And he's done it without a trace of unhappiness. From the staff at Shepherd to teammates to neutral observers, everyone mentions Taylor's demeanor. That sounds trite until you visit a facility and see how many patients are far from upbeat. "He's put a hell of an attitude on it," says Veazey.
Says Dillon, "I'm sure he's had dark moments in the privacy of his own bed. But J.T. has never had a bad day around me.... He's so mentally tough, it's phenomenal."
Told of this scouting report, Taylor shrugs. "I'm a man of the people," he says, smiling.
No, really. What's behind this optimism?
"How is being bitter going to help me achieve my goals?" he says. "There are days I want to be sad, but I can't. Have to keep moving."
THANKS IN no small part to the salutary effect of hanging around Taylor, Cone got out of his funk—and his batting slump—last season. He ended up hitting .275 and stealing 13 bases. In addition to being called the "fastest base runner in the SEC" by Baseball America, he was named to the conference's academic honor roll.
After helping Georgia reach the NCAA regional finals, Cone got a call from the Texas Rangers. They were going to take him with the 37th pick of the 2011 draft. As a "sandwich" pick between the first and second rounds, he would be considered a first-rounder—a deal too good to pass up. Cone would leave UGA but finish his degree requirements during breaks from baseball. His reported signing bonus: $873,000.
Then he got another call from Ryan Coe, the Rangers area scout who signed him. "Let me ask you this," said Coe. "What do you think of the idea of the Rangers drafting J.T.?"
Sure, Taylor had once been a major league prospect, drawing comparisons to another Atlanta native, Ben Revere of the Twins. But Coe must know that Taylor had....