When Brian Dopirak was released in the spring of 2008, the former Cubs Minor League Player of the Year wasn't sure there would ever be games like this again.
"It was a major reality check for me," Dopirak said. "You don't get many second chances in life, and the Blue Jays gave me one."
Dopirak vindicated Toronto on Friday, collecting five extra-base hits and a team-record eight RBIs to lead the New Hampshire Fisher Cats to an 18-6 rout of the Connecticut Defenders.
"He's come into his own the last two years," Fisher Cats manager Gary Cathcart said. "He's completely retooled his offensive game and he's able to hit the ball anywhere he wants to on the field."
Of Dopirak's five hits, two were home runs, showcasing the 24-year-old's pure strength and plate discipline. He also had a triple, a pair of doubles and scored four runs.
The eight RBIs also were a career high, eclipsing the six runs he drove in for Class A Advanced Dunedin last July 21.
"He put on a performance you don't see very often, "Cathcart said. "It's kind of unusual [to be a single short of the cycle]. Usually, the triple is the hardest one to get. "
For Dopirak, it was only fitting to take the seemingly more difficult route.
"This next go-around that I have with [Toronto], I told myself, 'Leave it on the field every time you go out,'" he said. "A couple of my teammates kind of joked around about [hitting for the cycle] in the middle of the game. So it was around, I thought about it. But I really respect my opponent and try to play the game hard and play the game right."
It is the same blue-collar work ethic with which Dopirak approaches the game.
"He prepares as well as anybody," Cathcart said. "He works his tail off to get ready."
After a slow start and a 0-for-10 slump heading into Thursday night's game, Dopirak has seven hits and nine RBIs in his last 10 plate appearances. The reigning Eastern League Player of the Week credits the Fisher Cats staff for giving him the confidence to succeed.
"We will count on him all year in our lineup," Cathcart said of Dopirak's .333 average out of the cleanup slot. "I think he's just getting started, really. "
If Friday night is any indication, Dopirak's future with the Fisher Cats could be short-lived.
"I try not to think about [a promotion]," he said. "I go out onto the field and try to control what I can control, and that's playing hard.
"Every time I step on the field, whether it's raining, or I'm getting beat or having a bad day, I'm grateful to be wearing a Blue Jays uniform."
That's a statement everyone in the Toronto organization can agree with.