8/22/2014 8:00 P.M. ET
Blue Jays open flagship store at Eaton Centre
By Jamie Ross / MLB.com
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays cut the ribbon on their flagship store at Toronto Eaton Centre on Friday, drawing hundreds of fans who lined the hallways of the city's biggest mall for a chance to see Jose Bautista and Drew Hutchison.
The store, the first of its kind for a Toronto pro sports team, will drive Blue Jays brand recognition and retail sales, giving fans a total team shopping experience, said Stephen Brooks, the organization's senior vice president of business operations.
"We've been bouncing this idea around for a couple of years, with the closure of the store we had in the Sears location in this mall," Brooks said. "That was an impetus for us to push this further, and things ramped up considerably over the last year."
Bautista and Hutchison were on hand for the ribbon cutting ceremony, and the players helped bag and hand out merchandise at the cash registers as fans lined up to make purchases. Some stood and waited for more than an hour just for the chance to see a pair of their beloved Blue Jays.
"I'm here to see Joey Bats," said Joselle Mendoza, who was waiting with her little sister, Joyze, and father, Jose. "I didn't like baseball until I went for the first time on Canada Day."
Mendoza is the type of fan the club hopes to attract with a greater presence in a high traffic shopping space like the Eaton Centre, giving casual baseball observers easier access to club merchandise and a Blue Jays experience.
"It's in a top shopping centre in a downtown area, and you couldn't ask for anything better spot," Bautista said. "Hopefully a lot of people can acquire some items that they want."
Brooks believes success at the new "prime" location could lead to even more retail opportunities for the Blue Jays away from their home base at Rogers Centre.
"We think this foray into a retail shop like this is perhaps the first step into some other locations," Brooks said. "... With the logo relaunch a couple of years ago, you see Blue Jays merchandize really take off. You see everyone wearing it and we think that's a positive, and this store is an attempt to build off that and hopefully grow the brand."
Top prospect Norris eyes potential callup
TORONTO -- Daniel Norris continued to rip through Triple-A competition on Thursday against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, further making his case for a Major League promotion in the near future. He worked five innings for Buffalo and allowed one run on one hit with nine strikeouts, fueling speculation that a callup is imminent.
Amid conflicting reports that the young left-hander had moved to the Bisons' bullpen, Norris is still slated to make his next scheduled start on Tuesday. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was mum on a potential callup for the 21-year-old Norris, who has experienced a meteoric rise through the club's Minor League ranks this season.
"You could see him. No guarantees, but you might," Gibbons said.
"They might throw him in the bullpen a bit. They're watching his innings a bit."
Norris' climb from Class A Advanced Dunedin to Buffalo has been surprisingly quick. The Blue Jays' No. 1 prospect made 13 starts with Dunedin, going 6-0 with a 1.22 ERA before his promotion to Double-A New Hampshire in mid June.
After eight starts with the Fisher Cats (3-1, 4.54 ERA), he was brought up to the Bisons. In three starts, Norris is 3-0 with a 1.08 ERA and 32 strikeouts over 16 2/3 innings.
If the Blue Jays do decide to send Norris to the Bisons' bullpen, he could follow a similar path taken by Aaron Sanchez, who made a pair of relief appearances prior to his big league callup in early August.
• Gibbons said injured third baseman Brett Lawrie is making progress in Arizona as he works his way back from a left oblique strain, but there's still no timetable for his return.
Jamie Ross is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.