A tall piece of talent

BOB ELLIOTT, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:26 AM ET

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- He's long, lean and a line-drive-hitting machine.

That's Tall John Mayberry, Jr., son of former Blue Jays slugger, Big John Mayberry.

Tall John was in right field for the Philadelphia Phillies yesterday.

That was him sprinting back to the warning track in the shadows of the Sheraton Sand Key sign to rob Travis Snider of extra bases in the second inning.

That was him doubling and scoring in the sixth inning.

Tall John stands 6-foot-6, weighs 234 and looks skinny.

Big John was 6-foot-3 and squeezed roughly 240 pounds into those old baby blues the early Jays wore.

"I get my height from my mother, Janice, who is 5-foot-10," said Tall John, who isn't likely to make the roster of the World Series champion Phillies. He likely is headed for triple-A Oklahoma.

Some sons of former majors leaguers find being a famous son to be difficult at times.

"I don't find it a burden," Tall John said. "I think of it as an advantage. We were in Bradenton Wednesday and (ump) Tim Welke asked: 'Are you Big John's son?' Mr. Manuel (Charlie, Phillies manager) and Milt Thompson (hitting coach) ask how he's doing all the time.

"My father answers a lot of questions when we talk hitting."

The Phillies acquired Tall John for speedy Greg Golson in November.

The trade prolongs a decades-old relationship between former Jays general manager Pat Gillick and the Mayberry family.

As GM of the Seattle Mariners, Gillick drafted Tall John in the first round of the 2002 draft (28th overall). Tall John chose to attend Stanford University. As an advisor to the M's, Gillick suggested taking Tall John again in 2005. The M's chose Jeff Clement and Tall John went 19th overall to the Texas Rangers.

Tall John, who combined to hit .264 with 20 homers and 71 RBIs at double-A Frisco and Oklahoma in 135 games, has been compared to a number of players since being drafted.

"I'll tell you the guy he reminds me of," screams Big John into the cell phone from Kansas City. "He looks like a young Cito Gaston when Cito broke in with San Diego and I was in Houston."

For 41/2 seasons -- from 1978 until he was dealt to the New York Yankees to make room for Willie Upshaw, whom he tutored to take his job -- Big John was the Jays' most productive hitter under the late Bobby Mattick. From 1985-1988, Big John was a minor-league hitting instructor.

"Pat and I tell Mattick stories all the time," Mayberry bellowed. "You know when you are in grade school and they ask you to write a story on the most unforgettable person you have ever met in your life -- that would be Mattick, him or Buck O'Neill. I loved Bobby Mattick."

"Bobby knew both sides of the story," Big John added. "He would tell me about going to games with his father in St. Louis and going to Negro League games, seeing Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson and saying: 'Hey these guys can play too!' "

Gaston, who had not met Tall John until he robbed Snider, remembered a day in Dunedin when Mattick had Big John hitting balls to the outfield with his regular bat rather than a fungo.

"After a while John hits one nine miles and says, 'Sorry Bobby, that one got in my wheelhouse,' " Gaston said.

With the Jays, Gaston looked after major-league hitters, while Mayberry worked with the prospects.

Big John grew up in Detroit and played sandlot ball in Chatham, Leamington and Windsor so he said being acquired by Toronto "was like moving home."

And now Tall John hopes to find a home with the Phillies.

BOB.ELLIOTT@SUNMEDIA.CA


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