SARASOTA, Fla. – Catcher Taylor Teagarden had his boyhood dream fulfilled, but then let it slip through his fingers.
The Dallas native and University of Texas alumnus was traded this past off-season from the Texas Rangers (for whom he dreamed of playing since he was a boy), to Baltimore for prospect right-hander Randy Henry and minor-league infielder Greg Miclat.
According to him, the circumstances of the deal were the result of a perfect storm.
“I had some opportunities,” said Teagarden, at the Orioles spring training complex. “But the reality is that for a couple of years there [with the Rangers] I just didn’t play very well.
“The Rangers, in a really short span, turned into a team that was really competing for a World Series and as most teams do when they are at that point they acquired the best talent they could get.”
Buried behind regular starters Yorvit Torrealba and Mike Napoli in Arlington last season, the 6-1, 200 pound Teagarden only played in 14 games as the loaded Rangers made a run to the World Series.
In that time, he batted .235 with eight hits and two RBIs in 34 at-bats. He also appeared in 42 games for the team’s AAA affiliate at Round Rock, Texas.
Yet things didn’t always seem so glib for the backstop from the Dallas community of Carrollton.
Teagarden declined to sign with the Cubs, who drafted him out of high school, and then played in three-straight College World Series. He won it all in 2005 with his boyhood favourite Longhorns, and earned the catcher spot on that year’s all-tournament team.
His dream came true when the Texas Rangers picked him in the third round of the 2005 amateur draft.
“I was so excited to be drafted by the Rangers,” Teagarden said. “In 2008 when I made my debut I just thought to myself ‘this is where I used to go watch games and now I am apart of it’.
“It was a unique experience and something I cherished and am really proud of.”
In 2008 the sky seemed to be the limit for the then 24-year-old rookie.
He found himself in 16 games for the Rangers that year, notching an impressive .319 batting average while belting six homers and 17 RBIs in his 47 at-bats.
That summer he was invited to represent the United States at the Beijing Olympics. There he joined with the likes of current MLBers Trevor Cahill (Oakland), Stephen Strasburg (Washington), and Brian Duensing (Minnesota), as well as Orioles teammate Jake Arrieta in capturing bronze.
“It was a thrill,” he said. “It’s something I am proud to be apart of and it is an experience that is hard to compare to.
“I was glad to embrace that challenge and that opportunity to represent America and be amongst some of the best athletes in the world.”
After a year of struggling at the plate as a regular in the 2009 season (.217 average, and 76 strikeouts in 198 at-bats), he began to see his workload diminish.
In 2010 he bounced up and down between the Rangers and Double-A Frisco, and as Texas emerged as one of the league’s best squads at the turn of the decade, it became ever more apparent that playing time was getting scarce.
The fresh start in Baltimore seems to be just what he needed, especially after two knee surgeries in the off-season.
“I’m just happy now that I have a team like Baltimore that can believe in me,” Teagarden said. “I’m happy they plan to just let me play at the big league level which I’m so grateful for.”
Taylor’s Texas dream is over, but in Maryland he hopes light will be at the end of his tunnel.