By: Andrew R. Goetz
He is too short. He has a bad body. Like a scene out of “Moneyball,” former Morehead State catcher Taylor Davis understood the real and invented roadblocks that stood between him and his dream of playing professional baseball.
Standing 5-foot-10 and tilting the scale at just 200 pounds, Davis did not look the part of a prototypical catcher. A native of Jupiter, Fla., he fought the stereotypes and labels associated with being a catcher with a “bad body” from a young age.
“When I was growing up, I was always the short, chubby white kid,” said Davis. “I don’t have any crazy tools. I am not 6-foot-4, I don’t have a great arm and I don’t have unbelievable power.
“My whole life, people have told me I’m too short, I don’t have a good enough body, my arm isn’t good enough and I don’t hit good enough. I didn’t use it as motivation. I just tried to get past it.”
But Davis, who batted .500 and compiled a 25-game hitting streak as a senior at Jupiter (Fla.) High School, proved he was more than just a “chubby white kid.” That strong senior campaign caught the eye of Major League ball clubs and the Florida Marlins selected him in the 49th round of the First-Year Player Draft.
Instead of taking a leap into the professional ranks, Davis decided to attend Morehead State University, where he could get an education and play college baseball. Eagles baseball coach Jay Sorg and his staff were excited to work with Davis and develop the gifted backstop.
“We knew Taylor was a talented player,” said Sorg. “We were excited when he turned down an offer from the Marlins and became an Eagle.”
The MSU skipper had spent several seasons coaching professional baseball for Cincinnati Reds’ affiliates and knew that Davis’ talents behind the plate and at the dish outweighed his physical limitations.
“Taylor does not have a typical ‘pro body’,” said Sorg. “I think it turned off some scouts. Good scouts recognize that his tools grade out high on a professional scale. His bat-speed and ability to consistently put the barrel on the baseball rank as good as anyone we have ever had.
“Taylor has a strong and accurate arm from behind the plate. He is also a plus receiver. Taylor understands the game. He has a good feel for pitchers, sees hitter weaknesses and knows which pitches to call at the right times.”
As a college freshman, he batted .315 with 12 home runs and 40 RBI.
Davis continued to flash power, the ability to hit for average and the quickness to gun down potential base stealers during his sophomore season with the Eagles.
His junior season was different. The Eagles lost what had been a strong core of power-hitting veteran players from the year before and Davis was expected to not only carry the load offensively, but also be a leader in the clubhouse.
Prior to the season, he was selected to the preseason All-Ohio Valley Conference First Team and was included on the Johnny Bench Award Watch List, a prestigious award recognizing the nation’s best catcher.
The Eagles struggled during the 2011 campaign as they tried to accept a new identity with a team comprised of young nucleus of speedsters with a “small ball” mentality.
Instead of regressing during the campaign, Davis exceeded expectations. Despite a lingering hand injury, he led the conference in in batting average (.414), slugging percentage (.736), on-base percentage (.510), home runs (13) and total bases (128). He also placed second in walks (34) and fourth in RBI (48), hits (72) and runs (46).
Following his junior year, Davis suited up and took the field in the Cape Cod League, a premier wooden bat summer league. In 21 games as a member of the Brewster Whitecaps, he batted .375 with two long balls and 13 RBI.
During that summer season, Davis got the offer of a lifetime.
“A scout came up to my dad and we had breakfast the next day,” described Davis. “He offered me a deal with the Chicago Cubs and I agreed to it about 15 minutes later. I signed the contract later that day.”
Davis jetted to Arizona after three days home, finished his physical and hit the field with the Cubs short-season club.
Sorg was not surprised that Davis would get his shot at professional ball.
“We were very happy for Taylor,” said Sorg. “It is very rewarding for a coach to see guy’s dreams come to fruition. He developed more each season. Taylor was a high-production player for us offensively and defensively. Taylor is going to be a good professional player. I believe in him and think that he will make a strong run at the big leagues.”
Davis batted .308 with three triples and 10 RBI over 11 games with the Arizona League Cubs. In fact, in his last Arizona League at-bat he swatted a game winning walk-off single.
The Eagle coaching staff recognizes the loss of Davis is a big one, but is excited about his professional prospects.
“It’s tough to lose someone who put up big numbers like Taylor, but that’s part of college baseball,” said Sorg. “We will miss him as a player, but even more as a person. Teams go through so much together it turns into a family. Taylor has moved on, but will always be a part of our baseball family.”
Davis will miss his Eagle baseball family, too, and will look back fondly at his time at Morehead State.
“I love Morehead,” said Davis. “I will definitely miss playing college baseball and all my friends. Coach Sorg runs a professional system. The things that happen (in Morehead) are they way things are in professional baseball.”
With next season right around the corner, Davis is looking forward to advancing to Low-A and continuing to develop his entire skill set. He knows that his Eagle family will be supporting and cheering him on as he chases his dream of playing in the Major Leagues.