Drafted: Nationals pick Lions pitcher

Jeff Taylor (right) was drafted in the 24th round of the 2005 Major League Baseball draft. He was picked by the Washington Nationals.

Jeff Taylor (right) was drafted in the 24th round of the 2005 Major League Baseball draft. He was picked by the Washington Nationals.

Most athletes enter college with the dream of getting drafted. For one Missouri Southern student, the dream has become a reality.

Baseball is something Jeff Taylor, senior business management major, said he has always been passionate about.

“I started playing when I was about five years old,” Taylor said.

Taylor, will be starting a new chapter in his life starting March 2006 as a member of the Washington Nationals’ major league baseball organization.

Drafted in the 24th round, Taylor is about to embark on what he calls “a dream come true.”

Baseball is something Taylor said he has always been passionate about.

Years of T-ball and little league prepped the Joplin native for an athletic career at Southern, and there was someone watching as he progressed.

“The Washington scout saw me in high school and came to all of our games this year and saw me pitch and decided he was interested,” Taylor said. “When it came time for the draft, he put my name in and they took me.”

However, Taylor was left sitting in anticipation when the actual picks took place. While he was told he would be picked in the 19th round, he sat for hours and waited until he finally received a call from his father confirming he had been chosen in the 24th round.

“I was extremely excited,” Taylor said.

Michael Meyer, junior finance and economics and baseball player, said he and his teammates are pleased one of their own has made it.

“It’s a special thing to get drafted,” Meyer said. “Only a few guys get to it and its everybody’s dream.”

Meyer said Taylor was one of the first friends he made at Southern.

“He was a very good player, and I admired him right away,” Meyer said. “I’m going to miss hanging out with him because he’s a good buddy of mine.”

Like many athletes, Taylor’s accomplishments did not come without struggles.

Last fall Taylor faced the threat of a career delay dealing with problems from an injury he had since high school.

Continuous pain in the ulnar nerve forced him to have surgery on his right elbow during the fall of 2004, but did not slow him down.

A major challenge during Taylor’s career he said was learning to pitch.

Taylor said his success can be contributed to many of the coaches he has worked with over the years, but there are two in particular who he holds in high regard.

“My dad has had a large influence in my athletics since he was the coach growing up and my high school coaches were excellent,” Taylor said.

He said he also has great respect for his current coach, Warren Turner, head baseball coach.

“Coach Turner is a coaching legend,” Taylor said. “He impacted my career greatly; he taught me a lot of stuff not only about baseball, but about life.”

Taylor said he also owes to the strength and conditioning program at Southern, which contributed to the 30 pounds of muscle he gained during his college career.

Off the field, Taylor said he is dealing with the same issues as any student approaching graduation.

“I think I have a severe case of senioritis just like anyone else,” he said.

Meyer said Taylor’s appearances at practice helps the team.

“He can say this is how my minor-league team does it, and that just adds a little authority,” said Meyer. “It helps the younger guys to know that we have a program here that can give you an opportunity to make it to the professional ranks.”

Meyer said one quality that has contributed to Taylor’s success is his self-confidence.

“He believes in himself unwavering, and that is a very beneficial trait for baseball,” he said. “He does everything he can and more to make himself and everybody else better.”

Taylor, an honor student, said he has no intentions of changing because of his career enhancement and he has contemplated coaching at the collegiate level.

While Taylor is anxious to start his new opportunity, he has not lost sight of what his college career is all about.

“I know I’m not going to play baseball forever,” Taylor said. “I have a great opportunity now, but I’m here getting my degree because I need something to fall back on.”