The scouting report on Georgia junior centerfielder Johnathan Taylor was "plus runner" and "very good defender." He had a .312 average and 36 steals in 117 college games and projected to be a leadoff hitter. But the pro aspirations of the Acworth, Ga., native seemed to be tragically cut short in a March 6 home game against Florida State when Taylor and his close friend, leftfielder Zach Cone, dived for the same ball and collided. Cone received a concussion; Taylor suffered fractures of his T5 and T6 vertebrae, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.
Scouts for the Rangers and the A's discussed the idea of still drafting Taylor to lift his spirits and call attention to his need for help with medical expenses. Rangers scout Ryan Coe made the suggestion to his club's scouting director, Kipp Fagg. "Before I could even finish my sentence," recalls Coe, "he said, 'We'll do it.'" Texas selected Cone last week with a first-round pick (No. 37 overall) and, in the 33rd round, drafted Taylor. (In a similar gesture the Astros selected San Jacinto College pitcher Buddy Lamothe, who was paralyzed in a diving accident, in the 40th round.)
Taylor, who is currently in an outpatient spinal-cord rehab program at Atlanta's Shepherd Center, has made progress. He has also remained on the minds of the Bulldogs. Cone wore Taylor's number 2 jersey for several games, and Georgia won five straight after his injury, as well as both games he attended. On the night he was injured, Taylor made a hospital-room pledge to Cone that he would attend the SEC tournament, and he arrived in Hoover, Ala., with Georgia needing a victory over Florida for postseason eligibility. Taylor sat in the dugout and cheered as Georgia won 4--3.
Taylor, 21, an economics major and member of Georgia's athletics honor roll, plans to resume classes this fall. By then Cone will likely have signed a contract and left campus to begin his pro career, but thanks to the Rangers' gesture, the two pals will still be on the same side. Says Cone, "We'll always be teammates."
SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE
In hopes of bringing respectability back to his organization, embattled FIFA president Sepp Blatter has named 88-year-old former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger and 70-year-old Spanish tenor Plàcido Domingo to serve on a "council of wisdom."
DAVE MARTIN/AP (TAYLOR)
TEAM PLAYER Twelve weeks after his injury, Taylor joined the Bulldogs at the SECs.