When PJ Bugni was asked where his son Jadon obtained the knack in baseball at a young age, he simplified it.

“Born with it,” PJ said smiling, who played baseball just up through high school. “Way better than I ever had.”

Jadon has had innate talent as soon as he was able to pick up a bat — and his endearment with the game has been endless to this day.

He’s become one of most prolific players in the Central Washington region out of Ellensburg High School — if not the state. The 6-foot-2 catcher was the 2A Player of the Year in 2018 after batting .448 with six home runs and 34 RBI, leading Ellensburg to its second straight state title. His consistency at the plate is unmatched and brings a relentless work ethic.

Jadon will be the first one in the family to take baseball beyond high school, as he signed with Washington State University last fall.

“Started playing when I was really young and as I got older, my coaches were telling me they could see me playing college ball,” he said. “I guess I started really progressing in the game and falling in love with it.”

EARLY DAYS

Jadon has loved baseball first and foremost. He competed in other sports growing up, but it was evident his focus was on baseball. Anytime he was injured playing another sport, he needed reassurance from his parents that he wouldn’t miss any time during the baseball season.

“When he played football, if he got injured the first question he would ask is ‘will I be ready for baseball?’” PJ said. “Basketball, if he got hurt, ‘am I going to be ready for baseball?’ That was the first thing that came out of his thoughts.”

Said Jadon: “I broke my hand in eighth grade playing football and the first thing that came to my mind was ‘am I going to be ready for baseball?’ It’s always been my No. 1 sport and the top of my priority list.”

In 2010, PJ, Mike Helgeson and Matt Polacek started the Ellensburg Blues, a select baseball team that has gradually grown into what it is today with six different age group teams.

About at that same time is when PJ would receive comments about Jadon’s talent. Not only from being with the Blues, but also the city league and all-stars teams. Others could predict the future this kid would have.

“Other parents and coaches — mostly other coaches that I coached with would say ‘Oh boy that kids got a good swing,’” PJ said.

Jadon began to blossom. He gained more power and realized how far he could go with it. He worked on the small things, not tinkering with his swing too much, but progressing as a catcher.

Jadon was never put through any personal training when it came to hitting. And it holds true to this day.

“Hitting has always just come to me,” Jadon said. “I put a lot of work into it. I have a cage at home that I hit a lot in. I’ve always had a fluent swing that I’ve never really had to work with or change too much.”

PROGRESSING

When Jadon reached the high school level, he was splitting time behind the dish. In double headers, he would catch one game and DH the next.

When the post season came around, head coach Todd Gibson used Jadon only as a DH, as Ellensburg had an experienced catcher at the time (Major Moffat). The machination stayed the same his sophomore season.

But as a junior, he made his stride. Jadon was catching full time and was Ellensburg’s linchpin offensively — especially in clutch moments. In three of the eight games during state playoffs the past two championship seasons, he used a game winning hit to propel Ellensburg past its opponent — including the 2018 state championship versus Mountlake Terrace High School.

Along with the sterling offensive stats Jadon has put up, he also has notable numbers at catcher. According to Perfectgame.org, Jadon has excellent pop time, meaning the time elapsed from the moment the ball hits the catcher’s mitt to the moment the ball reaches the middle infielder’s glove on a steal to second base. The average pop time in the MLB is 2.01 seconds according to baseballsavant.com. The best in the majors in 2018 was J.T Realmuto of the Miami Marlins with an average mark of 1.90 seconds.

Jadon’s pop time was recorded at 1.95 seconds.

“Physically, he’s probably one of the most gifted players you’ve seen,” Gibson said.

Jadon trained with Conor Kelly the last two years, who runs “Kelly Catching” out of Seattle. Kelly not only helped Jadon improve his catching mechanics, but with the whole college process of finding a school that best fit him.

GETTING LOOKS

Jadon’s name was gaining notoriety the summer before his junior year. The Blues couldn’t roster a team, so with a family acquaintance (Don Sparling) being one of the coaches for the Mudville Pinnacles on the West Side, Jadon was convinced to play for them.

Mudville is a competitive select baseball program and has an ample amount of future college players on its teams and opponents it faces. It’s imperative to be part of a select club when you’re looking to take baseball to the next level because it’s where college scouts — and MLB — put most their attention.

In Jadon’s second summer with Mudville, that’s when the collegiate offers started to pour in. Community college programs were the first, and then one from his hometown Central Washington University. Gonzaga University and University of Oregon were in talks with Jadon, but WSU put an offer on the table and it didn’t take long for him to verbally commit.

“WSU felt like home to me,” Jadon said back in November. “Everything felt right.”

WSU took one last look at Jadon before its offer when he was at a tryout for the Area Code tournament. It’s a five-day event in Long Beach, Calif., that features eight teams that represent a specific region (Kansas City Royals, Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics, Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds and the New York Yankees), showcasing the best players in the country. All 30 MLB scouts are in attendance.

To be on one of the teams, you need a recommendation from an MLB scout to get a tryout, but it still doesn’t guarantee you’ll get an invite to it, as the scout running the regional team will make that decision.

Jadon received the invitation and earned his spot on the Royals, which represented the Pacific Northwest region.

“It was so fun,” Jadon said. “Just the amount of talent that was there. Pitchers we were facing were (throwing) 92-93 mph (miles per hour). It was fun to get to play against them and know what I’ll be seeing later on.”

PRO BALL?

About three weeks ago, Jadon was contacted by a scout from the Philadelphia Phillies. The scout came out and watched Jadon play when the Bulldogs hosted Ephrata High School on April 20.

He talked to Jadon afterwards and wanted to know how committed he was to playing college ball.

“I gave him about an 80/20 probability of me going to college because if the amount of money that appeals me, I’d consider it,” Jadon said. “But if it’s nothing special, I would rather go to college.”

The signing bonus is everything to players. When you’re in the minor leagues, the stipend per month is too low to survive off of alone. Players in the Class-A affiliates will take home as little as $1,160 before clubhouse dues and taxes according to Jeff Passan of ESPN’s article on the MLB eyeing for higher salaries in the minors.

Jadon’s uncertain about the kind of bonus that would persuade him to play professionally.

“I don’t know, I just have to see what’s in front of me,” he said. “I couldn’t really give an exact number of what I wanted.”

FINAL RUN

Jadon quit football after his sophomore year when he endured a shoulder injury, worried that it would effect baseball. He decided not to play basketball his senior season, wanting to put his full attention into baseball.

With one game remaining on Ellensburg’s schedule, Jadon carries a .509 batting average with five home runs and 29 RBIs in all 19 games played. He also has nine doubles and two triples. He leads the team in every offensive statistic besides plate appearances.

He’s ready for one more final postseason run with his comrades for a chance to “3-peat” as state champs.

“… This team has a lot of talent I know we haven’t reached yet,” Jadon said. “I think if we peak at the right time we can go as far as we want to go.”

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