GRAND PRAIRIE, TEXAS—With a fastball in the mid 90's, James Paxton has the kind of stuff that draft experts say will land him among the top ten players in June's Major League Baseball draft.
The Blue Jays picked him 37th overall last year, but his agent, Scott Boras, couldn't come to terms with the team. So James decided to return to Kentucky, but a snafu with the NCAA led to him leaving the Wildcats, so the Boras group called on an old friend, Grand Prairie AirHogs manager Pete Incaviglia.
"They knew Pete, some of the guys in the Boras group. They played with him and said he was a great guy," said Paxton. "They knew what he was doing on the field and a great coach and this league is a great league. The schedule matches up with what I want to do. Five starts before the draft will be great for me," Paxton said.
So now Pete is the steward of a multi-million dollar arm.
"I'm just making sure he's organized," said Incaviglia. "We're monitoring his pitches and making sure he's not doing anything crazy or on his own. It's a blast, I've had umpteen calls from scouts who can't wait to see him and I think the scouts will be very impressed, he's the real deal."
The AirHogs will consider it a missed opportunity if they don't get wins when Paxton is on the mound and he plans to take something away from this experience too.
"There are a lot of guys who have been around a while and been through the minor league system and their experiences can help me out," said Paxton. "It will get me ready for the next level and I'm looking forward to winning some baseball games and having some fun. I can really test myself and see what it's like to pitch at a minor league level. They say this league is like playing in High-A, so it will be a good test for me to see where I'm at and get better."
Don't think that the rest of the AirHogs don't already have their calendars circled for the day James pitches. With scouts from nearly every major league team in the stands, there's no better time to have a great game with hopes they'll get noticed too.
"Gotta look your best," said AirHogs outfielder Aaron Garza, "Gotta show off the tools, run everything out, throw harder and run faster. It will be nice to have them around."
AirHogs 2009 MVP, Greg Porter, got a little advance warning to bring his A game to the park this year. "Pete called me the day we got him (James) and told me I need you to be ready as possible because there will be scouts out the wazoo coming in. It's a great deal, and I think he's going to be a great pitcher so it's not like it's going to hurt us any," Porter said. "I think he'll do well. If he puts the work in, it's going to show, scouts will see it and see everyone else."
You can see Paxton and all the scouts in Friday's season opener at Quick Trip Park at 7:05pm
Here is a list of the festivities planned for Opening Night against the Pensacola Pelicans
-Live Music starts @ 5:30 p.m. Performance by Cherisse
-2010 Magnet Schedule Giveaway to the first 1,500 fans
-Jump Castles & Inflatable Playgrounds located on the main plaza
-Clowns, face painters, jugglers and on-field performers
-Pre-game performance by 6-year-old Michael Jackson impersonator
-Ceremonial first pitch by NFL Hall-of-Famer Charley Taylor