TORONTO (AP) – There’s a sign on the Ladner Trunk Road outside Ladner, British Columbia, the hometown of Seattle Mariners pitcher James Paxton, welcoming visitors to the coastal community south of Vancouver.
The sign’s main feature is a heron, and locals occasionally dress the bird up for big events, such as Canada Day or a Canucks playoff game.
Late Tuesday night, the heron was clad in a Seattle Mariners jersey with Paxton’s name and number 65 on the back, honoring the lefty’s no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays. A Canadian flag was stuck in the bird’s mouth, and hand-lettered signs were taped up reading “Congrats James” and “Big Maple with a no-hitter,” a reference to Paxton’s nickname, and the large maple leaf tattoo on his right forearm.
“Some friends did it last night and they sent me a picture of it,” Paxton said Wednesday. “That was really cool to see. The support I have back home is really special. It’s just so great of them to think to do something like that.”
Paxton became the second Canadian to throw a no-hitter, and the first to do it north of the border, with Tuesday’s 5-0 win over the Blue Jays. That the game was in Canada meant it aired on television in his hometown, which meant a lot to the six-year veteran.
“It was definitely special to do in Canada,” Paxton said. “Having talked to all the people I’ve talked to since the game, just the ability they had to watch the game because it was in Canada, was really special.
“Everyone was watching,” he added. “I got all kinds of text messages and videos of people watching the last out and stuff. It was pretty amazing.”
Paxton has been doing a lot of talking since his big game, be it fielding interviews or the three hours he spent on the phone after Tuesday’s game.
“I think my voice is starting to go,” he said. “It’s just been a whirlwind.”
Paxton’s gem also gave Mariners manager Scott Servais plenty to talk about Wednesday at his previously scheduled appearance at a luncheon for the Jays Care Foundation, the Blue Jays’ registered charity.
“Day after a no-hitter, pretty good day to do it,” Servais said. “We had fun sharing a few stories with that group from last night’s game.”
The most popular story, Servais said, was about Mariners arranging to have ‘O Canada,’ the country’s national anthem, play over the clubhouse sound system when Paxton walked in following the game.
“The whole team was waiting for Pax to come in off the field after doing all the interviews and what-not,” Servais said. “Everybody has got their champagne, ready to dump the champagne on his head and do that stuff. As he walks in, ‘O Canada’ was playing, which I thought was pretty cool. The guys were fired up about it. Pax thought it was great.”
Paxton joined Dick Fowler of the 1945 Philadelphia Athletics as the only Canadians to throw a no-hitter. It was the seventh no-hitter thrown outside the United States, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Seattle’s defense turned in some sparkling plays to preserve Paxton’s no-hitter. Perhaps the best was third baseman Kyle Seager’s full-length diving stop on speedy Kevin Pillar’s grounder down the line, followed by an off-balance throw that first baseman Ryon Healy snagged on one hop.
“What stood out to me was how much our team was really into it, the fact that we played so well in the field,” Servais said. “There were a lot of really good defensive plays behind him.”
The Mariners plan to honor Paxton on May 18 when they host Detroit in his next home start.
Paxton’s was the sixth no-hitter for the Mariners, and the first since Hisashi Iwakuma did it against Baltimore in 2015. Felix Hernandez threw a perfect game in 2012, and Randy Johnson tossed Seattle’s first no-hitter in 1990.
It was the first no-hitter against the Blue Jays and the first in Canada since Justin Verlander did it for Detroit on May 7, 2011. The Blue Jays have been no-hit five times.
The crowd at Rogers Centre rooted for Paxton in the late innings. After his teammates had left the field, he came back out for a final wave.
“Just showing my respect to the Canadian fans,” Paxton said. “I really appreciate their cheers after the game, supporting me being Canadian. That was very special. I just wanted to show them that I heard them and that I was very grateful for their support.”