Erik the Unknown

TIM BAINES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:01 AM ET

Erik Bedard cozies his 6-foot-1, 195-lb. frame into a booth at Moxie's in Gloucester.

For a 28-year-old guy who's about to become a multi-millionaire; for a guy who's turned into one of Major LeagueBaseball's best pitchers; for a guy who caught the attention of Sports Illustrated so much that a writer and photographer recently spent time in town visiting with him ... no heads turn when he sits down. Nobody knows who he is. Not the hot waitresses. Not the businessmen in their suits and ties. Nobody.

And that's just the way he likes it. You wonder what kind of mayhem would ensue in the restaurant if Daniel Alfredsson parked himself into a chair.

While the Senators captain rules in Ottawa, Bedard exists on the periphery, the unknown superstar.

A guy with humble roots in Navan. And a guy who so much likes to remain low key that he's built a house in the area.

LOATHES SPOTLIGHT

"I don't want to be in the spotlight," he says. "You look at superstars like A-Rod and (Derek) Jeter, they can't go to the store and get a bottle of water. That's not for me.

"I'm a small-town guy. I like to stay around my roots -- my friends and family."

Flying below the radar will be a lot tougher once Sports Illustrated publishes its feature sometime in the next few weeks.

"They came with me to my new house, to my cousin's chicken farm (to the barn where I used to pitch in the off-season), to the corner store in Navan, JT Bradley's.

"It was fun. Sports Illustrated is like the Bible of sports.

"They contacted my agent and my first reaction was, 'The swimsuit people are coming here.' "

For a guy who likes to stay grounded, he's about to come into a whack of money. And he's worth every penny, with 13 wins, a 3.16 ERA and 221 punchouts in 182 innings last season. They were numbers worthy of a Cy Young candidate until an injury to his oblique (to the side of his rib cage) abruptly ended his season.

He's asked the Orioles for $8 million (all terms US) to pitch this year. They've offered $6 million. The sides could settle on a number in between rather than go to arbitration.

PAYDAY IS COMING

The Orioles then have Bedard for one more season before he can become a free agent. Given what even journeyman ball flingers are getting these days, Bedard should hit the jackpot, with a $75-million payday over five years hardly unreasonable.

Maybe that's why the Orioles have not so quietly began to explore the trade market, perhaps a pre-emptive strike.

It's rumoured the Blue Jays, Mariners, Mets and Reds are, or were, in the Bedard sweepstakes.

"If everything was right, I wouldn't mind staying in Baltimore," he says. "But I can't worry about where I might be traded. It's out of my hands. There are always rumours. That's part of the business. If I get traded, it'll be to a team that wants me and wants to sign me."

It's hard to believe this kid has advanced so far, to such a plateau, overcoming so many obstacles on the way. He grew up in Ottawa, often cut from competitive teams. He was too small, too quiet. He was a walk-on at Norwalk Community College in Connecticut, a nice francophone boy who spoke very little English. After being drafted by the Orioles, he blew out his left elbow and missed the 2003 season.

But he didn't quit.

The English quickly got better to the point where he now speaks with a bit of an American twang. He got taller and bigger. His fastball jumped into the 90s. His curveball became wicked, among the best hooks in the game.

Along the way, with the big paycheques, with the celebrity, he didn't forget who he was.

Erik Joseph Bedard is still just the kid from Navan. The fun-loving son of Nicole and Normand who gets as much fun out of snowmobiling through the wintery trails as he does out of heaving circular cowhide for a living.

No publicity needed for this superstar. Just a menu.

The lunch-hour smalltalk is dying down at Moxie's. And Bedard quietly walks out into a cold winter day, snowflakes cluttering his windshield.

Just the way he likes it.


Videos

Photos