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Chasing The Dream: The James Paxton Story and Interview

Growing up in Canada, most youngsters dream of being the next Lemieux, Gretzky or Crosby, not James Paxton however, as he dreamed of becoming the next Randy Johnson or Andy Pettitte. In our lastest installment of Chasing The Dream we take a look at James Paxton as he rises through the Mariners system and gets close to making his debut in the big leagues.

James Paxton: Quick Stats

Team: Seattle Mariners  Twitter: @James_Paxton

Height: 6′ 4″, Weight: 220 lb. Born: November 6, 1988 in Richmond, British Columbia, CA

Drafted:  Seattle Mariners in the 4th round of the 2010 MLB June Amateur Draft

Favorite Player: Randy Johnson / Andy Pettitte

Chasing The Dream: The James Paxton Story

In the United States baseball is known as the National Pastime. Generations of youngsters have had visions of being the next  Mays, Mantle, Ripken or Jeter.  In Canada the national pastime isn’t played on fields of green grass but rather on frozen ponds and rinks. The majority of youngsters in Canada play Hockey and yearn to be the next Lemieux, Gretzky or Crosby. Growing up in British Columbia, James Paxton had other dreams as a youngster, dreaming to be the next Randy Johnson or Andy Pettitte. In our latest installment of Chasing The Dream, we take a look at James Paxton as he rises through the Mariners system and gets closer to making his debut with the Mariners.

In Canada, Baseball is a slowly growing sport, with ice time at a premium and hockey being an expensive sport to play more and more youngsters are turning to baseball. For James Paxton, he began to realize that baseball could really turn into something at the high school level playing for the North Delta Blue Jays in the Premier Baseball League in British Columbia.  As a junior, Paxton won 10 games and had a 1.51 era to go along with 100 strikeouts in 78 innings pitched.  The southpaw was named the PBL’s top pitcher and also a first team All-Star. After battling through some injuries during his senior season, Paxton finished the year with a 7-1 record and 65 strikeouts in 50 innings pitched.

The next stop in Paxton’s journey would be college in Kentucky. While playing in Canada with the Junior National Team, Paxton caught the eye of some coaches who knew the coach at Kentucky. After watching Paxton pitch he was offered a chance to join the Wildcats and be a part of their baseball team.  Playing as a freshman, Paxton led the pitching staff with 25 appearances out of the bullpen and compiled a 2-0 record while recording one save. Building off a strong freshman season Paxton worked his way into the Wildcat rotation during his sophomore campaign. For the season the southpaw started 11 times and made a total of 17 appearances. During the season Paxton pitched a complete game shutout over Ole Miss which won the SEC Tournament and earned Paxton the honor of pitcher of the week. On the season Paxton finished the year with a 4-2 record and an ERA of 2.92.

After the college season had ended Paxton received an invitation to play in the Alaska Baseball League which is one of a handful of well-known summer leagues where college players can continue to develop their skills and scouts can get an additional look as they get close to being draft eligible. Paxton pitched in four total games and started in three of those. For the season Paxton finished with a 1-0 record with an ERA of 2.25. In his 16 innings of work ABL batters hit just .179 against him.

During his junior season at Kentucky Paxton really put himself on the map as a draft prospect. Paxton started a total of 13 games and finished the year with a record of 5-3. Paxton’s strikeout numbers where staggering. Accumulating 78.1 innings pitched on the Season Paxton sent 115 batters back to the dugout on strikeouts. This number ranks 5th in University of Kentucky history for strikeouts in one season. As the season was winding down scouts where all a buzz about Paxton and there was much talk that he could go in the first round of the upcoming draft.

The Toronto Blue Jays did select Paxton in the first round of the 2009 baseball draft. After some intense negotiations, Paxton and the Blue Jays were not able to agree to a contract by the signing deadline. Paxton still had options however since he was only a junior and he decided to return to Kentucky for his senior season. Before he could start his senior year however things turned ugly as the NCAA ruled him ineligible due to his contact with super agent Scott Boras. Paxton did not want to forgo his senior season but he was given no choice. With out a place to play regularly Paxton found himself throwing bullpens and side sessions to keep his arm and mechanics in good shape. As he waited for the 2010 draft to approach the lefty made his professional debut signing with the Grand Prairie AirHogs of the American Association. During his stint in the AA, Paxton appeared in 17.2 innings and went 1-2 with a 4.08 ERA.

Paxton appeared in the 2011 Futures Game (Getty Images)

During the 2010 draft Paxton was not selected in the first round like he was the year before. The Seattle Mariners however could not pass up this talented lefty when he was still available early on in the fourth round. Although the draft took place in June, Paxton did not sign with the Mariners till March of 2011. There was no restriction or deadline for Paxton to sign this time around. Paxton was thrust into action shortly after he signed with the team, making his debut with the Clinton Lumberkings. In ten starts with the Lumberkings, Paxton went 3-3 with a 2.73 ERA. In a total of 56 innings pitched Paxton punched out 80 batters with strikeouts. Those numbers earned him a promotion in July to the Jackson Generals. The lefty started an additional seven games for the Generals on the season and continued to post impressive numbers. During his time in Jackson, Paxton completed 39 innings, struck out 51 and went 3-0 with an ERA of 1.85. Also during the 2011 season Paxton was honored by Major League Baseball by being selected to represent the Mariners and Canada in the 2011 All-Star Futures Game. This is not only a great honor but also a great experience in which a player has a chance to be apart of All-Star week.

As the 2012 season approached Paxton was invited by the Mariners to take part in big league training camp. There was some talk that Paxton could even make the opening day rotation right out of spring training. Paxton did not make the clubs big league rotation but did gain valuable experience and knowledge from the veterans in camp. To start the season the lefty was assigned back to Jackson and he has picked up right where he left off. Paxton got the season started in impressive fashion striking out ten batters in only 5 2/3 innings. Through nine starts this season Paxton has posted a 3-2 record and has struck out 51 batters in 43.2 innings pitched.   It is only a matter of time before Paxton earns a promotion to the next level and then to the major leagues where he will be picking up wins and striking out batters at Safeco Field in Seattle.

Seven Questions with James Paxton

You where drafted twice. Once in the first round by the Blue Jays and then secondly by your current team the Seattle Mariners. What was the experience like for you each time? 
The first time being drafted was of course an emotion filed time, and I learned a lot.  Unfortunately, the Blue Jays and myself could not come to an agreement.  The Mariners drafted me in 2010, and that has worked out great for me.   It was incredibly exciting to be drafted by the Mariners, being the closest team to my home town.  The Mariners have a great history, and I am striving to help make some more history at Safeco Field.
Being a native of Canada Hockey is known as the “national pastime” How big is the game of Baseball in Canada? Was it hard passing up a chance to play for the Blue Jays the first time around?
Hockey is without a doubt the most popular sport in Canada, and is widely supported.  Baseball, on the other hand, is a growing sport in Canada.  Personally, I  preferred to go to baseball practice after school, rather than extremely early in the morning with all of the young hockey players.  Ice time is at a premium in Canada, so the early times were all that is available for the youngsters.
What mix of pitches to you throw? What is your biggest strength as a pitcher?
I throw a four-seam and a two-seam fastball along with a curveball and a change-up.  I would say that my biggest strength is my work ethic, and my determination to be successful.
Every player has ups and downs. In your baseball career what has been your biggest up and biggest down?
When I was younger I had the opportunity to play for the province of BC, and later Team Canada.  The achievements experienced on those teams have been the most fulfilling opportunities that I have experienced so far in my career.  Baseball is a game of failure, and I have definitely experienced some of that along the way, but that is a part of the game.  The hardest thing I have ever had to do is leave my Team at Kentucky when I tried to go back for my senior year.  I do not like to talk about that however because I have a hard time putting that experience into words.
Is there any particular coach or coaches you would like to recognize for helping you develop into the person and the pitcher you are now?
There has been a number of different coaches along the way that have taught me different things that I still use today.  For starters, my dad has been my catcher since I was about 10 years old and still was able to catch for me last offseason when I was home.  He knows my mechanics, and my mind better than any other coach I have ever had.  There is no way that I would be here now without everything that he has done for me.  My pitching coach throughout my younger years, Ken Myette, helped me build a solid understanding of my mechanics.  Also, I feel that my work ethic came from my coach Ari Mellios when I was with the North Delta Blue Jays.
Taking a look back at Spring Training which I believe was your first full spring training with the Mariners what was the overall experience like for you? Was there anyone who you were excited to meet or get advice from at the big league level?
This past spring training was my first full spring training, and it was great.  I had the opportunity to spend some time in big league spring training, and I felt like I was constantly learning.  We have some great big leaguers, and getting the opportunity to watch them, and how they go about their business was great for me to see.  I was able to have some conversations with some of the guys there, and pick their brains as much as possible.  The wealth of knowledge that comes with spending a good amount of time in the big leagues is unbelievable, and it was awesome to listen to guys that have that time talk about the game.
In your first start of the year for Jackson you pitched 5 2/3 innings and stuck out an impressive 10 batters. How did it feel to get the season started off with a good start? What are your overall goals for 2012?
It felt great to start off the season that way.  It definitely helped to build some confidence for the rest of the season.  My goals for 2012 are to become more consistent with my approach to every situation, game, and pitch.
A Few For Fun
Growing up in the Vancouver area are you a hockey fan? If so who is your picks to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals and who will win it all?
I am a Vancouver Canucks fan, and I would definitely picked them to win it all, but since they are already out, I think the Coyotes could surprise some people.   

Who was your favorite baseball player growing up and favorite non-baseball athlete and why?
My two favorite pitchers were Randy Johnson and Andy Pettit partly for the fact that they were left-handed like me, and they were very successful.
Favorite non-baseball athlete would have to be Trevor Linden, simply for the fact that he is mister Canuck, and has done great things for the city of Vancouver.
Playstation/Xbox/ or Wii? Favorite game to play?
Playstation.  I am not much of a gamer, but Steven Hensley has got me into playing call of duty, and that is pretty fun.
A special thanks to James Paxton for taking some time out of his busy regular season schedule to sit down and not only talk a little baseball and hockey with us. Once again please give him a follow at @James_Paxton and follow us at @CTD_Sypien as we follow James during the season as he gets closer and close to reaching the major leagues.

1 Comment on Chasing The Dream: The James Paxton Story and Interview

  1. karyn ashland goodenow // May 27, 2012 at 1:39 pm // Reply

    Hey’ve come along way since I saw you play in Clinton! We kanucks got to stick together! Your dream is coming true! I’ll be supporting you as the way! Sincerely, Karyn

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Looking Back On 2012 | Chasing The Dream
  2. Opening Day | Chasing The Dream

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