(Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium - Vancouver, B.C.) - If you wanted to know the basics about the life and times of former Vancouver Canadians outfielder Kevin Pillar, who now by the way, hits leadoff for the Toronto Blue Jays, you'd likely just hit up a website like baseball-reference.com or bluejays.com.
But, what many fans don't realize, beyond the fact that Pillar was taken with the 979th selection (32nd Round) of the 2011 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft is that his unlikely ascent to the bright lights of the Big Leagues was completely likely if you dig a little deeper into his past - and of course baseball's vast history.
Here are a handful of little known facts about Kevin Pillar and his journey through Vancouver and onto Toronto;
Just when the Blue Jays were thinking that Kevin could break with the big club, a sneeze nearly cost him the opportunity.
Pillar was fighting tooth and nail for a spot on the Blue Jays roster heading into the 2015 season after bouncing back and forth between the Major and Minor Leagues in both 2013 and 2014. His opportunity came when outfielder Michael Saunders tore a ligament in his knee, but around the same time, Pillar himself found a place in the trainer's room when a violent sneeze saw the 'tough as nails' athlete strain an oblique muscle. The Blue Jays would keep him off the field for a week at Spring Training before he returned and gained the everyday job of making those amazing highlight reel catches.
Note: The sneeze made big time headlines and even got a few lines from Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon.
Click HERE to see Jimmy Fallon calling out Kevin Pillar.
While playing in the Northwoods League with the Wisconsin Woodchucks, Pillar was given the moniker "Kevin Glove."
It's no secret that Kevin's glove could become gold one day, and even when he was playing in the Independent League circuit, the athletic outfielder knew that his saving runs was just as important as knocking them in.
Pillar was noted by both his college coach at Cal State Dominguez Hills and with the Wisconsin Woodchucks as one of the most hard working players either had ever seen during batting practice where Kevin would work on his routes to baseballs defensively and develop his prolific first step that has many at the Major League level saying that alone puts him among the best outfield defenders in the game.
Kevin never actually played a regular season game for the Vancouver Canadians
After the Vancouver Canadians got drubbed (8-3) in Game 1 of the 2011 Northwest League North Division Playoff against Eugene, Pillar joined the team as the best-of-three series shifted to Oregon.
Sliding into the two-slot in the batting order for Game 2, Pillar's impact was immediate as the former Bluefield Blue Jay went 2-for-5 with a double and a pair of RBI as well as a diving catch off the bat of Emeralds Jace Peterson that sent the message throughout the NWL that Vancouver had just found it's missing piece.
Pillar would again got 2-for-5 with a double and RBI in Game 3 sending Vancouver to the Championship against Tri-City. The C's could not be stopped with Pillar in center field as the former Cal State Dominguez Hills standout hit .385 (5-for-13) with a home run, three runs scored and defense that was too much for the Dust Devils to avoid. Pillar over his five games would hit .391.
Kevin's 1st career home run (8/24/13) was initially called a double, but after a video review in Houston, Pillar was rewarded with the round tripper.
Kevin might have one of the more bizarre claims to fame as the outfielder's first ever home run in the Major Leagues saw him take just under three minutes to round the bases. With a full count in the top of the 5th inning against Astros right-hander Brad Peacock, Pillar drilled a fastball toward the left field fence. It had enough loft, but in Houston's Minute Maid Park, there is a yellow line (much like Scotiabank Field) that the ball has to go over.
The second base umpire ran out toward left field and immediately called the ball a double as he saw it bounce back into play.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons rushed out to dispute the call which had the umpire crew chief and the second base umpire trot over to the video area off beyond the third base line. Tick tock, tick tock, as Pillar stood curiously at second base wondering if he would see the ruling stand or he would continue his journey around the bases. A few minutes later, the call was reversed and Pillar round third and scored, recording his first professional home run.
In a kind gesture, home plate umpire Bill Miller was standing at home plate with the baseball which he then gave to Kevin once he scored to commemorate the uniquely rewarding occasion.
Click HERE to see the controversial home run.