After a slow start to his professional career, 2011 fifth-round pick Beau Taylor is starting to come around as he gains valuable experience as an everyday player in the Burlington lineup.
The University of Central Florida product has seven hits in 22 August at-bats with an 809 OPS, and is putting himself on the organizational fast track while other draft mates are either still in Arizona or playing with short-season Vermont.
"I've been getting a lot better and getting my feet wet in the minor leagues," said Taylor, who signed with the A's less than a week after the team made him the 166th overall selection.
"This is a great experience. It was a dream my whole entire life and it's finally here. I'm getting used to swinging wood bats again and I finally got my size and am feeling good with it. I'm telling everybody the hits are coming now because I got my bat."
Taylor's infectious personality and outgoing nature blends in well on a Burlington team that's destined for the Midwest League playoffs in September. The 21-year old recently got a Mohawk haircut to match several other Bees teammates.
Just two months removed from the draft, he is enjoying an opportunity not many others receive with a full-season affiliate.
Shortly after Taylor signed with the A's, Burlington lost opening-day catchers John Nester to injury and Daniel Pettiti to a demotion. It made sense for the organization to call on its fifth-round selection, although he had just four games and 17 at-bats under his belt in the New York-Penn League.
"I never really heard why I got called up, but I'm thankful for however it happened," Taylor said. "I'm thankful to be here, it's been a great experience, and I hope to keep going up."
If Taylor keeps improving at his current pace, and has a solid spring training, it's not a stretch to think he'll begin his first full season of professional ball at High-A Stockton. Taylor has hit safely in six of his past seven games, including a 4-for-4 performance at Wisconsin on July 30th.
Now that he has gotten past the initial wood-bat adjustment, Taylor says the biggest challenge has been continuing to learn the routine of being a professional ball player.
"It's just the grind of being at the ball field every day," he said.
"In college we're at the field every day, but it wasn't like this. You're not here 13 or 14 hours a day. Instead of practicing two times a week, you're playing every day. You've got to physically and mentally prepare yourself every single day. It's gotten a lot easier from when I first got here."
He's also learning the intricacies of playing catcher at the next level, including the responsibility of handling a staff and calling pitches.
"I'm still improving my relationships with the players on the team, getting to know the pitching staff, controlling them and learning how to call games better," Taylor said.
"In college, my coach called the game for me so this is a new thing for me. I'm catching on pretty quick and Nester is helping me out a lot."
Although he hasn't had much time to reflect on the past two months, Taylor can't help but think about his fortune of being drafted by Oakland.
"Playing baseball on video games, I would always play with the A's because I loved the uniforms and the white cleats," he said.
"I grew up cheering for the A's and Yankees. I'd never gotten the chance to wear white cleats before and my dad said I never would. Right when I got signed I told him, ‘guess who's wearing the white cleats now'!"
As evidenced by the fact it took him less than a week to sign with the organization, Taylor didn't put much thought into returning to Central Florida for his senior year. The catcher took the offer the A's put on the table and was soon on a plane to Arizona.
"They gave me a really good deal that I didn't want to pass up," Taylor said.
"I had just got done playing college ball and was sitting there for a week not playing. I hated not playing. I'd still go to the ball field, but not playing the game was killing me. I didn't want to be one of those guys that would wait a month, get here and everyone would think he's the big shot because he waited so long to sign. All I wanted to do was go play."