October 22, 2014 9:04:48 PM
At 5-foot-9, 140 pounds, Sam Taylor's name on a roster won't catch your eye if you're looking for a physical specimen.
But you only have to watch Taylor field a groundball, hustle on and off the field, or run out a a flyball to center field to see he plays baseball the right way.
More and more college coaches had a chance to see the skills and intangibles Taylor possesses this summer on the travel ball circuit and at showcases throughout the state. The more the coaches saw, the more they realized they wanted Taylor to be in their program.
On Tuesday, Taylor made his college destination official when he tweeted that he had accepted an offer to play baseball at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in Perkinston.
"It is huge," Taylor said. "I always wanted to play college ball. Now that I have gotten it, I feel really blessed and thankful to be able to do it. Hopefully, it will help me grow as a person and as a player and, maybe, go even farther to the next level after that."
Taylor, who also is a kicker on the New Hope High football team, said MGCCC coach Rodney Batts saw him at an event at Delta State earlier in the summer. He said Batts, a longtime assistant baseball coach at Delta State who became coach at MGCCC in June, saw him again three weeks ago at a showcase event at MGCCC. He said he talked with Batts, who is from New Hope, and kept in touch until two weeks ago, when he saw after the New Hope football team's game against Lake Cormorant that he had a missed call from Batts.
Taylor said he didn't have any idea the showcase at Mississippi Gulf Coast would result in an offer that was waiting for him when he returned the phone call.
"I was just going to go down there and try to the best I could, but I played really well at that showcase," Taylor said. "I really liked the area, which caught my surprise because I had never been down there."
Taylor went back to Perkinston last weekend to attend the Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C. football team's game against Copiah-Lincoln. He said the visit solidified his decision. He said he took the weekend to pray about the choice and to make sure it was the right fit.
Taylor has been a member of the past two New Hope High baseball teams that have won Class 5A state titles. Last season, Taylor, the team's second baseman, appeared in 26 games and scored 23 runs. He tied for second on the team with nine stolen bases.
New Hope coach Lee Boyd said Taylor has received three scholarship offers and probably will get a fourth very soon due in part to his defensive prowess. He said Taylor likely will play in the middle infield as a senior.
"Sam is one of those kids who if he hits the ball back to the pitcher he is going to sprint to first base. If he hits a flyball to center field, he is going to be standing on top of second base," Boyd said. "He hustles on and off. He is the example I can use when I tell my younger kids that is how I want you to play.
"There is going to be the time the center fielder drops the ball, and that could be the winning run, or the shortstop is going to boot it, or the pitcher is going to throw it away. He always does those type of things, the little things that nobody really notices until somebody throws it away and then you realize, 'Hey, if he would have been hustling, the game might have been in a different situation.' He has always done that since he has been here."
Offensively, Boyd said Taylor has waited his turn and that he likely will get an opportunity to make an impact at the plate in 2015.
"We don't know what we're going to get out of him, but we know we're going to get 110 percent from him," Boyd said. "That is what is encouraging for us.
"He has gotten a ton better in a year. All the work he put in last year and all of the summer baseball he played and all of the showcases he went to (have helped him improve). He was just trying to give himself a chance to go play college ball. I didn't know if he was going to get an opportunity, but Sam worked his tail off."
Boyd said Taylor's versatility is equally appealing to college coaches. He said Taylor can play anywhere, even catcher, which he played as a sophomore. He said good middle infielders "are tough to find," which probably explains why Taylor has attracted so much attention.
Taylor said he played shortstop for a majority of the summer and at many of the showcases he attended. He feels his ability to pay attention to the details and his work ethic helped him realize a goal to get a chance to play baseball in college.
"Since I am not the biggest kid, I have to do the little things the right way," Taylor said. "Growing up, I worked on fundamentals and things I could control. I can't control my size or my arm strength, to an extent, but hustling on and off the field and hustling everywhere has kind of been my key to success, always giving it 110 percent.
"I want to stay in the weight room. That is what I have been focusing on. It is time to get stronger. That is a weakness of mine, and I am trying to take that weakness away. I also am trying to learn more about the game. ... I try to be a student of the game and to learn more about the way they do it in college to try to become that type of player before I get there so I can be ready to fit in."
Taylor is the third player in New Hope's Class of 2015 who has committed to play baseball in college. First baseman Wells Davis (South Alabama) and pitcher/infielder Josh Stillman (Northeast Mississippi C.C.) have made commitments. Boyd said Payton Lane has an offer from Mississippi Delta C.C. and has a good shot play baseball in college.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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