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Blue Jays’ Bo Bichette makes hometown debut

The former Lakewood standout doubles and homers in his first two at-bats against the Rays.
Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette (11), a Lakewood High graduate, celebrates as he heads home after connecting for a home run against Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Charlie Morton (50) during third inning action at Tropicana Field Monday, Aug. 5, 2019 in St. Petersburg. DIRK SHADD   |   Times
Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette (11), a Lakewood High graduate, celebrates as he heads home after connecting for a home run against Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Charlie Morton (50) during third inning action at Tropicana Field Monday, Aug. 5, 2019 in St. Petersburg. DIRK SHADD | Times

ST. PETERSBURG — Bo Bichette made his hometown debut with the Blue Jays on Monday night, just eight days after being called up from Triple-A Buffalo. If there were any nerves, it certainly didn’t show.

Bichette, hitting leadoff, doubled to start the game and later scored. He added a home run in the third inning to account for both runs in Toronto’s 2-0 win. He now has 15 hits in eight games and has doubled in six straight games. The home run was his third since being called up.

The only hiccup was two errors at shortstop.

“I actually thought (the double) was going to get out,'' Bichette said. "I’m happy with the swings I took. (Charlie) Morton is a great pitcher. Honestly, before the game I was thinking to myself that I made it. I’m facing the guy. There’s not a whole lot of pitchers better than him. Obviously I had a good day and saw the ball well.''

That’s no surprise to the gathering of family, friends and former teammates who came to Tropicana Field to see Bichette in a big-league uniform. He’s been doing that ever since he joined the Lakewood baseball team as a sophomore.

“It’s hard to believe that just three years ago he was my teammate and now he’s in the big leagues," said Anthony Hudson, who was a freshman third and second baseman when Bichette was a senior shortstop. “But the talent he had in high school, there was no way he wasn’t going to be a big leaguer. If that wasn’t big-league talent, then I don’t know what is."

Jayce Ganchou, Lakewood High baseball coach, in the stands with his mother Caroline Ganchou as they attend the game to cheer on Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette. DIRK SHADD | Times

Entering Monday’s game, Bichette, 21, was hitting .406. That’s after missing nearly two months due to a broken hand when he was hit by a pitch.

He admitted that he was getting antsy not being called up. He not only wanted to join the big-league club, but he wanted to do it before the Blue Jays played the Rays.

“I was hoping that I would come up at this time, not only to be home but to also have another series with the family," Bichette said. “It should be pretty fun."

Bichette’s history in St. Petersburg began when his family moved to Tierra Verde prior to his sophomore year in high school when his brother, Dante Jr., was playing minor-league baseball with the Tampa Yankees. His father, Dante Bichette Sr., had a long MLB career, most notably with the Colorado Rockies.

Bo Bichette, who was home-schooled, wanted to play high school baseball when he wasn’t playing for his travel team. Lakewood was his zoned school, so he joined the team even though it was not known as a baseball powerhouse.

Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette turns back to second base after making the move toward third after he connects for a double as the leadoff hitter against Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Charlie Morton. DIRK SHADD | Times

As a senior, Bichette hit .569 with 13 home runs and had 30 walks in 96 at-bats.

“He didn’t like to hit leadoff, but one game I led him off and the team intentionally walked him," said Lakewood baseball coach Jayce Ganchou, who was seated in Section 127 on Monday. “One time, we were playing (Bradenton) Southeast and Bo came up with the bases loaded. They intentionally walked him. Coach told me, ‘Better one run than four.'"

Bichette never slowed down. He tore through the minor leagues and now joins two other players with major-league fathers. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. plays third base and Cavin Biggio, son of Craig Biggio, plays second base.

“Vladdy brings a lot of fun to the game," Bichette said. “Cavin is very disciplined, the mature one of the group. I’m kind of the fiery one."

Dante Bichette Sr. was at Monday’s game and will be at the two other games in the series. He said he was watching Bo’s Triple-A game on July 29 at Durham on a livestream when he was called up. Bo was taken out of the game in the fifth inning.

“I literally couldn’t speak," Dante Bichette said. “He called me five minutes later and I couldn’t put words together. I was that excited for him. I didn’t talk for like two hours. I wasn’t expecting that. I’m not usually at a loss for words, but that got me.

“It seems like yesterday we were doing this at a high school game. He’s worked very hard. He’s put in the time, I’ll give him that. But he’s just getting started. This is not an easy league to play in."

Dante Bichette talks with Tampa Bay Rays broadcaster Orestes Destrade during the Fox Sports pregame show. DIRK SHADD | Times

Except Bichette is making it look easy. His play is already impressing opponents.

"He’s a stud,'' Rays shortstop Willy Adames said.

Through all the hype so far, Bichette is trying not to let anything bother him.

“Everybody was telling me to enjoy it and soak it all in and I think I did a decent job of that," Bichette said. “But it went by so fast. I think I’ve adjusted. The team has been really good about brining me in."

One difference being a major leaguer is the demands off the field. There are the autographs, the interviews and various other requests. He found that out prior to Monday’s game.

“I’ve had a couple of requests for tickets," Bichette said. “But I don’t think people realize that I have to pay for them."

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