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 at 15 years old, 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.”
Paxton’s father Ted, his mother Barbara, and his aunt and uncle were all sitting in the Paxtons’ front room watching the incredible game unfold. He said that while all the games his son starts are nerve-racking, this game will stand out among the rest.
“It’s the culmination of so many things coming together over the years to finally sort of get to something like this, and its just amazing to have that sensation of all that work coming to a point” said Ted Paxton in an interview on Wednesday.
He spoke highly of his son’s former coaches for teaching him to harness his drive, but added his son was always very goal-oriented both on and off the diamond.
Ted Paxton recalled the time when his 10 year-old son directed that same focus at a Grade 5 math award.
“By golly, he went out, he worked hard, and he ended up getting that award. And that’s just something that he does: he sets his crosshairs on something and he will be determined and disciplined.”
Bob Burkmar was an assistant coach on the same Delta team and he had to prepare the catchers to receive a pitch from the teenage James Paxton, 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.”
Mellios said it is Paxton’s work ethic that 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.”