Colton Laws had an earned run average of 2.25 over four innings with Vancouver in 2017.
2017 Vancouver Canadians pitcher Colton Laws is the latest guest to graciously preside over the latest episode of C’s Chat.
A native of Faith, North Carolina. Laws was taken by the Toronto Blue Jays in the seventh round of last year’s draft out of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. He transferred to UNC-Charlotte from East Carolina as a redshirt freshman in 2016 and posted a record of 4-3 with a 5.45 earned run average and one save.
The 6-foot-7 Laws had a breakout year in 2017 when he went 7-2 with a 1.87 ERA for the 49ers last season. He enjoyed a stretch of 29-2/3 scoreless innings and set a Conference-USA record by striking out 14 batters in a four-hit, complete game shutout against the University of Texas-San Antonio in the second round of the C-USA tournament. After earning conference tournament and first-team all-star honours, Laws was the first UNC-Charlotte 49er taken by the Blue Jays since outfielder and London, Ontario native Brad McElroy was drafted in the 25th round in the 2008 draft.
Laws says he and his family decided he would have not official representation when his name was called at the draft.
“Out of college, I actually chose not to go with an agent. Just kind of a family decision. We talked about it and actually chose not to go with an agent so I didn’t have that insight of what was going on. Scouts would call and talk directly to me instead of my agent. I kind of like it though because it was more a personal relationship than having to go through an agent at that time.
It was a great experience. I wasn’t sure exactly of what round I was going in. I kept hearing top eight. The Blue Jays called me in the seventh round and told me for sure I would be the pick. It was a great feeling. It was good to see my family enjoyed it as much as I did. It was awesome. It was an awesome experience.”
Laws said he wasn’t sure he was going to wind up with the Blue Jays.
“There were other teams that were calling me while it was going on. The Brewers were strongly interested, the White Sox and the Yankees. Several teams were calling me throughout saying, ‘Look, this is what is going to happen or could happen.’ I think the Brewers were actually negotiating on taking me in the sixth (round) and they took somebody maybe slightly under slot or something like that. There was a little break between the sixth and the seventh round, like a two-minute break in the draft or at least was this past year.
My area scout Chris Kline called me from the Blue Jays and said, ‘You know. Look this is a little break so we’re definitely going to take you when our pick comes in the seventh round if you’re still available’. So I said, ‘That sounds good to me so let’s see what happens.’ Sure enough, the time came so it was good. There were other teams interested and everything but I’m happy with the way it turned out.”
Colton Laws (far right) is joined by 2017 draft mates Nate Pearson and Zach Logue outside the third base dugout at Nat Bailey Stadium. Dalton Rodriguez is seated next to Pearson at the far left.
Laws made his first professional stop in Bluefield and opened with a scoreless inning in his first start against the Burlington Royals June 26. That was the start of a 7-1/3 scoreless inning streak that included his first professional victory as he tossed two shutout innings against the Bristol Pirates July 2. In 11 innings, Laws permitted just one run with 11 strikeouts and one walk to go along with a WHIP of 0.91 in Bluefield.
Laws felt his time in the Appalachian League was well spent.
“Bluefield was good. You know, it’s not the big leagues by any means. It’s a small mountain town but it was a good experience. You have to make the best of it and it was the first taste of pro ball so you kind of got that first taste of everybody competing for the same idea, the same spot.
In college, it’s a little more team-oriented in college I’d say but Bluefield was a good experience to realize what professional baseball was going to be like and how the environment was around it. It was good. They had me on one or two innings every five day because I had already thrown 100 innings in college at the beginning of summer and the end of the college season. It was just to keep my arm in shape and keep everything going. It was good. There wasn’t much going on (in Bluefield) but I didn’t mind it at all. It was a good little experience for me.”
Colton Laws started two games in a span of three days upon arriving in Vancouver.
Heading to Vancouver
Laws received his first promotion when he was sent up to Vancouver to join the Canadians August 2.
“We actually had a team meeting. Anytime somebody got called up, our manager Dennis (Dennis Holmberg) has like a little team meeting. I realized I was the person getting called up the next day. That’s what it was, a little team meeting and he told me I was going up the very next day.
(It was) a quick turnaround being on the East Coast and going up to the Northwest. It was good. I was excited to go because I had heard a lot of good things about Vancouver. I was excited to get there.”
“That was my first trip out of the United States. I’m just a small town boy from North Carolina. I didn’t even have a passport at the time the draft came so whenever I got drafted, the first thing I had to do was get a passport because I knew Vancouver was out of the United States so that’s what (the Blue Jays) told me to do. Yeah, that was my first time going out of the United States, first time in Canada and first time in Vancouver.”
Laws saw his first action in a C’s uniform in Hillsboro August 3 and threw a scoreless frame in a one-inning start that included one strikeout. He says beating the heat as well as the Hops that evening.
“The biggest thing I remember is that it was hotter than Hades in Hillsboro. I believe like the temperature was 108 and it felt like 116 and it was on that turf field of the Hillsboro Hops. That turf field, it was hotter than crap.
It was fun too. It was like the next step up. Anytime you make your first appearance, you want to make a good impression to the managers and the players and everybody on the team. I was just trying to do my job. I knew I was only going one inning that first outing and then two days later, I knew I would have to start again and got two innings there. I was just trying to do my job, not overpower everything, just locate the ball and get guys out.”
Laws would start again against the Hops August 6 and gave up two runs (one earned) over two innings but he did record three strikeouts. He would not pitch again until September 3 when he put up a scoreless frame in Tri-City. That was because his shoulder was sore.
“I had a little shoulder inflammation-type deal. It wasn’t nothing bad. It was just the fact that I had thrown a lot of innings in college ball. It was just a little shoulder inflammation and there was no need to rush it. I had already thrown a hundred-some innings when the Blue Jays got me in the organization so there was no reason to push anything. Just come back this year and have a strong, good year this year was the biggest thing.”
Unfortunately for Laws, he never got to set foot on the mound at Nat Bailey Stadium.
“Yeah, I was staying with my host family and they were like, they were joking with me. They were like, ‘We don’t know if you’re the bat boy or if you’re actually on the team. We haven’t seen you pitch yet.’ I wish I would’ve got to pitch in the stadium. It was a great atmosphere. A lot of teams in that league had a good atmosphere. I really wished I could have pitched in Vancouver but I guess it is what it is. It didn’t work out.”
Colton Laws walked just one hitter in his first 15 pro innings in 2017.
2017 Northwest League Final
The one positive for Laws was being able to celebrate a Northwest League title in Vancouver. He felt the team would not be denied after gaining a split of the first two games on the road in Eugene.
“We lost that second one but you could just tell with the team and what the guys were thinking. None of us thought that they were going to beat us anymore. The team had a positive attitude. That’s one thing I kind of picked up on that. In pro ball, if you have a bad day or something as a team, you don’t hang your head because you’re about to play the next game the very next day. That’s something I kind of picked up on with that series. I knew that even though we lost that game, there was still no way that we were going to let them come back to Vancouver and beat us two more times.
I remember when Will Ouellette struck out that last guy. Everybody went crazy. We stormed the field. It was an awesome feeling, that first championship in pro ball. “
Laws was also grateful to receive some championship jewelry in spring training.
“It was awesome. That was actually my first ring. It was good to get a first ring and not only being in pro ball and everything but being out of the country was another plus. First time being out of the country and first time winning a championship. There was several good things that came along with that. A lot of good memories from that team and that championship series.”
2017 draftees mates Colton Laws and Donnie Sellers (left) look on during batting practice at Nat Bailey Stadium.
Laws on Pitching
Laws says he has four different pitches in his arsenal.
“Fastball, changeup, slider and two seams. Just working on making my fastball run a little bit and trying to stay consistent with throwing my changeup and my slider for a strike. I’ve always been a strike thrower. I’m not somebody who walks many people. Other teams realize that too. Something I have to battle myself is that even though I am a strike thrower and that’s a plus, other teams realize that too so they are going to go up there aggressive and get ready to hit. You have to kind of alter what they’re thinking. Kind of think what they’re thinking because they know the kind of pitcher you are. That’s kind of something I’m working with right now. I came up to Lansing and had two rough outings but I’ve turned things around and kind of stay consistent now.”
Laws also feels he is in a good place mechanics-wise with his 6-foot-7 frame.
“I feel like they’re good. I feel like I came into spring training and altered just a couple of really small things with Jeff (Jeff Ware), our pitching coordinator and Cy (Jim Czajkowski), our pitching coach in Vancouver. Altered a couple of real small things. I give them credit for helping me out and help me adjust a couple of small things and getting me to where I am today. I feel my mechanics are pretty good right now. There’s always something small that you can adjust. You’re never perfect. At least I think not. There’s always something you can work on but I feel like they’re okay right now.”
Law also feels like he is starting to settle in with his first exposure of full-season baseball.
“It’s good. Being with a long-season team, it’s a lot of games but it’s fun. You’re grinding day in and day out. It’s a grind, It’s ups and downs with everything. The competition’s good. I like to compete so that’s part of it. It’s good. I feel like I’m making a pretty good transition. Watching the games is just something I kind of adjusted to. Watching how other pitchers pitch guys and think if that was the same way that I would pitch them. Stuff like that. I’m learning to watch the games and learn from others mistakes.”
One pitcher Laws looks up is New York Mets star and 2011 Vancouver Canadian Noah Syndergaard.
“I really love Noah Syndergaard’s mentality as a pitcher. We don’t really have the exact same body type. He’s more of a bigger, buff guy. He’s pretty tall like myself but he’s more buffer than I am I’d say. I really like his mentality as a pitcher. I like how he approaches guys and I like how he attacks him. If they’re going to get a hit, they’re going to earn it. That’s the thing I like about Noah Syndergaard. He’s a guy who’s fearless and I like to try to keep that mindset as I move up.
(In the 2015 World Series), the first pitch of the game he threw it high and inside (to Kansas City’s Alcides Escobar). Just kind of showed that grit that he really had. I really liked that about him. That’s a guy who I’ve kind of admired and a guy that I would shoot to be like.”
Baseball vs. Basketball
Laws was the first baseball player to be drafted out of Carson High School in China Grove, North Carolina. That’s where he also starred in basketball as he finished third on Carson’s all-time scoring list. Laws says it was an easy and a tough decision to leave the hardwood for the mound.
“It was and it wasn’t, I’d say. Baseball just kind of came naturally to me. That’s what it came down to honestly. In high school I was playing showcase ball. Baseball nowadays in high school and stuff has just become a year-round sport. I was playing basketball one-fourth of the year and doing baseball for three-fourths of the year.
I really do miss basketball to be honest with you. My coach in high school was always trying to get me out for a couple of D-1 (Division 1 offers). My coach was always trying to get me to go play basketball somewhere and do something like that. I felt like I’d love to play both but honestly, if I had to choose, I would choose baseball. I’d be lying if I said I don’t miss (basketball) but I’m focusing on baseball right now. It’s led me a good ways so I’m trying to just be focused on that.”
“I’m a LeBron fan but I like to go to the Charlotte Hornets games if I ever have time or anything like that. I’m a big LeBron fan, kind of a bandwagon thing I guess but I like LeBron, he can do it all. It’s kind of hard not to like him. “
The Name Game
The Blue Jays decided to bring in one more Law to the nest in 2017 in the form of righthander Connor Law, a free-agent signing out of Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri. Colton Laws says the two have been confused for each other on quite a few occasions.
“It’s funny you mention that because when I came up to Lansing, the name on my meal money was Connor Laws. I was like, ‘You don’t even have the first or the (last name right)’. At least keep Connor Law or Colton Laws on it but they messed up it and put ‘Connor Laws’.
Back when I was in Florida in spring training, people would call us both (Connor Law and Colton Laws). It was kind of confusing at times but yeah, every now and then somebody would mix our names up.”
My thanks again to Colton Laws for taking part in the latest edition of C’s Chat and to Lansing Lugnuts broadcaster Dante De Caria (@Diamond_Dante) for coordinating this interview.
For more on Colton Laws, check out this video.