They started lining up at 7:30 Monday morning just for the opportunity to get their picture taken with Brett Lawrie.
By the time the Toronto Blue Jays' third baseman strode into the Victoria's Secret new PINK boutique at Eaton Centre shortly after 11 a.m., the lineup was close to 200 deep with excited, primarily young, female fans.
First in line was Pearl Chung, 21, of Oakville, Ont. Asked why she was here, she rolled her eyes. The answer was obvious.
"Because we really want to meet Brett Lawrie," Chung said, although she admitted her favourite Blue Jay was catcher J.P. Arencibia.
Lawrie is a rising, Canadian-born star from Langley, B.C., whose all-out style of play, not to mention a rippling physique festooned with tattoos, has quickly won him a legion of young fans.
Most professional athletes view these public events with skepticism. They are obliged to attend at the behest of their teams, who see value in getting their players out into the community.
Lawrie, 22, didn't seem to mind. After all, how often does one get to rub shoulders with a model from a company whose success relies heavily on the sale of skimpy women's undergarments?
"I kind of threw my hands up when this came along," Lawrie said. "It's good just to kind of be here, see the fans and launch a new line of stuff."
The appearance was to help launch PINK's co-branded line of baseball-themed clothing that has been expanded this year to include the Blue Jays. The lineup includes zip-up hoodies, V-neck Tees, yoga and sweat pants, and sports bras.
Also available are panties emblazoned with saucy messages such as "Take Me Home" and "Play Ball." You couldn't miss the garments, right behind the "Cheekster Panties" display.
"The product line PINK sells is targeting toward the collegiate girl," Sara Gaul, of PINK Marketing, said. "We're more of a collegiate lifestyle store."
PINK's partnership with Major League Baseball began in 2010 with a select number of teams. This year, with the addition of the Blue Jays and six other teams – the Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Miami Marlins, Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals – all 30 teams are now part of the program.
"It brings attention to the Blue Jays, obviously to the female demographic," Stephen Brooks, the Blue Jays' senior vice-president of business operations, said. "It seems Major League Baseball is reaching out to that. In a roundabout way it probably draws attention from the male demographic, actually. I guess you could say there's a little bit in this for everybody."
When Lawrie arrived at the store, he was presented with a sequined bat from Elsa Hosk, the rail-thin PINK model who joined the baseball player at the promotion. Lawrie took a few practice cuts and promised to bring it to the Blue Jays' clubhouse Monday night, believing it might bring the team good luck in their outing against Yu Darvish and the Texas Rangers.
The pair then interviewed each other, Hosk's questions all with a fashion bent, Lawrie's dealing with baseball.
One question that seemed to stump Lawrie: "What's a teddy?"
He was also asked to explain the difference between boxers and briefs, a topic he was more comfortable with.
"I'm a briefs guy," he said. "No boxers, no support."
"This is good," Lawrie said later in an interview. "This is a good chance to promote Major League Baseball. They're with 30 clubs now and supporting some nice gear, I must say so myself."