Kevin Pillar isn’t the fastest centre fielder in the world. What he lacks in speed, he makes up for with reckless abandon. He doesn’t glide over the turf and make catches look effortless like Devon White or Vernon Wells did.
Pillar put himself on the map by crashing into walls and leaving his feet when most outfielders dared not to. Off his feet, he was one of the most entertaining centre fielders to watch in baseball.
He wasn’t awarded a Gold Glove, although he did place runner-up a few times. The man has a great deal of confidence in his defensive ability, hence the “Auto-catch” that’s embroidered on the side of his glove.
Whether he was careening into the outfield wall like a wrecking ball or gliding through the air like a 210-pound dove, when he committed to making a catch, he went all-out for it. That often led to memorable moments like these; Pillar’s most memorable plays as a Blue Jay.
“The catch” puts Pillar on the map
This is the play that eventually made Pillar a household name. Even he described it as “this is how I knew I arrived”. The degree of difficulty on this one is through the roof. With the Blue Jays leading by eight runs in this game, he could afford to try to make a play like this.
Very few players have scaled the 10-foot wall at Rogers Centre and brought back a home run. (To the best of my knowledge, Rajai Davis is the other one). The funny thing is this wasn’t the only case of home run larceny by Pillar.
Pillar doubles up Davis
For whatever reason, April of 2015 belonged to Pillar. He made three viral-worthy catches in less than a month. Plays like these surely solidified the Blue Jays’ desire to keep Pillar in the outfield as often as possible.
Hovering over the turf
Again, the third noteworthy catch by Pillar during the first month of the regular season. All of these plays were made in left field because, at the time, Dalton Pompey was playing centre field. Things changed in a hurry as Pillar scurried over to centre shortly afterwards and never looked back.
It’s not often that you see an outfielder completely parallel to the ground as they literally lay out for a catch and soar through the air. This was one of the most impressive grabs of Pillar’s career. This play was so good that even Mark Buehrle was beaming from ear to ear.
Pillar touches down on the warning track
If you need evidence of Pillar’s football experience as a kid, look no further than this catch. He looks exactly like a wide receiver landing in the end zone for a touchdown. He gets bonus points for bouncing back up off the turf like a trampoline.
Pillar goes parallel again
Logic would dictate that most grown adults would balk at sprinting and diving on concrete, cushioned by only a few inches of artificial turf. For most nights, it was no problem for Pillar, illustrated perfectly by the play above.
Pillar preserves the lead in the Wild Card game
Given the gravity of the situation – a winner-take-all Wild Card game – the margin for error on outfield defense is next to nill. Pillar made this play look effortless and had the wherewithal to get the ball back to the infield in a hurry.
Superman scales the ivy
You don’t see too many outfielders (if any) leap into the ivy surrounding the outfield walls at Wrigley Field. At least there’s a little bit of padding on the Rogers Centre outfield wall, but there’s pure brick beyond the ivy at Wrigley.
Pillar could not have cared less about what kind of shrubbery was there to save him as he scaled the wall to haul in this fly ball from Kris Bryant. I’ll always remember this game as the one when the Blue Jays’ 2017 season officially went down the toilet, but up until this catch, they still had a chance.
The Canada Day larceny
For my money, this is the best catch of Pillar’s career. By now, he already had that home run-robbing catch in his pocket from the 2015 season. Last year, he brought out the long-awaited sequel to that play. The degree of difficulty seems a little higher on the other wall-leaping catch, but at this point in his career, it was just automatic for Pillar.
I guess that’s why they call him “Auto-catch”.