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Ken Medlin

Taylor's fall from grace a cautionary tale

Posted March 3, 2012

If you followed baseball at all in 1991, you heard of Brien Taylor.

The number one pick overall in that year’s draft, Taylor was supposed to be the next great Yankees pitcher.

Lefty Gomez, Whitey Ford, Ron Guidry... and Brien Taylor – that’s how it was supposed to read.

But now, two decades later, Taylor’s not preparing for a trip to Cooperstown. He’s sitting in jail – facing charges of cocaine trafficking. Instead of Yankee pinstripes, he’s wearing an orange prison jumpsuit.

It’s a sad chapter in a story of what could have been. Taylor had “can’t-miss” talent.

I remember sitting at a college baseball game that summer, and striking up a conversation with a big league scout. I asked him about Taylor, and he simply shook his head. “There’s nothing to scout,” he said. Then he described the best high school pitcher he’d ever seen.
Taylor received a then-record signing bonus of $1.55 million from the Yankees, the result of a tense negotiation during which he threatened to enroll at Louisburg Junior College if the Yankees didn’t cave.

They caved. And Taylor seemed to be on his way until he injured his shoulder in a bar fight. He was never the same pitcher, and a can’t-miss career missed.

Nearly a dozen years ago, I got in touch with Taylor for a story. He was working in Raleigh, taking classes at a community college, and playing in an amateur baseball league “for the love of the game.”

Brien Taylor reflects circa 2001 Brien Taylor reflects circa 2001

He didn’t seem bitter. Actually, he came across as a man at peace with the hand he had been dealt. He told me he had invested his signing bonus, and was living comfortably.

A few years later, Taylor was back at home in Beaufort. He was living with his parents, and things didn’t appear to be going as well..

And now this...

There’s something especially poignant when a person who has everything going for them loses it all. Taylor was on top of the world in 1991, bound for stardom. Now it’s all gone.

We can all learn a lesson from this: Never take anything for granted, and always remember every action has a consequence. We need only look at Brien Taylor to remember that.
 

6 Comments

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  • turkeydance Mar 4, 10:02 p.m.

    hammerhead had it right.
    "the fault...is...in ourselves"
    apologies to Shakespeare.

  • Zaknow Mar 4, 9:41 a.m.

    Some people have a hard time choosing the way to live their life. Usually someone like Taylor after failing choose the fast easy way that leads to more trouble instead of solving their problems. I hope he can straighten his life out.

  • BattlingBishop 5 Mar 4, 9:17 a.m.

    I've got a couple of relatives who have "sabotaged" themselves by making really stupid decisions... View More

    — Posted by Hammerhead

    I know exactly what you're saying, Hammer. As tough as it is, at some point, you have to walk away from 'em.

  • Hammerhead Mar 4, 6:32 a.m.

    I've got a couple of relatives who have "sabotaged" themselves by making really stupid decisions over the years. Both are pretty smart and skilled at their trade too. At some point you just shake your head and stop supporting them. The lives they've affected adversely, their own included, are not trivial.

  • BattlingBishop 5 Mar 3, 6:16 p.m.

    "Actually, he came across as a man at peace with the hand he had been dealt."

    Seriously? The #1 team in MLB history rolled out the red carpet for this guy, made him the #1 pick overall, gave him a $1.55 million signing bonus, and he's at peace with the hand he was dealt. I'll take that hand 24/7. I'm with Hammerhead....no sympathy here.

  • Hammerhead Mar 3, 3:00 p.m.

    Of course, he could have accepted his fate and pursued a "normal" life like the rest of us and lived on a modest income. No sympathy here.

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