Dunedin, Fla. – The best possible birthday present for a young amateur baseball player would be a contract, and that is exactly the gift that Jairo Labourt got.
Labourt was signed as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2011, on his 17th birthday.
For most young boys drafted into Major League Baseball, there are often feelings of excitement and celebrations with family or friends on such a special day, but Labourt didn’t have that exact experience.
“Mixed feelings,” the young left-handed pitcher said. “Yes, [I was] very happy, but I also really missed my family.”
At just 17 years old, Labourt left home to pursue his dreams to become a professional baseball player. It was not only the young boy’s dream, but it was also to bear responsibility.
”I want to help my family and support my country,” the now-20-year-old said. “This is was I like to do.”
When he finds himself down, Labourt enjoyspicking himself up with Reggaetonsongs, one genre of Spanish music, which is very popular in Spanish-speaking countries, such as the one he’s from.
“When I feel struggle or stressful, even missing family, this kind of music is my best choice,” Labourt said.
The southpaw had an excellent season last year and is quickly moving up the organization’s prospect rankings everywhere, according to Baseball America, which said he “has the ceiling of a No. 3 starter. [He] will likely pitch at [Class-A] Lansing in 2014.”
He was also an Appalachian League all-star last year and was ranked the best prospect in the circuit by Baseball America, who also named him a Top 15 player aged 25-and-under. Baseball Prospectus ranked him as the Blue Jays’ No. 10 prospect.
His plan is to continue working hard, just wanting to practice, concentrating especially on his changeup in the off-season. He is looking to climb the ladder to the major leagues quickly and believes he will soon be ready.
“I still need to work hard, but I think I am ready to go to the major leagues next year,“ Labourt said.
But he is aware that haste can be a burden.
“Sometime he’s a good one, and other time he’s not so good,” Vancouver Canadians pitching coach Jim Czajkowski said.
“When he is consistent, he is a good one, and he is probably headed for the major leagues. When he throws down the middle and itdoesn’t dance, he was not very good. If his pitches are dancing, he would be good.”
Washington University aerospace engineer David Peters has done the research: 25 per cent of players are left-handed, where in the general population only 10 per cent of people are left-handed, so it is proof that they are two-and-a-half-times better. Labourt is one of them.
But will he appear at the major-league level with the Blue Jays next year?
Time will tell.