TORONTO - James Paxton or Kellin Deglan? Who will be the top Canadian selected when the annual draft of high schoolers and collegians begins Monday night?
How about Jamieson Taillon? Who?
The 6-foot-7, 230-pound right-hander, known simply as “Jamo” has displayed a 98 m.p.h., fastball pitching high school in The Woodlands, Tex., north of Houston. He’s rated the top high school player in North America by the majority of scouting directors.
And he’s a Canuck.
His mom, Christie Kormendy Taillon (pronounced ‘tie-own’), was born and raised in the Lawrence Park area, while dad Michael grew up in St. Andrews West, 15 minutes north of Cornwall.
St. Andrews West is where Scottish settlers erected what the first Catholic church and where explorer Simon Fraser is buried. As Michael Taillon grew up working summer jobs at Domtar in Cornwall and a cheese factory, it had a population of 500.
Fell in love
Christie and Mike both attended the University of Toronto, met, fell in love, graduated and life happened. They wed in 1978 and Mike answered a job application in a local paper looking for MBA grads. Two spots were open and American International Group hired him, asking him to go Chicago for 18 months, which turned into four years.
They then returned to Canada, living in Burlington for four years until 1985.
“We lived on 353 Smith St., a two-storey colonial, within walking distance of downtown and the lake,” Michael Taillon said recently from Houston.
Again, work with AIG took the family south and Jamo was born in Lakeland, Fla., while the Taillon’s lived in nearby Winter Haven.
“My son has Canadian citizenship, all our children do,” Mike said. “For Christie and I, that’s their history. My dad is in Cornwall, both our families are in Canada.
“We still love Canada. It’s where we were born and raised. We wanted to give all our children the option when they became adults to consider Canada home.”
The Taillon brood consists of: Justin, 28, at Texas A&M, taking a doctoral program in environment; Jordan, 26, who attended Trinity University medical school and recently began his residency at Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Jasmine, 21, a first-year law school student at the University of Houston.
A doctor, a budding lawyer, doctoral studies and a ball player.
“We all tease Jamo,” Mike said. “I saw an interview once where Jamo said: ‘My dad’s always asking, where did we go wrong with Jamieson?’ ”
Well, not too far actually. Jamo graduated Tuesday from The Woodlands, where Kyle Drabek went to school, with a 3.85 GPA and has been accepted to Rice University, the Harvard of the south.
Last year, he pitched Team USA to a gold medal in the qualifier for the 2010 world junior tournament at Thunder Bay in July. He beat Cuba 6-1, striking out a program-record 16 in 71/3 innings.
“As a family, we stressed education,” Mike said. “Athletically, he’s gifted, but he has an incredible work ethic, I think, in part from watching Jordan practise long hours to become a three-time, all-American in tennis.”
The Taillon family tree shows Jamo’s grandma, Agnes Kormendy, in Toronto, grandfather Raymond in Cornwall, godparents Paula and Bruce Shaw in Etobicoke, with aunts, uncles and cousins in Toronto, Oakville, St. Catharines, Collingwood, Kitchener, Lunenberg, Ont. and Montreal.
We admit to being slow, finding out about his Canadian roots within a week of the draft. Better now than a week from today.
So, will it be Paxton of Ladner, B.C., Deglan of Langley, B.C., or Jamieson Taillon of The Woodlands, Tex., as the top Canadian?
“Absolutely, Jamo is the top Canadian,” said proud papa Mike of his son with the strong right arm and stronger GTA/Eastern Ontario roots.
THE LOCAL SCENE
North York outfielder Marcus Knecht impressed Wednesday morning during a private workout at the Rogers Centre for Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos, his assistant Dana Brown, scouting director Andrew Tinnish and several scouts in for pre-draft meetings.
Knecht hit three out to left, two into the second level and two over the centre-field fence during batting practice. He was asked to stay around for a second round for manager Cito Gaston and he hit three more out.
Knecht graduated from the Ontario Blue Jays program and had a coming-out season with the Connors State Cowboys. He also showed well at Los Angeles Angels and Tampa Bay Rays workouts.
Meanwhile, Chris Bisson, a middle infielder from Orleans, Ont., and a junior at Kentucky University, also fared well.
Mississauga’s Dalton Pompey of the Oakville Royals attended the workout but did not, participate because of a minor injury.
Burlington RHP Nathan Kennedy has signed a letter of intent with the Alabama Crimson Tide. The former Oakville Royal will transfer from Grayson County College in the fall.
Rick Johnston of Mississauga’s The Baseball Zone and Danny Thompson’s Intercounty Terriers have joined forces beginning in August when Johnston will coach the 17-and-under squad.
Class-A Wilmington Blue Rocks
Thanks to 11 hits — tied for most for the week — and being named the Carolina League’s player of the week, the London, Ont., slugger had the best week of the 64 Canadians in the minors.
Romak, originally drafted by Atlanta and scout Lonnie Goldberg, hit .500 (11-for-22) with three RBIs for the Royals affiliate where the ex-London Badger had an eight-game hit streak .467 (14-for-30) with six RBIs.
Runners-up: Jordan Lennerton of Langley, B.C., .550 (11-for-20), six RBIs for West Michigan (Tigers); Shawn Bowman, Coquitlam, B.C., two homers, seven RBIs, double-A New Hampshire (Jays); Calgary’s Emerson Frostad, two homers, six RBIs at double-A Frisco; Etobicoke’s John Suomi, one homer, four RBIs, .357 at double-A Reading (Phillies), James Avery, Moose Jaw, Sask., 5.1 scoreless for Lynchburg (Reds); Chris Kissock, Fruitvale, B.C., 3.1 scoreless for Clearwater (Phillies) against Dunedin; and Max St. Pierre, Pintendre, Que. .357, three RBIs at triple-A Toledo.