Davis Schneider turned the Vancouver Canadians’ dugout in Hillsboro, Ore., into a sports bar one afternoon last week.
A handful of C’s players gathered around a phone they had set up there last Friday afternoon, taking a break from bating practice prior to their match-up with the Hillsboro Hops to watch Schneider — who had three pitstops in Vancouver as part of grinding his way through the minors — make his big-league debut with the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park in Boston.
Schneider had them cheering early on thanks to homering in the second inning over the Green Monster in his first-ever major league at-bat. He was hitting .409, with two homers and five runs batted in, through six games with Toronto going into this weekend, an improbable start for a guy who was picked by the Blue Jays in the 28th round, No. 849 overall, in the 2017 amateur draft out of a Eastern High School in Voorhees, N.J.
“He hit it and I was kind of in disbelief, because it was his first at-bat,” Vancouver outfielder Garrett Spain, who played with Schneider last year with the C’s, recalled prior to a Vancouver game at Nat Bailey Stadium earlier this week. “Seeing the replays and the smile as he was going around third base was awesome.
“This gives guys who aren’t at the top of the pile to start off with some hope. He’s a guy who worked his butt off and made it up there and now everything he’s done is finally paying off. He never gave up. You look at him succeeding and you think that could be one of us one day, too.”
Schneider played his first 50 games last season with Vancouver, getting promoted from the high-A Northwest League team to the double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats on June 25. He played 113 games with Vancouver over three seasons.
Schneider hit .235 through 94 games in his first two years of rookie ball in the Toronto system. The Blue Jays saw something they liked and kept him around, and they hung onto him, too, when the minors shrunk during the COVID pandemic in 2020 as part of Major League Baseball opting for a revamp. Forty-three farm teams lost their affiliation status in a bid to both streamline development and cut costs, and that had over 1,000 players looking for jobs elsewhere.
Schneider started to find his find his form last year, when he hit .253, with 16 homers and 56 RBI, in 113 games split between high-A Vancouver, double-A New Hampshire and the triple-A Buffalo Bisons. He’s hit .275, with 21 homers and 64 RBI, through 87 games with Buffalo this season.
The 5-foot-9, 190-pound Schneider has shown versatility through his time in the minors, playing all four infield spots and both corner outfield posts.
Vancouver outfielder Dasan Brown was in the batting cage, preparing to face Hillsboro when Schneider was hitting that first home run. C’s manager Brent Lavallee went around telling his players who had missed it what had happened for Schneider, and Brown says that “everyone was happy for him. … It was pure joy.”
“Obviously, it’s not easy to get to that point, and especially when you’ve had to overcome what he’s had to overcome to get there,” said Brown. “He made the most of every opportunity he was given.”
Spain added: “He worked all the way from the bottom up, and even when they had all the extra minor league teams. He started from Square One.”
Meanwhile, the C’s are in the midst of a series at the Nat against the Tri-City Dust Devils that wraps Sunday afternoon. Vancouver has already clinched a spot in the best-of-five championship series thanks to winning the first-half pennant and they carried a five-game lead atop the second-half standings into Friday action, via their 27-12 mark.
Their 65-39 combined record to start Friday was the best amongst the 30 high-A teams across the three separate leagues, leaving them just in front of the 64-41 Cedar Rapids Kernels (Minnesota Twins) and the 64-40 Great Lakes Loons (Los Angeles Dodgers), both of the Midwest League.
Vancouver has two more series at the Nat left in the regular season, hosting the Spokane Indians Aug. 22-27 and then Hillsboro Aug. 29-Sept. 3. They finish league play on the road, visiting Tri-City Sept. 5-10. Tickets are on sale for Game 3-5 of the playoffs.
“We clinched in May and I feel we’ve gotten better since we’ve clinched,” Brown said. “I think it’s not the individual. It’s the team. Guys are getting called up and the guys that are coming up to replace them see the culture here and they pick up where the guys before them finished off.
“We find ways to win. It’s the next guy up mentality. It’s fun to play on a team like this.”
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