It’s going to be an uphill battle for Jamie Mallard. But he’s prepared for it and expects people to doubt him and his abilities.
"I’ve had a lot of haters and critics throughout my life." Mallard said.
Major league teams don’t often pay attention to 5-foot-11, 270-pound baseball players. They’re usually written off before receiving one quick look. But Jamie Mallard has proven to be different.
"I had people when I was younger telling me that I would never make an AAU team. I played in AAU. Then I had people telling me that I would never make a high school team. I started as a freshman and put up numbers," Mallard said.
"People were telling me that I would never get a college scholarship. I had college offers and signed with (Central Florida) and ended up going to (Hillsborough, Fla., Community College). And then I had people telling me that I would never be drafted. Now I’ve been drafted both years that I’ve been eligible to be drafted."
Overcoming Big Odds
Mallard terrorized Little League pitchers growing up. UCF assistant coach Bryan Peters claims that Mallard hit a home run at Tropicana Field when he just 13 years old.
The Angels selected him last year in the 17th round out of Middleton (Tampa, Fla.) High but he opted not to sign. Los Angeles tabbed Mallard again last week, this time in the 18th round after he hit .459/.527/.720 with nine homers for HCC. He was named an honorable mention all-American by the National Junior College Athletic Association.
Mallard is confident he has the talent to make it to the big leagues, and is out to prove teams wrong for focusing on his size rather than his production.
"I definitely can see myself in the major leagues one day," said Mallard, who has expressed an interest in signing if the money is right. "I’ve been snubbed by colleges and by pro teams in the draft. It hurts me to see teams picking players that don’t have half of my ability but look good.
"To me a team should be more focused on who’s putting up numbers, who’s producing, and who’s been successful. But instead they are picking guys that look good instead of guys that are putting up numbers. So I think I’ll be in the major leagues one day for my dedication to this game and love for this game. I have something to prove to a lot of people and to a lot of teams."
Work Ethic In Question
Also drawing teams’ attention is Mallard’s dedication to baseball, or perhaps a lack of it.
Hillsborough CC coach Gary Calhoun believes Mallard "didn’t lose enough weight to merit a higher draft pick." Calhoun had Mallard take his weight training class for two semesters at school, but said ultimately it’s up to the player to get in better shape.
"The questions about his dedication to this game are merited," Calhoun said. "The jury is out on him. He enjoys playing baseball but he needs to do what’s asked of him if he chooses to play professionally. The (professional baseball) environment there would be more hands on for him. These next four months will tell us a lot about Jamie . . .
"On the baseball field he has excellent work ethic. He’d hit all day if he could. He always played hard on the field. He never quits. You would never see him running down the line jogging."
Mallard has some interesting bloodlines. Former major leaguer Carl Everett is his godfather. His father, James, was a 6-foot-2, 185-pound world-class sprinter who also played football for Alabama. He was selected by the Arizona Cardinals in the 10th round of the 1981 draft, but never appeared in an NFL game. James had a serious heart condition that ended up dashing his Olympic running and football career.
Calhoun previously managed in the Brewers and Tigers farm systems and was a coach in the Yankees system for four years. He’s helped the Yankees training staff with rehabbing players and on occasion he would throw batting practice to the Yankees big league club. Calhoun can also see Jamie playing in the big leagues one day.
Calhoun worked with Nationals first baseman Nick Johnson while he was in the minors with the Yankees and thinks Mallard compares favorably to Johnson when he was in the early stage of his pro career.
"He (Johnson) did things that impressed me at a young age. This kid (Mallard) hits the ball harder and swings faster . . . I could see him in the major leagues for his bat speed and ability to keep the bat in the zone. That stuff is very difficult to teach especially at his age."
Mallard will probably see a lot of time at DH and some first base in the Angels system if they do sign him. His raw power is his one standout tool, which he utilizes in an unorthodox swing. Mallard acknowledges that he doesn’t have picture perfect mechanics, and that much of his success is due to bat speed.
"I’ve seen him step into the bucket and hit home runs to right field. He’s interesting. He really does keep his hands back during his swing but it’s hard to see because of his body," Calhoun said. "He just hits the ball far. This kid’s bat speed is phenomenal."
Jamie Mallard knows the odds are against him. They have been during his entire baseball career. But Mallard appreciates the faith the Angels have shown in taking a chance on him.
"I can’t wait to make them look like geniuses."