The consensus of those in the know about Skyline College freshman standout Rashad Taylor is simple. The kid loves the game of baseball.
As evidenced by his breakout performance this year as the No. 2 hitter in a top-heavy lineup, the kid can also play. Taylor is the Trojans’ leading hitter with a .426 average and also paces the team with 40 hits, five triples, six homers, nine stolen bases, a .528 on-base percentage and is among the Coast Conference North Division leaders with a .777 slugging percentage.
Certainly not a bad showing for someone who admittedly did not excel in three years as a varsity starter at Riordan High School. The 6-foot-4 Taylor was actually better known as a standout wide receiver on the football team. He led the West Catholic Athletic League in 2004-05 as a senior with 32 receptions and was named all-league.
However, underachieving on the baseball diamond did not hurt his potential in the eyes of Riordan coach Ron Isola.
"He has certainly got the talent and has got the body," Isola said. "And he loves the game."
The only WCAL baseball leaderboards on which Taylor’s name can be found is for the one triple he hit as a sophomore in 2003. Otherwise, he tempered the middle of the order for a team that had a sub-.500 record over his three years as the starting center fielder.
"I didn’t really do so well at baseball at Riordan," Taylor said. "That’s why I was looking towards football … I never took the time to work on baseball in high school."
At the outset of his senior year, Taylor was getting looks from Division I football programs. According to Taylor, they all fell through, which refocused his attention toward the diamond, where even though his offensive production wasn’t profound, his performance in the field was.
"His gift to get to balls was simply unbelievable," Isola said. "He looked like he was in slow motion. He could have been the best outfielder we ever had."
Like many high school power hitters, Taylor had a reputation for being a dead-red fastball hitter.
"His hitting was not where it is today," Skyline coach Dino Nomicos said of Taylor’s swing as a high school sophomore. "I knew when [Skyline hitting coach John Quintell] got a hold of him, he’d be OK."
With Quintell, Taylor utilizes most of his practice schedule working on hitting. More specifically, Quintell says, Taylor has refined his power stroke through developing torque. He had been taking in the neighborhood of 125 swings a day, until he tweaked his back three weeks ago. The setback has limited his power numbers, but it is nowhere near as drastic as his 2005 shoulder surgery, which caused Taylor to take a medical redshirt last year.
Taylor’s goal is to develop an approach to help him at the next level, which could be a jump to pro ball as early as this year. Currently on a draft-and-follow after being selected by Philadelphia in the 35th round of last year, Taylor has until June 1 to sign a deal. He was also drafted in 2005 out of Riordan on a 44th-round flyer by Tampa Bay.
Ultimately, Taylor’s goal — maybe sooner than later — is to go pro.
"That’s what I want to do," Taylor said. "If a good four-year school comes along then I’ll take that into consideration, but that’s what I want to do. I want to play pro ball."