B.C. coaches say they knew James Paxton's baseball work ethic would be rewarded
Spencer Harwood, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, May 9, 2018 7:24PM EDT
LADNER, B.C. -- It took just a few hours for the British Columbia hometown of James Paxton to honour his no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays.
By Wednesday morning, the Welcome to Ladner sign was decorated with homemade notices reading "Congrats James" and "Big Maple with a no-hitter." The heron on the same sign had a Canadian flag taped to its beak and was wearing a cutout of Paxton's Seattle Mariners jersey.
The left-hander pitched a no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays Tuesday night, becoming only the second ever Canadian to reach the achievement.
The feat is no surprise for coaches in Delta, where he played baseball growing up. They say even when he 15, Paxton was throwing "ridiculous" curveballs at 90 miles an hour and had a work ethic to take him to the top.
Ari Mellios coached Paxton from 2004 to 2006 with the North Delta Blue Jays.
He said Paxton hasn't changed since he was 17.
"Even back then he was always one of the big leaders on our team, he wanted the other players to do just as well as he did and his work ethic rubbed off on all the other kids," Mellios added.
Paxton was always upbeat and a consummate teammate, he said.
"He was one of the best pitchers I've ever coached and I've been very fortunate to coach Jeff Francis as well, who played 10 years in the big leagues," he said. "But James just had tremendous talent and was a treat to watch pitch for those three years."
Bob Burkmar was an assistant coach on the same team and he had to prepare the catchers to receive a pitch from the teen, who was already six-foot-four-inches tall.
"James overpowered you and all of the sudden he would throw a ridiculous curve, which at the time was in the low 90s and high 80s, and as a 15-, 16-year-old, was really overpowering."
Even then, Paxton was nonchalant and had excellent concentration, Burkmar said.
"The things that he did back then, you just couldn't believe. ... Other teams would razz him and batters would get out of the box when he was getting ready to make his move."
Burkmar recalls sending him to a physiotherapist for an assessment when he had a few things that might bother him down the road.
"James jumped on it and came back to (the physiotherapist) on his own to make sure that the rehab was working properly for him, which you don't hear."
Mellios agreed that Paxton's work ethic enabled him to get where he is today.
"He always seemed to be a step ahead of most other people, I got the sense from being around him all those years."