With four roommates packed into a small-town Virginia apartment and a $1,100 monthly stipend to chase his lifetime dream, 2006 Canyon Del Oro grad Taylor Lewis is settling into minor-league baseball life just fine.
Four days after his 20th birthday, Lewis became the 582nd pick of this year’s Major League Baseball draft, going to the Seattle Mariners in the 19th round on June 6.
“It feels real good,” said the pitcher. “But there’s still a lot of potential, so I have to work to get better every year.”
In May, Lewis wrapped a 6-2 record with a 4.20 ERA during his sophomore year with Prescott’s Yavapai College. Afterward, the same 94 mph fastball that helped the Roughriders carve a 46-16 season earned Lewis a full ride to North Carolina’s Campbell University.
But Lewis traded the Division-I offer for a crack at the farm system. Yet Lewis’ name wasn’t called until late in the draft’s second day, which surprised a few people —including Roughriders coach Sky Smeltzer.
“Quite frankly, I thought he’d go a little bit higher, based on what I’d heard from scouts,” Smeltzer said. “Bottom line is, he got an opportunity to go out and do what he wanted to do.”
The right-hander took it in stride when the first day’s televised results came and went. Then, selections piled up on the Internet the next afternoon. Three other locals playing for Arizona — CDO’s T.J. Steele and C.J Ziegler and Marana’s Ryan Perry — had long been picked up.
Lewis figured it wasn’t his year. Downcast, his attention turned to housecleaning. Soon, Lewis’ aunt called with news that sent the pitcher’s day into a 180-degree turn.
His father Tim laughed at the whole scenario.
“Not only are you learning about professional sports, it’s another growing process in terms of life,” Tim Lewis said. “Things are going well for him. He’s enjoying it.”
Within a week, the younger Lewis jetted to the East Coast — but not before father drove son to the sporting goods shop for a new glove and cleats.
“I told him, ‘Here’s the last 300 bucks I’m spending on baseball for you for a long time,’” Tim laughed.
The joke ran both ways. During an early practice, Lewis’ coaches sized him up for the same gear, free of charge.
None of which has gone to Lewis’ head. Pulaski’s single-A Mariners squad is loaded with pitchers, all striving to fatten their major-league namesake’s woeful roster — Dorado included.
“It’s nice to be drafted to the Mariners in that way,” Lewis said. “If you work hard and do well, you’ll move up faster.”