We were recently able to interview Mariners starting pitcher James Paxton. Paxton looks to have a good season in what will most likely be his first full season in the Majors. He was a September call-up and will be a great middle-of-the-rotation option for the Mariners this year. Here is what was said.
EMLB: When did you start playing baseball?
JP: I started playing baseball when I was about 5 years old. My dad would take me out to the park behind our house and taught me how to swing and throw.
EMLB: Who was your idol growing up, and who did you model your game after?
JP: My idol growing up was definitely my dad. I wanted to be just like him. The pitchers I enjoyed watching on TV were Randy Johnson and Andy Pettitte.
EMLB: How old were you when you realized you had the chance to go pro?
JP: I was probably about 15 years old when I realized I had a chance to go pro. I hadn’t even thought about it until then. Going to college in the US was a big goal of mine early on.
EMLB: You played at Delta Secondary School in Canada during high school, did you play any other sports during your time there?
JP: My high school actually didn’t have a baseball team, so I played club baseball throughout that time. I was all baseball once I was about 12 years old. I played soccer and volleyball when I was in elementary school, but that all stopped when I got more serious about baseball.
EMLB: You graduated Delta Secondary School as a top player, were you recruited by many colleges?
JP: I was recruited by quite a few junior colleges, but I really wanted to go to a 4 year school. The only real offer I got out of high school was from Kentucky.
EMLB: You ultimately went to Kentucky and started playing as a true freshman, how excited were you when you made your first college appearance?
JP: I was very excited, and nervous at the same time. I came out of the bullpen for my first couple years at Kentucky.
EMLB: You became a starter in the Kentucky rotation in 2008, and you had a good year, but suffered an injury that caused you to miss the NCAA tournament. Did you learn anything from sitting out and watching your teammates play?
JP: That was tough. I really don’t like sitting out, especially in such big games. I took in the experience and the intensity of the games, and tried to imagine myself out there in those situations so that I could be ready when I got my chance in big games like that.
EMLB: In 2009, MLB scouts really began to take a look at you, and some thought you would be a first round pick. What was it like hearing your name mentioned by scouts and draft experts?
JP: It was a thrill. Not much was being said about me until I had a big game against LSU.*
EMLB: You were drafted in the first round of the 2009 FYPD. Where were you and how did you react when you were told that you were drafted by the Blue Jays?
JP: I was with some family and friends at my parents house in Ladner, BC. It was a very exciting time.
EMLB: After going back to Kentucky for your senior season, you were ruled ineligible because of your contact with agent Scott Boras. If you had the chance to go back and do it all over again, would you do it differently?
JP: I feel like the experiences I’ve had have made me who I am today, and I would not change a thing. All of the tough things I have been through have made me a tougher person, and I believe those experiences will benefit me in the future.
EMLB: You were drafted again in 2010 by the Mariners, compare the experience of getting drafted the second time to the first time. What was different?
JP: Getting drafted by the Mariners was awesome. I was always a fan of the Mariners, as they were the closest team to my home. My parents and I were very excited about the fact that I one day could be playing so close to home.
EMLB: You had a couple of successful seasons in the minors, and were even given the honor of participating in the 2011 All-Star Futures game. What was your best memory of that experience?
JP: My best memory of that experience was getting out on that mound with 40,000 plus people in the stands. The electricity in that stadium was like nothing I had ever experienced.
EMLB: You competed with some very notable players including Bryce Harper, Jason Kipnis, Manny Machado, Paul Goldschmidt, and many other notable players. What was it like competing with a bunch of other players, and how did you feel you fit in talent wise?
JP: I really wasn’t thinking too much about where I fit in. There were definitely some special players in that game and I was honored to be playing along side them.
EMLB: What is life like in the minors?
JP: Minor league ball had its pros and cons. I really enjoyed building relationships with my teammates and coaches. At times, the travel was hard and the food wasn’t close to moms home cooking, but that is what it is all about.
EMLB: You were promoted to Seattle on September 3, 2013. How did you get the news?
JP: I was pitching in a game in Tacoma. I came out after the 2nd inning and was told that I was done. I was thinking to myself that I was nowhere close to done, but then our manager, John Stearns, called me over and told me the news.
EMLB: What was the first thing you did after hearing the news?
JP: I hugged all of my coaches and teammates that were around me at the time. Then I went into the locker room and got someone to go get my dad from the stands. Luckily enough my dad, mom, uncle, and aunt were there to see the game that day, so I got to share that experience with them first hand.
EMLB: You made your first appearance on September 7 against the Rays, you earned the win as your team prevailed 6-2. How were you feeling after the game?
JP: There was a big mix of emotions that day. I woke up to the news that my grandfather had passed away that morning. Needless to say, that was a rough morning, but luckily I had my girlfriend there to support me. I hadn’t told anyone at the field about what had happened because I didn’t want to be focused on that before the game, though it was almost impossible anyway. I wanted to go out there and do it for him, because I knew he was still watching. I had about 100 family members and friends at the game that night and we all met up afterwards to celebrate. It was a bitter sweet day for sure.
EMLB: What are the major differences between life in the minors and life in the majors?
JP: Everything. It’s really hard to compare the two. The biggest thing to realize in my mind is that it’s the same game, just a way nicer ballpark with more fans.
EMLB: Currently, Spring Training workouts are going on. What has your daily routine been?
JP: I get to the field at about 6:30 every morning and eat breakfast, then do some contrast in the hot and cold tubs to wake up. After that, I shower and get dressed for practice.
EMLB: What are your goals for this upcoming season?
JP: My goal is to be in the major leagues the entire season. I want to help the Mariners win as many games as possible.
EMLB: Has ace Felix Hernandez helped you out as you’ve come along?
JP: I hadn’t talked to Felix very much before being called up last season. He did share some insight on my change up last September, and that definitely helped me in the following games.
EMLB: In your opinion, which of your pitches is the best?
JP: My fastball is my best pitch. I get some pretty good downward angle on that pitch and it makes it hard to guys to square up.
EMLB: What is your favorite pitch to throw?
JP: Again, fastball. I love moving my fastball around the zone and challenging hitters with it.
EMLB: Have you been the subject of any rookie hazing rituals?
JP: We had to dress up on our flight from Detroit to Anaheim. I was dressed up as Minnie Mouse. It was not a good look for me, but I think that was the point.
EMLB: Are you superstitious, and do you have a precise gameday routine? Do you try and seclude yourself from the rest of the clubhouse, eat certain meals, etc.?
JP: Nothing too crazy. I have a routine before I pitch, but nothing like putting one sock on before the other.
EMLB: What current Mariners player do you know the best, and how did you come to know him so well?
JP: The guys that I know the best are the ones that I played with on my way up through the minor leagues. We spent a lot of time together on and off the field, so it became almost like family.
EMLB: Do you have any other Major League friends outside of your own club?
JP: I know Mike Moustakas, [third baseman] with the Kansas City Royals quite well. I have lived with him for a month or two during a couple different off seasons while training in California at Scott Boras’s training facility. He shared experiences with me, and told me what to expect when I got to the big leagues. I am grateful for his guidance.
EMLB: What is the one food that you could not live without?
EMLB: Are you much of a football fan, and if you so, are you a Seahawks fan?
JP: I cant say that I am a huge football fan, but if I am going to root for any team, it will be the Seahawks.
EMLB: Are you ready for the upcoming season, and what are you most excited for come the start of the season?
JP: I am very ready for the upcoming season, and cannot wait to get started. I’m most excited to get back to Seattle and start playing baseball every day again.
* In that game he had struck out 12 of the first 13 batters he faced.