``It's the nicest Father's Day gift I've ever gotten,'' his father said yesterday from his Audubon home. ``What a feeling it is to know that he has made it to the big leagues.''
If anybody knows that feeling, it's Bill Laxton. A 1966 graduate of Audubon, he spent parts of five major-league seasons as a pitcher for the Phillies, the San Diego Padres, and the Detroit Tigers.
In a bit of irony, his son's first game in a major-league uniform was Friday in Detroit, where the A's opened a series with the Tigers. Though Laxton did not play in the series, it was a memorable return to Tiger Stadium.
``When he was 2 and his brother, Todd, was 4, we have a picture of them on the field at Tiger Stadium with their father during a father-son-daughter game,'' said Cheryl Laxton, Brett's mother. ``Now he has returned to the field as a player. It's just hard to describe the feeling that my husband and I had when we heard the news.''
In the last two days, Brett Laxton has also contacted some local residents who have been instrumental in his career, including Rich Horan, who was promoted from assistant baseball coach to head coach at Audubon High during Laxton's senior year.
``I haven't come down from cloud nine since I heard about it,'' Horan said. ``Then when I talked to him, he told me that so much that he learned at Audubon about being a competitor he still uses today. I just had goose bumps, realizing he has made it to the major leagues.''
Laxton was 6-4 with a 3.75 ERA in 12 games for Vancouver this season. He walked 29 batters and struck out 49 in 69 2/3 innings.
Laxton, who played on the World Series-winning Brooklawn American Legion team in 1991, was an Inquirer first-team all-South Jersey high school selection in 1992.
He was a fourth-round draft pick by the San Diego Padres in 1992, but opted to attend Louisiana State University.
He pitched four years at LSU and was a major contributor to the Tigers' NCAA titles in 1993 and 1996. In his freshman season, Laxton pitched the Tigers to an 8-0 victory over Wichita State in the NCAA championship game, setting a championship-game record with 16 strikeouts.
As a senior, Laxton signed with Oakland after being drafted in the 24th round. He has moved quickly up the minor-league ladder, beginning with Southern Oregon, a short-season single-A team, in 1996.
The next year, he competed for single-A Visalia. Laxton spent most of last year at double-A Huntsville in Alabama, but he was called up to triple-A Edmonton late in the season. The A's switched their triple-A affiliation to Vancouver this year.
``Since the news has gotten out, our phone has been ringing off the hook, and it's been great,'' Cheryl Laxton said. ``It's been such a joy to talk to everyone and see how excited everybody has been. This is certainly a weekend we'll never forget.''