TORONTO - Every time fans with pasted-on moustaches are shown on the Rogers Centre Jumbotron, all the Toronto Blue Jays start elbowing Davis Schneider, telling him to look.
The disguises are a loving tribute to the 24-year-old Schneider, who has rocked the distinctive facial hair since the film “Top Gun: Maverick” came out in May 2022. But when Schneider debuted for Toronto with a splash on Aug. 4, hitting a home run in his first-ever Major League at bat, Blue Jays fans started wearing their own moustaches in his honour.
That hirsute homage has not escaped the notice of Schneider's teammates.
“They don't chirp me too much, but they kind of make fun of me a little bit with just how many people are wearing moustache and everything,” said Schneider after batting practice on Saturday. “Every time I go out to the field to stretch before the game George Springer and Daulton Varsho are already out here and when I walk out and there's fans clapping, wearing fake moustaches, I just look at Springer, shaking my head, and he's cracking up about it.”
The utility man was solid for the triple-A Buffalo Bisons this season, hitting .275 with 31 home runs and 64 runs batted in. But since being called up to the major-league club in Toronto, he's come into his own at the plate.
Schneider hit .426 through 14 games in August, racking up six homers and 14 RBIs with a .526 on-base percentage. He became the first player in MLB history with nine hits and two homers in his first three games. Coaker Triplett is the only other major-leaguer with nine hits in his first three games, accomplishing the feat for the Chicago Cubs in April 1938.
That hot start would be impossible to maintain, but Schneider is still hitting .297 for the Blue Jays with a total of eight homers, 20 RBIs and an impressive .423 OBP.
Despite the gentle ribbing he sometimes gets from his teammates, Schneider welcomes all the attention he's getting from the fans..
“I think it's great they're supporting me,” he said at the steps of Toronto's dugout. “If I was hitting .100 they wouldn't be doing it but I'm glad they're getting behind me with it.
“It makes me play a little bit more relaxed just because you're seeing all these fans, cheering my name and everything like that, it's really cool to see when they're on the Jumbotron.”
His success at the plate has had an immediate impact on the Blue Jays as they fight for a post-season spot.
Schneider's on-base percentage leads the team and his 2.0 Wins Above Replacement, a stat that measures a player's value by deciphering how many more wins he's worth than a replacement-level player at the same position, is the fifth highest among Toronto's batters.
He said he's excited to try to make the playoffs for the first time in his professional career.
“I've never been in the playoffs in the minor leagues,” said Schneider, noting that the Bisons could still potentially make the triple-A playoffs. “Every game is important down there, but here it's different. Every game matters. Every pitch matters.”
Although he's impressed with Davis Schneider's hot start, Blue Jays manager John Schneider - no relation - said that the young player is still learning.
“I always say development just continues in the big leagues, no matter if it's Davis Schneider or George Springer,” said John Schneider. “You're always evolving and the guys that stick around are the ones that constantly evolve and adjust.
“So, things that he was working on to get better at (in Buffalo) he's doing that here too. That's all you can really ask for.”
Davis Schneider said that the biggest lesson for him has been watching how thoroughly Toronto's defensive specialists like Platinum Glove winners Matt Chapman and Kevin Kiermaier prepare for each game.
“Everyone focuses on defence, but these guys are just different the way they go about things and their knowledge to what they're trying to do is just remarkable,” he said. “You can't really teach what they do because their talent level is just insane but, obviously, you can learn from how they prepare and how they go about their business.
“There's only one Kevin Kiermaier, only one Matt Chapman, but you can still learn a lot from them.”
Toronto held the second American League wild-card spot entering play on Monday, half a game up on the Texas Rangers and 1 1/2 ahead of the Seattle Mariners.
Texas hosted the Boston Red Sox on Monday and Seattle visited the Oakland Athletics.
The Blue Jays had Monday off before travelling to the Bronx to face the New York Yankees in a three-game series. They follow that up with a three-game set in Tampa Bay starting Friday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 18, 2023.