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SHS grad Taylor drafted by Philly
Zach Taylor, right, a 2009 Statesboro High School graduate, plans to skip his senior season at Armstrong Atlantic State and sign a professional contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, who drafted the outfielder in the 12th round. - photo by Armstrong Atlantic State AMR

    It has been quite the 2012 Major League Baseball draft for the Statesboro area.
    Along with four Georgia Southern players being selected, Statesboro High School was represented as 2009 graduate and current Armstrong Atlantic State outfielder Zach Taylor was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday in the 12th round as the 398th overall selection.
    Taylor expects to sign a professional contract, forgoing his final season of collegiate eligibility, and report to one of the Phillies’ minor league affiliates.
    “I know that everyone probably says this, but it really is a dream come true,” Taylor said. “It was a great feeling to hear my name get called.”
    As exciting as it was, Taylor has some previous experience in handling draft day. After a standout career at Statesboro High, Taylor was selected in the 31st round of the 2009 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. While an accomplishment like that might mark the end of most players’ amateur career, that draft day three years ago was just another step in Taylor’s journey.
    Despite Pittsburgh’s offer, Taylor declined. He opting to accept a scholarship to play at the University of Georgia. After a year in Athens, Taylor departed for Santa Fe Junior College for the 2011 season before making his way to Armstrong Atlantic State this spring.
    Taylor said the constant changes in venue were tough to adapt to and he sometimes wondered whether he made the right choices. But he said he believes the challenges of moving around while still playing well served as good preparation for the life of a professional baseball player, where trades and moves are common.
    The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Taylor, who bats and throws left-handed, is certain that he ended up exactly where he should have.
    “I definitely think that Armstrong was a great place for me to come to,” Taylor said. “I was able to play with a lot of guys that I grew up either playing with or against. We all get along and know each other well. That kind of camaraderie really helps when you’re going through a long, tough season.”
    That help may have been beneficial to his teammates, but Taylor rarely seemed to need any this season.
    The junior was named Peach Belt Conference Player of the Year after batting .373 with 15 home runs and 71 runs batted in — his home run and RBI totals both good enough to top all players in the conference.
    Taylor helped lead AASU to the Peach Belt Conference Tournament title and a berth in the NCAA Division II Regionals. He also was named to the Division II All-America team and voted Co-Player of the Year by the National College Baseball Writers Association.
    “This was such a fun season,” Taylor said. “I knew that I was having a lot of success, and the draft was always in the back of my mind, but it was easy not to focus too much on that stuff with all the success the team was having.”
    Now Taylor is prepared to leave the college ranks behind as he enters the professional ranks.
    Once he signs a contract, Taylor likely will head to one of the Phillies’ Class-A organizations, either in Clearwater, Fla., or Lakewood, N.J.
    “Signing that contract and knowing that I’m a pro baseball player will be a really special feeling,” Taylor said. “But I’m really just anxious to get back out on the field and get back to playing ball. Getting drafted is a dream come true, but now I get the chance to start working towards even bigger dreams.”
    Mike Anthony may be contacted at (912) 489-9408.