Before even throwing a pitch as a professional, Jameson Taillon
has generated lofty expectations. Not only did the Pirates select him with the second overall pick
in last year's Draft -- the highest a high school pitcher had been chosen since Josh Beckett
went second in 1999 -- but they gave him a $6.5 million signing bonus, the second-highest in Draft history. MiLB.com has rated Taillon as the Minor Leagues' no. 18 prospect
heading into the 2011 season.
The 6-foot-6 right-hander hails from the same East Texas area that produced Beckett and Roger Clemens. Indeed, top Blue Jays prospect Kyle Drabek is a fellow alumnus of The Woodlands High School, where Taillon went to school. As he prepared for his first Spring Training, Taillon spoke with MiLB.com about his hobbies, background and sporting loyalties.
MiLB.com: Though you're four years younger, you attended the same high school as Kyle Drabek. Have you had any contact with him or his father Doug about what to expect as a pro?
Jameson Taillon: Yes, definitely. We actually work out at the same facility and live about a mile apart. My girlfriend's family is good friends with the Drabeks, so I've talked with them a lot.
MiLB.com: I heard that you started playing golf last summer while you were waiting for the contract process to play out? How did that go?
Taillon: (Laughs.) Just terrible at first, but I'm getting better at it. I was probably shooting in the low to mid-90s toward the end of the summer. I played a lot with [Cardinals prospect] Shelby Miller, who's really good.
MiLB.com: Did you play the field and hit in high school or just pitch?
Taillon: No, I pretty much just pitched and sat. My high school is big and has had a lot of great players come through. Plus, it became obvious that my future was in pitching.
MiLB.com: Obviously being the second overall Draft pick is a big deal. At what point did you realize that you had a good shot at making a career out of playing baseball?
Taillon: It went in stages. Just making the varsity team as a freshman was a big deal at my school -- that was the year after Kyle Drabek and Paul Goldschmidt graduated. I didn't pitch too much that season, but I started to think that maybe I could play Division I in college. Then going into my junior year I started playing on some All-Star teams. When I started pitching with Team USA is when I really started to think about it as a possible career.
MiLB.com: What big leaguers did you look up to or model yourself after growing up?
Taillon: There's been a lot of bad stuff said about Roger Clemens lately, but I don't care about that. Steroids can't make you compete the way he did. I'm also a big fan of Josh Beckett -- he grew up about 15 minutes up the highway from me. The attitude of those guys, never backing down, really appeals to me.
MiLB.com: I know you're still figuring out your routine as a pro, but do you have any superstitions or favorite meals or music you listen to before pitching?
Taillon: Not really superstitions, but I definitely have a physical routine before pitching. I'm a big believer in warming up the right way and getting the body going. I always do the same exercises with resistance bands. And I guess I've had the same playlist on my iPod for about the last three years.
MiLB.com: How close were you to going to Rice University? [Taillon signed a letter of intent with Rice in Nov. 2009.] If you had, do you have any idea what you might have studied?
Taillon: I was really looking forward to going to Rice, but it was tough to pass up the opportunity with the Pirates. It's hard to say what I might have studied, but I've always been interested in kinesiology and physical therapy, especially related to sports.
MiLB.com: Had you been to Pittsburgh before the Pirates drafted you?
Taillon: I hadn't -- I knew about the sports teams a bit -- the Steelers and the Penguins -- and I knew that the Pirates had kind of struggled over the last few years, but I didn't know too much about the city. It's funny, though -- as soon as I was drafted it, seemed like everyone I knew had some connection to Pittsburgh. People were always telling me, "Oh, you've got to see this when you're there," and stuff like that.
MiLB.com: You were born in Florida, went to school in Texas and have Canadian parents. What teams, both in baseball and other sports, did you grow up rooting for?
Taillon: Mainly Houston teams. I went to a lot of Astros games, so it's pretty cool to be with a team in their division -- I've seen a lot of NL Central games over the years. I remember being excited when the Texans brought football back to Houston. That seems like just yesterday, but I guess it's been close to 10 years now.
MiLB.com: What do you do to relax away from baseball?
Taillon: I play a little golf now, and I like to do some fishing in warmer weather. I also play a lot of acoustic guitar, mainly Texas country stuff like Pat Green. I'm trying to learn some John Mayer, but he's a little advanced for me (laughs).