Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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August 11, 2012

Blue Jays’ Taylor adjusting to the pro game

BLUEFIELD — One of the biggest challenges for a batter in the Appalachian League might not be what you might expect.

Watch a member of the Bluefield Blue Jays —  or even the Princeton Rays —  get called out on strikes and they will look back at the umpire in disbelief and head back to the dugout shaking their head in disgust.

Nico Taylor has struck out 29 times in 92 at-bats this season, and he hasn’t always agreed with the some of those called strike threes.

Of course, Taylor realizes the umpires are learning too, working their way to the big leagues.

“That is a tough part of it, I think we are all starting to work on that and be better with that because we have to realize too they are working too,” Taylor said. “We are in a situation where we feel like we are getting some at-bats taken away and we are so frustrated we struck out.

“It is just like human nature type of thing, sometimes you try to find something else to blame it on.”

Yet, Taylor realizes the fault ultimately falls to the players.

“We have talked about it, coaches have talked about it,” Taylor said. “We might get bad strike calls, but we missed two pitches down the middle so it all falls back on us.”

Taylor was a 38th round draft choice in June of 2011 out of Northwood University in Texas. He is currently an outfielder for the Blue Jays, batting .228 in 28 games, while living out a dream all minor league baseball players have had for much of their lives.

“It has always been a dream, something I have always wanted to do and I am so glad I got another opportunity to do this,” said Taylor, who also has 13 runs scored, seven RBIs, five doubles, a triple and a home run. “I tried to do it in high school, I got picked up and it didn’t work out so well so I decided to go to school.”

He did it well. Taylor was a second team NAIA All-America in 2011 and was also the Red River Athletic Conference Player of the Year. He had worthy numbers, batting .418 with nine home runs and 66 RBIs, along with 69 runs scored and 17 stolen bases.

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Taylor was assigned to Bluefield for this season, and his enjoyed it so far.

“It has been awesome, it is a little bit different,” said Taylor, a native of McKinney, Texas, just outside of Dallas. “It is a smaller town, but I love all the people, they are all nice here. It is great here, I love it a lot.”

The 22-year-old Taylor played in 30 games in the  Gulf Coast League last season, batting .319 with a three home runs, eight doubles and 13 RBIs. He spent the spring in Florida as part of extended spring training with many of his current teammates.

“It was definitely hot, but I definitely think it helped a lot because we all as a group got better as players,” said Taylor, who played against Bluefield third baseman Matt Dean in high school. “I think that helped us a lot and I think it will help us in the long run too.”

Taylor hasn’t seen as much playing time as some of his teammates, but he’s trying to take advantage of the chances he gets.

“I have to go out there and earn my playing time and that is fine with me,”  said Taylor, who spent much of his life in Florida, becoming a fan of the Tampa Bay Rays. “It is the way it goes sometimes, you have to stick with the plan and work hard every day and try to get a chance.”

Toronto made Taylor a late draft choice, which was a surprise to him, but certainly much appreciated.

“I didn’t think they would (draft me) actually, I didn’t really know, it was one of those things that I hoped I would and luckily they did,” Taylor said. “I knew the big time players (in Toronto), but I didn’t really follow them, they are all up in Toronto and I am in Texas so I didn’t really follow them too much.

“I love it, I am glad that I am here, I am really happy to be here.”

Along with the strike zones of the various umpires, Taylor’s largest adjustment to professional baseball is the off-speed pitches that have ruined many a big league dream.

“It is definitely a lot different because in college you get a lot of fastballs,” Taylor said. “A lot of guys are trying to get drafted and they want to see what they have so they throw a lot of fastballs, but here guys are here and they are working on other pitches so I think that is my biggest adjustment.”

One of the veterans of the Bluefield squad, Taylor is mixed in with a roster full of 18 or 19-year-olds so he has found himself trying to help the younger players.

“I don’t really say they look up to me, sometimes they will ask questions about experiences like college experiences because some of them didn’t get to do that and some of them didn’t need to,” Taylor said. “Some of them have really good talent and they really didn’t have to go to college.

“Sometimes they will ask me what it is like in college and different experiences, but that is pretty much of it.”

There is also being away from home. His parents and girlfriend were recently in Bluefield, which was certainly a welcome arrival for him.

“It was great, I hadn’t seen them in like four months so it is a great time,” Taylor said. “I love having them here and they love baseball so they are having a good time too.”

So is Taylor. His age might seem to be working against him, but he’s not worried about moving up the system, just getting better one day at a time.

“I don’t really think so, I think we are all in this together, we are just trying to make it to the next step,’ Taylor said. “I try not to think about a fast track or anything like that because you have got to play whatever level you are at.”

In the few weeks that Taylor has left in Bluefield, he is looking to do as the team, try to get better and win games.

“For myself just keep getting better every day, taking care of those things in my swing, being as good as I can and for our team,” Taylor said. “We want a championship and come closer as people because we are going to be together for a while so it is going to be up to us to get closer.”

—Contact Brian Woodson


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