Big leagues on horizon for Almanac MVP

Published Jun 17, 2014 at 9:24 am (Updated Jun 17, 2014 at 9:24 am)

Major League. Some day, Taylor Lehman may be. In fact, the recent Keystone Oaks graduate took a step towards a professional baseball career when the Miami Marlins selected the southpaw in the recent amateur draft.

“Being drafted definitely was one of the best feelings. Different,” said the 18-year-old son of Colleen and Drew Lehman. “The highlight so far for sure.

“No,” he answered when asked if he had mapped out a timetable. “Yes,” he replied, “I think it will probably happen though.”

Because he was picked in the 34th round and after more than 1,000 others were drafted ahead of him, Lehman is taking his time to decide his future. Currently, he is honing his skills with the Steel City Wildcats, an amateur club that gained him some exposure to scouts. His 92-mile-an-hour fastball also gained the lanky lefty attention.

“I’m a tall lefty who throws in the 90’s. That’s what attracted teams to me,” admitted Lehman. “This spring, I was throwing faster.”

So more scouts attended his games. Retired Chicago Cubs pitcher Jim Bullinger watched Lehman pitch. The Florida resident wanted to meet with Lehman and Bullinger soon became his advisor. Through Bullinger, he learned there was interest early in the draft for Lehman, but negotiations broke down. “No one could agree on anything,” Lehman said.

But, Lehman was not disappointed. He went about his business. At the time, it was picking up his high school diploma. Yet, he still looked at the draft results. “Every so often,” he admitted. While attending the graduation party of his friend, Connor Boston, the call came. “Everybody knew,” Lehmann said. “I didn’t have to say anything.” Immediately, he posted the news on his Twitter page. “I was so excited,” he said.

“It’s an honor to be drafted,” he continued. “I knew a lot of scouts thought I was good, but it was cool when it happened. It answered a lot of questions.”

Yes, Lehmann is good enough. He proved his value to the Golden Eagles for two years. As a junior, he played in the shadows of Jared Skolnicki, another Major League prospect who is currently playing at Kent State. This spring, he compiled a 4-1 record with 69 strikeouts. He maintained a 1.48 ERA before losing a heartbreaker to Hampton in the WPIAL playoffs. Additionally, he backed his mound performances with a big bat. Lehman maintained a .476 average and a .643 slugging percentage. He drove in 12 runs.

“Taylor was an outstanding pitcher and player for us,” said KO manager Scott Crimone, “but more importantly, he’s an outstanding young man. He is such a great kid that comes from a wonderful family.

“He exemplified great leadership qualities on and off the field. He was seen as a big brother to his teammates. He will be successful in whatever career path his chooses.”

After the summer travel season with the Wildcats ends in July, Lehman will decide his course. Currently, his path leads to Happy Valley. Lehmann had previously accepted a scholarship to play baseball at Penn State while majoring in business.

According to Lehman, scouts plan to watch him play a few more times this summer. Already, he is 3-0 with 25 strikeouts and a 0.50 ERA for the Wildcats. By the end of July, Lehman said that he’d be close to signing or making a decision.

“Playing for the Marlins would definitely be an honor. If I end up in college though, I will play three years and then my name would go back into the draft. It’s going to be a tough decision.”

When it came to post-season scholastic honors, there were no tough decisions. Lehman was selected all-section. Plus, he was picked to participate in the Western Pennsylvania Coaches Association’s annual all-star game.

Though he could not pitch because he had worked the previous evening for the Wildcats, Lehman enjoyed his experience with other all-stars, including Brendan McKay. The Blackhawk lefty, who maintained one of the nation’s longest scoreless streaks this spring, was also picked in the 34rth round of the MLB draft by the San Diego Padres. Lehmann and McKay played Fall Ball together with the Allegheny Pirates.

“He’s a great pitcher, too,” Lehmann said. “It was a great experience,” he continued of the all-star game. “It was nice to be with guys, many I know, and with players with so much talent.”

Lehman’s talent wasn’t limited to the diamond. At KO, he excelled in basketball for four years. He led the Golden Eagles in scoring with a 17-point average and in rebounding with 10 per game.

Baseball-wise, he continues to rake in the laurels. He was named 2014 Atlantic All-Region, first team. Plus, he has been named The Almanac’s MVP.

“It’s such an honor,” said Lehman. “Honors are not things I think about. I just like to go out and play.”

And that’s the beauty of Lehman says Crimone. He has watched him develop into an ‘excellent ballplayer’ and ‘young man.’ Because he is the first player to be drafted in his head-coaching career, Crimone is proud of Lehman. “He has worked very hard to achieve what he has,” he said. “I am sure when the time comes, he is going to make the right decision.”

While any decision will eventually lead to the big leagues, Lehman hasn’t pondered what it would be like to play in the majors just yet. “Until you go out there and play, you don’t really think about it. It would be a dream come true though.

“I’m looking forward to making a career out of baseball. That would be awesome. Whatever path I take though, the goal is to get better so I can get there. The goal, definitely, is ultimately to make it to the majors.”

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