MIAMI — Shortly after the Miami Dolphins selected Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth pick in the NFL Draft on Thursday night, Marlins right-hander Jordan Yamamoto used social media to personally welcome the left-handed-throwing quarterback from the University of Alabama to South Florida.
“Congrats kid! Welcome to the #305,” Yamamoto tweeted.
Congrats kid! Wecome to the #305 https://t.co/lchYU9mxkm
— Jordan Yamamoto (@jyamaz50) April 24, 2020
Yamamoto and Tagovailoa share a bond — the two graduated from Saint Louis School in Honolulu, Hawaii.
“I had the tweet ready, right when the pick was in,” Yamamoto said in an interview with MLB.com. “I had a feeling. We all had a feeling. We all kind of knew. They were foreshadowing everything on the draft.”
Yamamoto was in the class of 2014, while Tagovailoa graduated in '16.
“All these guys who came up before, and who are still coming up, it's kind of a pride thing,” Yamamoto said. “We take pride in where we come from. We know our roots. Our high school is very tight-knit. Our high school is very close when it comes to certain things.”
With Tagovailoa coming to Miami, South Florida will have two professional athletes from the same school in Hawaii.
“It definitely is a cool opportunity,” Yamamoto said. “Hopefully, we can bring a sense of home. Tua is a great guy. I can see him working hard in the community and bringing more fans out in Miami in general.”
As a freshman at Alabama in 2017, Tagovailoa rallied the Crimson Tide to the national championship, throwing the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime to beat the University of Georgia.
For Yamamoto, he remembers first seeing Tagovailoa throw passes as a middle schooler.
Vinny Passas, Tagovailoa’s quarterback coach, also was the infield coach for Saint Louis' high school baseball team.
On occasion, the football team would do seven-on-seven drills, and the pitchers from the baseball team would play the role of quarterback and throw passes. Yamamoto, who didn’t play football, was a freshman and sophomore at the time.
Tagovailoa, then in seventh and eighth grade, also would step in to throw.
“It would be unbelievable,” Yamamoto recalls. “He was in seventh or eighth grade throwing 40-yard passes better than like half the guys that were sophomores and juniors. That was pretty impressive.”
Yamamoto was a 12th-round pick of the Brewers in the 2014 MLB Draft, and in the offseason, he would return to Hawaii and watch Tagovailoa’s high school games.
“It was impressive just how much he dominated high school, and then when he went to college, it was the same thing,” Yamamoto said.
The Marlins acquired Yamamoto from the Brewers in January 2018 as part of the Christian Yelich trade.
As a rookie with the Marlins in '19, Yamamoto made 15 starts and was 4-5 with a 4.46 ERA in 78 2/3 innings.
Yamamoto, who turns 24 on May 11, is regarded as a front-runner for the Marlins’ fifth-starter spot.
The Saint Louis School is a sports powerhouse in Hawaii.
NFL quarterback Marcus Mariota, now with the Raiders, was a Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Oregon and is an alum. Former MLB players Benny Agbayani and Chad Santos are among the distinguished school alums as well.
Agbayani played for the Mets from 1998-2001, and he also played for the Rockies and Red Sox in '02.
Santos was a first baseman who appeared in a few games with the Giants in '06.
“Even after you leave high school, you get to call a bunch of guys back home and talk with them,” Yamamoto said. “And if you need anything, everybody is there for you. It doesn't matter what class you were, what year you graduated. It's what we call a brotherhood, it's a tight-knit community that we have at the high school.”