MLB Draft 2011: Texas Rangers Make Pick of the Draft, Select Paralyzed Player

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MLB Draft 2011: Texas Rangers Make Pick of the Draft, Select Paralyzed Player
Johnathan Taylor Photo Credit: MLB.com

Following the excitement and predictions that accompany the first round of any sports draft, the focus quickly shifts to shrewd analysis, as everyone assesses which of the late-round picks will be "steals" or unpredictably valuable.

There's no question what pick stands out in the 2011 Major League Baseball first-year player draft. 

It came all the way in the 33rd round, after 1,013 prospects had already been chosen.  The Texas Rangers drafted outfielder Johnathan Taylor out of the University of Georgia.

Taylor broke his neck on March 6 of this year after colliding with another teammate during a game against Florida State.  He was left paralyzed from the waist down.

He is currently undergoing rehab at the Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta with hopes of being able to play baseball again.

If nothing else, the Rangers encouraged Taylor to reach that dream, as unlikely as it may be.  Taylor was previously aiming to be selected much higher in the draft—well within the top 1,000—after a successful sophomore season in which he led the team in on-base percentage and hit .335.  

But during that fateful game against Florida State, his career prospects—and, not to mention, his life prospects—changed forever.  

In the third inning, a ball was hit between center fielder Taylor and left fielder Zach Cone.  Due to a characteristically hard-nosed effort, the two juniors dove for the sinking liner, colliding in the process.  The smaller Taylor (who stands at 5'7") hit his head on Cone's hip.

Perhaps the most tragic part of the play was that Taylor and Cone are wonderful friends, like brothers, who ended their experience as college teammates on the worst possible note.

But that's where the Rangers come in.  Texas, which had selected Cone on the first day of the draft with the 37th overall pick, sent out a special request to hold off other teams that also wanted to make Taylor's dream come true.  

Not only did the Rangers officially make Taylor a true major league prospect, but they also reunited him (in a baseball sense) with the closest teammate he had had.   

It was a perfect storm of sorts, one that could only be made more perfect if Taylor fulfills his ambitious goal of making it back onto the field.

Nevertheless, this act speaks volumes about the Rangers, an organization that works hard to create a family atmosphere.  They essentially brought home a pair of brothers this week. 

This also further demonstrates the power that sports can have in a young player's life, particularly one that has been marred by the most unfortunate of circumstances.

Earlier this year, lineman Marcus Cannon, NFL draft prospect and first-round hopeful, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma after the NFL combine.  His dreams shattered, Cannon was shocked to hear that he had been drafted in the fifth round by the New England Patriots, thanks to the unprecedented heartfelt actions of head coach Bill Belichick.

Last year, with his father battling throat and neck cancer, NBA guard Coby Karl was signed by the Denver Nuggets.  Though head coach George Karl was absent for much of the remaining weeks of the season, many perceived the signing to be a kind, uplifting gesture for one of the most respected men in the league.

There are countless other stories like this that prove that sometimes sports are about more than just what happens between the sidelines.  One of the greatest elements of sports is the support generated for others, regardless of who they are or where they come from.

That's because people who play or work in sports know better than some that, in the game of life, everyone plays for the same team.   

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