ATHENS, Ga. - Georgia junior outfielder Johnathan Taylor will return to the University of Georgia while Bulldog outfielder Zach Cone has signed with the Texas Rangers, it was announced on Saturday.
Taylor and Cone were among the Texas Rangers draft selections that participated in a press conference prior to the Rangers-Atlanta Braves game Saturday at Turner Field. Several members of Texas' front office staff took part in the media session including director of amateur scouting Kipp Fagg, Rangers Georgia area scout Ryan Coe along with UGA head baseball coach David Perno.
It was announced that Taylor would continue his rehabilitation and studies at Georgia and not sign with the Rangers. Also, the Rangers had made a contribution to the Johnathan Taylor Fund, according to Texas senior director of player personnel A.J. Preller. Meanwhile, Cone and first round pick Kevin Matthews had signed professional contracts. On Monday, Cone will report to the Rangers short-season Class A affiliate in Spokane, Washington.
Taylor will continue working on his recovery through the "Day Program" at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. Following the press session, Taylor was recognized before the game and met several of the Rangers and Braves players on the field during batting practice.
"It was an exciting day all around," said Taylor. "It felt great to be drafted, it was a dream come true. I'm thankful for everything the Texas Rangers have done and to be here with Zach, it's special. Right now, my goal is to get better every day, I'm going to focus on my rehabilitation and school work, and Zach is going to get his pro career started. I am trying to get my legs back under me and start walking and running and get back on that field again."
"I thought it was a cool thing to do when the Rangers were asking me how I felt about them drafting J.T. too, Cone added. "It was awesome, and it says a lot about the Texas Rangers organization and how they care about their players. After the accident, it's been hard for both of us. I'm happy to be here with J.T., it's like we're teammates again."
Matthews was the 33rd overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft, Cone went 37th overall and Taylor was a 33rd round selection. On March 6 in Athens during a Bulldog game against Florida State, Cone and Taylor collided in the outfield. Taylor sustained a serious neck injury that bruised his spinal cord. He has been at the Shepherd Center since mid-March and made progress, graduating from in-patient care to the day program. He will remain there for at least another month and then continue his studies and recovery work at UGA.
"J.T. talks about how his goal is to get better every single day, and that's a goal we talk to our players about in our organization," said Fagg.
Georgia advanced to the NCAA Corvallis (Ore.) Regional final and ended the year with a 33-32 record. It was the second consecutive season that the Bulldogs lost a starter to a devastating injury (Chance Veazey in 2010). In 2011, the Bulldogs navigated the nation's toughest rated schedule (37 games against ranked teams) and finished fourth in the Southeastern Conference behind three teams in the league that advanced to the College World Series. It marked the sixth time in 10 seasons under Perno that the Bulldogs made the NCAA Tournament.