Georgia outfielder Johnathan Taylor, who was paralyzed after colliding with a teammate in March, was drafted by the Texas Rangers on Wednesday in the 33rd round of the MLB Draft.
“The kid, he’s obviously going through a tough time, and this was a way to let him know that people are thinking about him,” Ryan Coe, the Texas Rangers scout for Georgia, told the AJC.
“And you know what? The kid deserved to be drafted. He was a good player for all those years. He’s somebody we had interest in had he been healthy.
“He deserved the recognition to be drafted … that’s all I can say.”
The selection of Taylor was one of the feel-good stories of the three-day draft. In the first round, the Rangers used the No. 37 overall pick to take Georgia’s Zach Cone, who was involved in the devastating outfield collision with Taylor in a March 6 game against Florida State.
Cone and Taylor remain best of friends and celebrated Wednesday’s announcement over the phone. Taylor was undergoing rehabilitation at Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta that has continued since surgery for a broken neck. He is paralyzed from the waist down.
“JT was so pumped up and couldn’t have been happier,” Cone told the AJC. “He was very surprised and not expecting it to happen. I was very happy for JT because I knew being drafted was something he always wanted.
“It’s an honor for me to get drafted by the same team. It says a lot about the Rangers. It means a lot to JT, me, and both of our families.”
Georgia baseball coach David Perno said, “This was truly a classy move and a great gesture on the part of the Texas Rangers organization.”
Taylor played at North Cobb High School and the past three seasons at Georgia. He had been scouted for years by Coe, who joined the Rangers last year after 13 seasons as an assistant at Kennesaw State. Coe brought up the idea of drafting Taylor to both Cone and the Rangers director of scouting, Kip Fagg. Both approved.
“I’ve always liked the way Johnathan played the game; he was hard-nosed and gritty player,” Fagg told the AJC. “At some point, if the tragedy wouldn’t have happened, he would’ve gotten drafted.”
“This was the right thing to do. It was about respecting how the kid went about his business, and it was a way to honor him and the way he played the game.”
Pro scouts in Georgia donated more than $1,500 to Taylor and his family with proceeds from last week’s Southeast Senior All-Star Game, which featured some of the top high school prospects from Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee.
After the injury, Taylor joined his teammates in the dugout for a pair of games before the end of the season. Georgia’s players wore “JT-2” (Taylor’s jersey number was No. 2) on the back of their batting helmets and “JT-2” was painted on the stadium’s outfield wall.
Fans can donate to the Johnathan Taylor Fund through the UGA website, georgiadogs.com, or at any First American Bank and Trust location. To send an online message to Taylor, go to www.caringbridge.org/visit/Johnathantaylor
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