Draft 2010: Texas pitcher makes his name
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THE WOODLANDS, Texas -- Around the local baseball and softball cathedral known as ORWALL Sports Park, deep in the heart of baseball-loving Texas, the top prep pitcher in America is a rock star. He is a single nickname. He is a J-Lo who throws high heat.
The 6-foot-6 1/2 right-hander from The Woodlands High?
"All I know is Jamo," a confused Cody Althouse, a junior from the rival Oak Ridge High against whom Taillon (TIE-own) earlier tossed a 9-0, three-single, 13-strikeout gem, said weeks ago from a dugout at the park's Senior Field. "He shut us down ... Jameson something. Jamo, that's what everybody calls him."
"Oh, him?" added an overhearing father, Kreg Holden. He was watching Althouse's team at the Oak Ridge-Woodlands Area Little League park after Taillon earlier that day spent time on a Challenger field with disabled children, then went to his weekly pitching lesson from ex-Pirates minor-leaguer David Evans. "Really well-mannered. All-academic. Umpired with me, too. He'll go real high."
How high will Jamo go? Possibly as high as No. 2 to the Pirates, who flew to Texas an expedition -- led by general manager Neal Huntington -- to meet with him for nearly four hours earlier this week.
"I've had [Toronto's] Kyle Drabek, [Phillies minor-leaguer] Joe Savery, [Cincinnati starter] Homer Bailey and all these guys come through, and he's the best at that age," said Evans, referring to some of his first-round students. "They were just not polished like Jamo. For an 18-year-old kid to have such a good idea of the zone and pitching itself, instead of raring back and throwing it ... "
Evans added that an American League assistant general manager told him recently that another onetime Evans student, $30 million Reds signee Aroldis Chapman, isn't as polished as Taillon -- and that their basic differences are that Chapman is left-handed, four years older and a Cuban defector. Taillon's merely a Cuban defeater.
No less a source than expected No. 1 pick Bryce Harper of the College of Southern Nevada named the next-best prospects in the baseball draft that starts Monday. Harper spoke first of his best friend Manny Machado, the Miami prep shortstop. Then he spoke of Jamo.
"I caught him against Cuba," Harper said of the shutout, 72/3-innings performance last fall that won the United States its inaugural gold medal in Pan-American Games 18-and-under baseball. "Struck out 17. Nasty stuff. He's amazing."
He's Jamo, compliments of one of his three siblings in a family where initials after the name carry import.
Jasmine, who bestowed him the nickname when he was an infant, is pursuing a J.D. barely 30 miles south at the University of Houston. Justin is pursuing a Ph.D. at Texas A&M. Jordan, a three-time All-American tennis player at prestigious Trinity (Texas) University, is an M.D. preparing to start his Brooklyn residency.
And here comes baby brother Jamo, MLB.
"His sister felt that Jameson was a little too formal when they were little, so she abbreviated it," said their father, Michael Taillon, a financial services executive and an Ontario native who brought his family to this leafy, white-collar suburb for work 15 years ago. "The name Jamo has stuck with him. If I mention 'Jameson,' people give me a funny look."
Michael and Christie, an adjunct professor in sociology at nearby Lone Star College, raised no fool in their towering baby. He carries a 3.85 grade point average in a challenging course load that includes Advanced Placement statistics. No wonder Jamo accepted a scholarship offer to Rice, and still intends to earn a degree in sports management some day.
"We're extremely big believers in education," the father said. "One of the quid pro quos with Jameson is, regardless of what transpires, he will get his education."
To assess Jamo as a righty with a mid- to high-90s fastball, a tantalizing curveball and a slider he just picked up, The Woodlands coach Ron Eastman turns to his own version of advanced-placement statistics.
The lanky, 220-pounder this season compiled: an 8-1 record, a 1.79 ERA, 21 walks and a whopping 114 strikeouts in 622/3 innings.
"When Jamo -- Jameson -- stepped on the mound with all the pressure on him, everybody expected him to throw a no-hitter every time out," Eastman said. "We had [1999 second-overall pick Josh] Beckett around here. We had Kyle Drabek [a 2006 first-rounder]. But you're not going to throw a no-hitter every time out."
One exception with Jamo, though. "He did have one no-hitter this year," Eastman said of Conroe earlier, about the same time when scouts clocked him throwing as high as 98 mph. "Struck out 19.
"He's just not your normal high-school pitcher. He's got everybody in the world looking at what he does. It would be real easy for him to melt down out there, and he just doesn't."
That's just ... Jamo.
First Published June 4, 2010 12:00 am