Taillon's bro is NYY fan on COVID front lines

February 21st, 2021
Jameson and Jordan Taillon with sister Jasmine.Jordan Taillon

TAMPA, Fla. -- Visitors to Dr. Jordan Taillon's office have been awed -- and perhaps comforted -- by an extensive array of Yankees memorabilia, featuring autographed items from pinstriped legends like Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle.

The Fort Myers, Fla. pulmonologist should have no trouble adding to that collection soon. When the Yankees acquired right-hander in January, they also picked up a diehard fan of the franchise -- one whose last calendar year has been spent battling the spread of COVID-19 in the Sunshine State.

"I'm a little biased, but I think that New York is going to have a gem," Dr. Taillon said in a telephone interview. "As good a player as he is, he's even a better person. He cares about the fans; he cares about the team. I think he'll get out there and prove to a lot of people that there's a lot left in the tank baseball-wise."

While Taillon gets acquainted with his new co-workers in the Yankees clubhouse, snapping a photo of his pinstriped pants for a family group text this past week, his older brother continues to don scrubs and personal protective equipment for shifts at Lee Memorial and Cape Coral hospitals.

"Our entire family was extremely concerned when COVID broke out because there was so much unknown about it," Jameson Taillon said. "He was on our mind a lot, especially with Florida being one of the epicenters and hotspots of the country. But as a doctor, he showed up, put on his face mask and went to work and helped others, which is what he's called to do."

Jameson and Jordan Taillon with their mom, Christine.Jordan Taillon

With 82 Major League starts under his belt since debuting with Pittsburgh in 2016, Taillon has grown accustomed to the thrill of hearing fans cheer his successes. That is not as common in the medical community, though the roles reversed last summer when Dr. Taillon was honored at a church "Park & Pray" event.

As the medical shifts changed, about 150 residents flashed their automobile lights and honked their horns, cheering as Taillon and his co-workers emerged from the intensive care unit. The doctors and nurses received personalized cards, thanking the frontline workers for providing services during the pandemic.

"The last year has been pretty crazy," Dr. Taillon said. "It's been tough with the amount of deaths and disease. I feel like the second and third waves were more because people relaxed and started doing everything they wanted to be doing; traveling, going to bars.

"Hopefully the vaccines get rolled out, but a big thing I've been preaching is trying to optimize your body -- healthy eating, nutrition, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep. If you take care of yourself, there's a good chance it won't be as severe."

Having a doctor in the family has been a bonus for Taillon, who appears fully recovered from his second Tommy John surgery; catcher Kyle Higashioka raved about Taillon's most recent bullpen session, saying that the fastball is "jumping out of his hand."

"I don't know what he looked like in the past, but what he looks like now -- I mean, it looks really good," Higashioka said. "So I'm very excited."

When Taillon underwent treatment for testicular cancer in May 2017, his brother looped in with the Pirates' medical staff, frequently offering coaching and guidance. Taillon returned to the mound later that season, and his most recent rehab has continued to be something of a family affair.

"It’s not even always for major things; it’s like having a tele-doc,” Taillon said. “He’s never afraid to offer advice or reach out to one of his friends. In the cancer period of my life, he took control, communicated with our team doctors and sent my labs off to his friends in other departments. The comfort of knowing someone’s got your back is nice, especially a doctor.”

With Taillon eager to head north for his first season in The Bronx, recently crowdsourcing Twitter for coffee shop recommendations, his brother should again be a valuable resource. Dr. Taillon completed his residency and fellowship at New York Methodist in Brooklyn, purchasing Yankees season tickets in the 400 level for one season.

“My dad was a Yankees fan, so growing up I was a Yankees fan. The history of baseball goes through the Yankees,” Dr. Taillon said. “I got to go to a few ALCS games; I saw CC Sabathia pitch against Justin Verlander [in the 2011 AL Division Series]. Everyone in New York is crazy about the Yankees.”

Like any big brother relationship -- they’re separated by 9 1/2 years -- Taillon had to earn humility the hard way. In their household, it was table tennis; Dr. Taillon was a three-time All-American tennis player at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.

“Sometimes I’d play opposite-handed, which would really piss him off,” Dr. Taillon said. “He’d get really upset.”

“I don’t want to make any excuses,” Taillon said, “but him being so much older and a tennis player with those reflexes, he was tough. I would smash shots at him and he’d return them, giggling in my face. Just laughing at me. We share competitive juices, but he’s got my number there.”

Dr. Taillon said that he hopes to be in the seats when his brother walks to the Yankee Stadium mound for the first time, though COVID-19 will ultimately decide if that is possible. Either way, both Taillons believe that great days await in the Big Apple.

“The lights are a little brighter,” Dr. Taillon said, “but I don’t think it’ll faze him. More than anything, he’s jacked up to play for a contender. It’s awesome that he’s in the pinstripes, but more than anything, it will be awesome to see him back on the field.”