of development and for every player it’s a little bit different.
"Dalton will tell us (with his play) when he belongs and when he’s ready."
In attendance for an event in Vancouver last week hosted by the single-A Canadians, Pompey said he has a different mindset heading into 2016 following a tough first stint as an everyday major league player.
"Last year I went into spring training and my whole focus was to make the team," said Pompey, a career .226 hitter in 133 at bats. "Once I made the team I didn’t really set any new goals for myself. In a way I felt like I was almost content with where I was."
Tim Raines, who stole more than 800 bases during his 23 years in the majors, said he sees some similarities between himself and Pompey, especially in terms of learning how to be a professional.
"When you’re young you don’t really know what you’re getting yourself into until you get into it," said Raines, Toronto’s roving outfield and baserunning co-ordinator. "It took me a couple years to find myself. I think he’s at that point now where he realizes what he needs to do."
As a Blue Jays fan turned player, Pompey has a unique perspective with regards to what last season’s run to the playoffs meant after a 21-year absence, and he wants to make sure he plays an even bigger role this time around.
"Just the whole ride itself, we ended up losing in the ALCS," said Pompey. "But for the city of Toronto, for fans across the country, it was one of the best things they’ve had in a long time.
"It’s within the realm of possibility to repeat what we did last year and eventually make it farther."