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Kevin Kiermaier of the Toronto Blue Jays runs to the dugout during a game against the Detroit Tigers at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, on April 11.VAUGHN RIDLEY/Getty Images

On Friday, Toronto Blue Jays centre fielder Kevin Kiermaier did something he’s never done in his 11-year major-league career: He rode his bike to the ballpark.

It’s an electric bike, so he cruised part of the way and didn’t burn all his energy on the seven-kilometre ride. He wore a helmet, too.

Despite spending just a few months in a Blue Jays’ jersey – and just a few weeks as part of the team in the regular season – Kiermaier feels at home in Toronto. He previously spent a decade with the division rival Tampa Bay Rays, but early on in his tenure with the Blue Jays, fans have embraced him with open arms.

It was a full-circle moment at the Rogers Centre on Friday, when the Rays came to town to open a three-game set. Tampa Bay entered the series riding a 13-game winning streak, tied for the longest to open a season in baseball’s modern era.

Kiermaier is all business, though. He exchanged hugs and handshakes during batting practice but said it would be back to baseball at game time.

As for ending Tampa Bay’s streak?

“I would love to,” Kiermaier said. “We’re going to – do everything in our power to keep that … tie with all those 13-0 teams out there.”

He said he wasn’t surprised by the start the Rays have had. He praised their pitching, offence and defence while explaining that this series will be a test for the Blue Jays.

“When you’ve got a team as hot as they are, you want to match that level of intensity and get the better hand and just keep raising that confidence in your group,” Kiermaier said.

With 10 games under his belt entering Friday, Kiermaier was hitting .351 with six runs driven in. He also had a home run in Toronto’s home opener, and a catch that christened the new short outfield wall in dead centre field.

The Blue Jays have been familiar with Kiermaier for years. Before he signed a one-year, US$9-million contract with the club in December, he had played 117 games against Toronto, the most of any team.

In 2021, tensions between Kiermaier and the Blue Jays reached a high point. In September of that season, while the Blue Jays were in Tampa Bay, Kiermaier slid into home and knocked a scouting card out of the pocket of Toronto catcher Alejandro Kirk. Kiermaier took the card.

Two days later, Toronto pitcher Ryan Borucki hit Kiermaier with a pitch. Borucki was ejected and served a two-game suspension, while then-manager Charlie Montoyo served a one-game suspension.

Kiermaier said he was surprised when the Blue Jays were the first team to contact him this offseason.

“I was just like, ‘Oh, did you guys not remember our little incident that happened a couple years ago?’” Kiermaier said. “[Manager] John Schneider cracked a joke about that right away. [He] was just like, ‘Hey man, we want you here. We love what you do. We’d love for you to be a part of all this.’”

For Schneider’s part, he said he knew how vocal and energetic Kiermaier was from watching him in Tampa Bay.

“He comes to the ballpark like a 17-year-old kid every day,” Schneider said. “He’s happy, he’s ready to roll. He’s just a gamer. I think it rubs off on guys, too.”

Outfielder Jordan Luplow, who joined the Blue Jays on April 7 after being claimed off waivers from the Atlanta Braves, played alongside Kiermaier in 2021 for 25 games with the Rays. Luplow said Kiermaier was “very welcoming.”

He said he learned about professionalism from Kiermaier, watching him examine the outfield fences before games to see how the field plays and take hard routes to track down fly balls.

Kiermaier is one of the guys on the team who helps the players have fun – but he’s not the only one, Luplow said.

“It’s a collective effort. It’s tough to bring that same hard energy every single day for 162 games,” he said. “There’s multiple guys who can spearhead it in this clubhouse, which is good to have. That way, it’s constantly rotating and constantly new guys are firing stuff up and bringing everyone together.”

While Rays manager Kevin Cash has fond memories of Kiermaier with the Rays, especially because they both came to the Rays around the same time, his mind was still on winning.

“If he wants to take the next three days off, that’s fine with me,” Cash said.

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