May 7, 2006
by Kyle McRae
When you're a six foot, six inch 250 pound athlete, there are naturally going to be lots of expectations placed upon you.
"Everyone just assumes you play football," laughed Michael Taylor.
And, that's one of the easiest ones.
It's a light subject in what has sometimes been a tough year for Taylor. The expectations for Taylor this season were lofty after a promising freshman campaign at Stanford in 2005 and an even better summer last year when he was named Baseball America's top prospect in the Alaska League after hitting .328 with four homers, 25 RBI and 25 stolen bases for the Mat-Su Miners.
Baseball America added to the expectations when they named Taylor a 2006 Third Team Preseason All-American and listed him as their No. 8 sophomore prospect in the country. He was also placed on the 2006 Wallace Award Watch List for the annual honor given by the College Baseball Foundation to the nation's top collegiate player.
On top of that, he had plenty of expectations for himself this year.
"Everything went so well last summer and then this past fall in practice," said Taylor. "Then I don't know what happened. I thought we were going to be really good, but the wheels just kind of fell off."
Taylor might be a little harsh on himself and the club. He is still hitting a respectable .293 and tied for second on the team with 25 RBI, and the Cardinal has managed a 21-21 record through its first 42 games. The wheels didn't exactly fall off, but it is not what people have come to expect of a Stanford Baseball program that is battling to advance to the postseason after 12 consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
"It just hasn't all come together yet, but hopefully this will make us stronger," explained Taylor. "We're playing hard, but we're just not winning to the level that everyone wants to."
Taylor hopes that this season has taught he and his teammates some valuable lessons that he'll take into the future.
"I really think this season has taught a lot of guys about the value of winning and to appreciate it," Taylor emphasized. "A lot of guys come in here and assume they are going to win, which isn't a bad thing, but we took winning for granted and how difficult it is. We need to appreciate how fortunate you are to play well and get a win, and we need to step back and say this is what you need to do to get a victory."
One of those things the cerebral Taylor knows he needs to do is not worry as much about the expectations others have placed on him and try to forget a little bit about the ones he has placed on himself.
"I'm just going to have fun," said Taylor about his immediate baseball plans. "Maybe one of the reasons I haven't had as good of a year as I would have liked to this point has been the expectations I put on myself for high performance. Any time you're playing the game for performance, it becomes truly difficult because the nature of the game is that you're going to have tough times. The rest of my collegiate career and this summer I just want to enjoy playing the game."
If he ever forgets his pledge, Taylor needs to look no further than his own section of this year's Stanford Baseball Media Guide, where his advice to youngsters is to "have fun and don't let grownups spoil your fun".
"Plus, if I can't figure out this baseball thing, I guess I'll just do the tight end thing," he quipped.
If he just keeps enjoying to play the game, he shouldn't need to do that because he already has it figured out.