High School : : General
Friday, April 22, 2011

Taylor returns with a punch

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Mark Taylor

The start of the 2011 baseball season was put on hold for a solid month for Houston Memorial High School senior Wayne Taylor. When he was finally given the green light to play earlier this month, he hit the gas and put on one of the best nine-game power exhibitions in high school baseball history.

Taylor, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound top catching prospect, learned right before Memorial’s season was to begin that he had suffered a stress fracture in his back, most likely while playing football in the fall. The injury forced him to miss the first month of the baseball season.

Finally, 18 games into the campaign, Taylor found himself in the Mustangs’ starting lineup and quickly proved to everyone he was 100 percent healthy.

A left-handed hitter noted for his power, Taylor smacked a home run in each of his first nine games back, approaching the national record of 10 straight games set by Knoxville (Tenn.) Farragut’s Ethan Bennett just last season. Taylor hit .516 (16 for 31) with nine home runs and four doubles, and posted a 1.452 slugging percentage during that nine-game tear.

“I was just trying to make sure I was going to get a good pitch to hit and try to put a nice, easy relaxed swing on it. Thankfully, for a few games there I got some pretty good pitches to hit,” Taylor said in a recent telephone interview with Perfect Game. “It felt really good to get back into it once I got started, and I was real excited to play.”

And his back injury is no longer an issue.

“I feel great and it feels great to be back playing, physically and emotionally,” he said.

Sitting and watching was difficult for Taylor, who as a junior in 2010 was named a Texas Class 5A third team all-state catcher by the Texas Baseball Coaches Association. But with the help of Memorial head coach Jeremy York, he managed to maintain his concentration while sidelined.

“In the time I was out I was able to stay pretty focused because the coaches let me be pretty involved in the game,” Taylor said. “They let me call the pitches for the pitcher, so I stayed pretty involved even though I wasn’t able to play.

“It did make it easier because the team was winning – they really didn’t miss a step without me. They were winning and playing great and that made it a little bit easier, but it was definitely tough to not be able to play.”

Memorial had a record of 21-5-1 after a win over Katy on April 19 and was set to wrap up its regular season on April 29. A seven-round playoff for Texas’s Class 5A schools begins May 7.

Taylor’s goal is to help the Mustangs win a Texas 5A state championship.

“We have a lot of good players on the team and we all expect to be successful,” he said. “We have very high expectations as a team every year.”

As a junior at Memorial, Taylor hit .392 with 11 home runs and 42 RBIs, with an on-base percentage of .506 and a slugging percentage of .789. He allowed only one stolen base in 14 district games behind the plate. Memorial finished 35-8 after losing in the regional finals of the 5A state playoffs.

Taylor played for the Houston Kyle Chapman Baseball summer travel team last summer and was also selected to play in the Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif. He was a member of the Texas Rangers, an Area Code team that included several other top high school prospects from Texas and Louisiana.

“That was a fun experience, playing against all the best players from around the country and seeing how you compare,” Taylor said.

Perfect Game ranks Taylor as the 182nd top prospect nationally (class of 2011), No. 19 in the state of Texas and No. 23 nationally at his position (catcher). He played in the 2010 PG WWBA 2011 Grads or 17U National Championship with Houston Kyle Chapman at the East Cobb Complex in Marietta, Ga.

Perfect Game President Jerry Ford acknowledged the impact Taylor made when he was finally able to begin his final high school baseball season.

“There’s no doubt that we could have Wayne ranked too low,” Ford said. “He is an outstanding player and student athlete. We have seen him, but just not enough to compare him with other highest-level players we have seen so many times. It’s very possible that he could be a top 50 type, maybe even higher. It’s amazing what he is doing this high school season.”

Taylor, a Houston native who was also a standout quarterback on Memorial’s football team (2,063 yards, 20 TDs rushing; 1,388 yards, 11 TDs passing in 2010) has signed a letter-of-intent to play for Coach Mark Marquess at Stanford University in the newly reorganized Pac-12 Conference.

Taylor did receive a scholarship offer from hometown Rice University, another prestigious academic institution with a nationally prominent baseball program, but he was sold on Stanford.

“When I went out and visited Stanford, there was just so much that I loved about it,” Taylor said. “There really wasn’t anything about Rice that I didn’t like, it’s just that I liked everything at Stanford a little bit better.”

Taylor is an Eagle Scout and his class valedictorian (525 students in his class) after posting a 6.57 GPA (straight A’s in nothing but honors classes). Stanford’s baseball program is among the nation’s elite, to be sure, but it’s the university’s academic reputation that registers in the national conscience.

“That definitely played a very significant role in my decision to end up going to Stanford,” Taylor said. “I’m going to school first of all to get an education and get a degree, so I wanted that to really be my main focus when picking a college. And, thankfully, Stanford also has an incredible baseball program, so that’s a huge blessing too, to be able to be a part of that.”

Due to his participation in the PG WWBA National Championship, the Area Code Games and the torrid start to his high school season once it finally got under way, professional scouts have been following Taylor. He knows the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft is coming up June 6-8, and admits to thinking about it every now and then.

“More so recently, it’s been something that has been on my mind,” Taylor said. “I don’t know what will happen in the draft and I don’t know if people are going to be interested in me or not, but it’s definitely something I’m going to try to keep an open mind about.”

What Taylor is mostly thinking about right now is winning a state championship in his final season of high school ball. To him and his Mustang teammates, it’s a matter of unfinished business.

“I’m just trying to do what I can to see if I can help this team get as far as we can go,” he said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys who have been (playing together) for awhile, and we’re ready to make it to the state championship just like we’ve been talking about for years.”

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