If Taylor Jungmann’s career as a professional baseball player is over, the Rogers native can look back with gratitude at the opportunity to play alongside some of the game’s best.
But there still may be some life left in his formidable right arm and a chance to add to his illustrious accomplishments.
While his career has taken him to the pinnacle of high school, college and professional baseball, a potential Olympic medal might well be in the future for Jungmann. At 31 years old and currently a free agent, Jungmann was selected by USA Baseball to be on the Olympic team in Tokyo this summer. The team will have to win one of two qualifying tournaments in the coming weeks to be part of the eight-team Olympic competition.
“Since the current Major League players can’t play, they’ve selected veterans and free agents,” Jungmann said. “It’s an awesome opportunity to play. It’s in Tokyo so I can see some old friends.”
Indeed, Jungmann’s career has taken him from Rogers to the Far East where he played a couple of seasons for the Yomiuri Giants, generally considered the New York Yankees of Japan.
These days, though, Jungmann lives in northern Austin and is highly involved in real estate development, as well as starting 360 Painting Company — all while staying in shape for a team in need of a veteran hurler. He and his wife, Brittany, also are expecting their first child, which should arrive soon.
“I knew baseball was not going to last forever,” he said.
Jungmann garnered enormous attention as the central figure in Rogers’ first state championship in any sport when the Eagles captured the 2007 Class 2A title in his junior year. He moved to Georgetown his senior season before having a wildly successful collegiate career at Texas.
The rangy 6-foot-6 Jungmann was a key component of two College World Series teams and won the Dick Howser trophy as the top college player in 2011. He went 32-9 with a 1.85 earned run average and 356 strikeouts in 45 starts for the Longhorns.
“I couldn’t ask any more of my high school and college days at Texas,” said Jungmann, who is a fixture at Longhorns baseball games. “That was always my dream with the College World Series as the end goal.”
Jungmann’s pro career didn’t match his amateur accolades, though it showed promise. The Milwaukee Brewers selected him with the 12th pick of MLB draft in 2011. He moved his way through their minor league chain for teams in Florida, Alabama and Tennessee with solid statistics before reaching the parent club in 2015.
Jungmann made his major league debut on June 9, 2015 in Pittsburgh and yielded three hits in seven innings against the Pirates to claim the 4-1 victory for the Brewers. He posted a commendable 9-8 record for a team that went just 68-94 and finished fourth in the National League Central Division, but he didn’t win another major league game after that season.
Jungmann was back with the Brewers in 2016 and went 0-5 before being sent to the minors. He resurfaced briefly for the Brewers the following season, making one relief appearance before returning to the minors a final time. He pitched in 30 major league games, starting 27.
“It’s not easy,” Jungmann said. “Being consistent is the hardest part. Looking back, I felt like I was more prepared, but it’s hard to repeat that every day. Only the best of the best make it.”
Rather than trying to fight his way back onto the Brewers’ roster in 2018, he asked for his release in order to sign with Yomiuri. Although it was a culture shock, it was a no-brainer of a decision.
“Financially, I had to do it,” he said. “The pay is significantly more there, and the contracts are guaranteed. I had to support my family and it was a chance to re-establish myself.”
What he also re-established was his love for baseball. Jungmann fed off the excitement of the Japanese fans, and despite the vast cultural differences, a language barrier and a different style of play, Jungmann enjoyed his two seasons overseas.
Being a starting pitcher is a pretty sweet deal in Japan. Starters were only allowed to play every seven days and weren’t permitted to travel with the team if their turn in the rotation wasn’t due on that road trip. Jungmann bounced between the Yomiuri Giants’ major league and minor league squads during both seasons as no more than four “foreigners” can be on a team at the same time. Overall, he posted an 18-10 record there. However, a line drive off of his wrist shortened one season and he was ultimately let go after 2019.
“They love baseball,” he said. “I had fun every single day I was there. The translation was difficult, but I still talk to my translator and some of my teammates.”
Jungmann signed with the Texas Rangers in 2020, but the suspension of the season because of the COVID-19 pandemic forced teams to cut down rosters and Jungmann was let go. He briefly joined the Texas-based Sugarland Skeeters, an independent team in the newly concocted Constellation Energy League, which was thrown together for a short term late last summer.
It’s yet to be determined if Jungmann will pitch in the upcoming Summer Olympics and if he’ll catch on again with a major league franchise. Regardless, he’s accomplished more than any area baseball product has in many years.
“I’m disappointed I wasn’t able to stick at the highest level,” he said. “I’m still looking for an opportunity. You can only control what you can control.”