Taylor Stafford of New Hope High School is Mississippi State's latest baseball commitment. New Hope High School head baseball coach Lee Boyd talks about his talented senior.
"He started as a ninth grader. We lost a lot my first year here. We pretty much played nine seniors my first year here. Taylor was a freshman the next year. I didn't have him in the lineup at the first part of the year because I thought he was too young to play. I put him in the third or fourth game of the season in the nine spot in the lineup and he was 2-for-4 with a couple of singles.
"As the season went on, he eventually worked his way into the leadoff spot. He impressed me big-time. We didn't lose a lot in centerfield with him out there. He has an unbelievable read off the bat. He's had that since the ninth grade. You won't find a better centerfielder in high school.
"I think he hit around .370 his freshman year with 5 home runs. He also led our team with RBIs with 38 in the leadoff spot. His name got out there after that year.
"His sophomore year we moved him to the three-hole in our lineup. And his offense was very simillar to his freshman year. Average-wise, his batting average was very similar. He had four home runs that year. On the mound I used him to close, although I don't think (Mississippi) State is recruiting him to pitch, although I could be wrong. He was actually our closer his ninth grade year.
"This past season I had him in the three-hole again. But his numbers went up from .370/.380 to about 100 points higher, .470. He hit really well. He only had 1 home run, though. But we can't hide him any longer. People knew how to pitch him, so he didn't quite get the pitches to hit that he did as a freshman and sophomore. But this past year he was much more patient at the plate.
"He's also very competitive, which is something that I like. He's always going to give you his best effort.
"He's just a really great ballplayer."
Although a great ballplayer, Coach Boyd feels he may be an even better person.
"As a person, I guess I'm going to sound like a Sunday School teacher, but Taylor is a wonderful kid. I have him in my first block in the morning (in school). And I think he's got close to a 4.0 grade point average. He's in church every Sunday. He's a leader on our team. You will never hear a cross word from him. You just won't find a better kid."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.