TORONTO — In Nate Pearson’s first visit to Toronto he got right down to the business of being a tourist, going to the CN Tower and dining with his family in the revolving restaurant at the top of the landmark.
He got to be on the field at Rogers Centre on Wednesday afternoon along with fellow Blue Jays prospect Logan Warmoth. Both signed with the club after being selected in the first round of Major League Baseball’s draft on June 12.
"It was a dream come true," said Pearson. "I’ve been chasing this dream since I was five years old. To have my family and friends around when it actually happened was pretty awesome."
Warmoth, a well-rounded shortstop, was just as enthusiastic about his first visit to Toronto.
"I love it," said Warmoth. "Unbelievable city. It’s just been great so far."
Sitting in the Blue Jays dugout, decked out in team gear after taking batting practice with the Major League club, the 21-year-old Warmoth couldn’t stop smiling.
"It’s an unbelievable feeling," said Warmoth. "It’s a dream come true, I just can’t thank this organization enough.
"I’m so lucky and blessed to be given this opportunity. I’m ready to turn the page to the next chapter of my life."
The Blue Jays, one of only three teams picking twice in the first round, selected Warmoth 22nd overall. A native of Orlando, Fla., Warmoth helped lead the No. 2 North Carolina Tar Heels to a 49-14 record this NCAA season, batting .336 with 10 home runs through 63 games.
Toronto then took the six-foot-six, 245-pound 20-year-old Pearson from the College of Central Florida six picks later — compensation from Cleveland after Edwin Encarnacion signed with the Indians as a free agent in the off-season.
Pearson went 5-2 with a 1.56 earned-run average through 13 starts for the Patriots, striking out 118 over 81 innings to earn the Rawlings JUCO Pitcher of the Year honours.
"Seemed like two great kids," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. "They’re excited, it’s a dream come true. So they’re here today, give them a little bit of a taste of it."
Gibbons believed that the pair of prospects would head on to the class-A Vancouver Canadians.
"That’s when the tough part starts, they’ll have to put in a lot of hard work," said Gibbons outside the Blue Jays dugout. "You hope they both make it here because we think very highly of them."
Also on Wednesday, Toronto signed Canadian outfielder Michael Saunders to a minor league contract and assigned him to Triple-A Buffalo.
Saunders won the Final Vote competition for an AL All-Star berth with Blue Jays last season but tailed off in the second half, hitting .178 with eight homers and 15 RBIs. He finished with career-bests of 24 homers and 32 doubles in 140 games.
Saunders, from Victoria, signed a one-year, $8 million deal with Philadelphia in January but was let go by the last-place Phillies after batting .205 with six homers and 20 RBIs in 61 games.
A nine-year veteran, Saunders broke in with Seattle in 2009 and was traded to Toronto before the 2015 season for current Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ. Saunders missed most of the 2015 season after he injured his left knee stepping on a sprinkler head in spring training.