TORONTO — Buoyant and energetic as ever, the one-man party bus that is P.K. Subban came barreling into the Toronto Blue Jays clubhouse Saturday morning. The Montreal Canadiens defenceman wore a custom made No. 76 Blue Jays jersey with “Subbanator” across the back and made his way around the room with Russell Martin and Jose Bautista, accumulating baseball equipment along the way.
Quickly, his shorts were off, and Subban sat at Bautista’s locker pulling on a pair of baseball pants, lacing up some cleats, and breaking open a fresh pair of Martin’s batting gloves, as he prepared himself to take batting practice with the team he grew up cheering for.
“I’m from Toronto, I’ve lived here my whole life, but I’ve never had the chance to come down here and hit some balls and just hang out with the guys,” Subban said. “So, this was a really cool experience for me.”
“Hit some balls” is perhaps generous, as many of Subban’s batting practice swings resulted in foul balls that whizzed behind him. But he did manage to muscle one past the infield dirt and onto the shallow outfield turf beyond first base, at which point he flipped his bat and walked out of the cage with his arms in the air.
As fellow Canadian and Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders stepped in to take his cuts, Subban sheepishly ran back to the plate to retrieve his bat, apologizing for disrupting the batting practice flow.
“As you can see, I was a little rusty today,” Subban said. “I never played baseball growing up. But I love the game. It’s a fun sport to play. So, to be able to do this today, at the SkyDome, it’s just the pinnacle of being able to play baseball. I love the guys. The best thing about baseball is the guys. The clubhouse is awesome.”
Of course, even as he played Blue Jay for a day, Subban can never escape hockey in this country. Asked about his omission from Team Canada’s World Cup roster, which was announced Friday, Subban said he wasn’t miffed.
“I mean, everybody wants to make the team, right? And there’s a bunch of guys that I’m sure wanted to be on the team. But that’s the way it goes,” Subban said. “Listen, at the end of the day, we could take four or five teams to this thing. When I was speaking to [Team Canada GM] Doug Armstrong, my number one thing was I just want to see Canada win gold. So, I’ll be there cheering just like everybody else.”
Subban won the Norris Trophy in 2013 as the NHL’s best defenceman, and then went to Sochi as part of Canada’s entry into the 2014 Winter Olympics. He scored 51 points in 68 games for the Canadiens this season, which ranked ninth among all NHL defencemen.
But the 27-year-old said he wasn’t aggravated or caught off guard by Team Canada’s decision.
“No, I’m not surprised,” Subban said. “It’s a selection process. So, either you get selected or you don’t. All you can do is be a model citizen. I’m Canadian so I support my country and I support my team just like everybody else.”
Subban found himself swinging the bat at Rogers Centre Saturday morning after he attended Game 6 of the Toronto Raptors series with the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday night with Jose Bautista. The Blue Jays slugger suggested Subban stop by the ballpark the next morning to try his hand at a new sport. It didn’t take much convincing.
“I was like, ‘alright, let’s do this, man. I’m ready,’” Subban said. “I don’t get much time to do this stuff. I’d much rather be in the Stanley Cup Playoffs right now, but we’re not. So, why not come out and enjoy yourself?”