At first glance, things just don’t seem like they’ve fallen into place for Drew Taylor.

Three weeks after calling Michigan’s baseball team “the best team in the Big Ten,” Taylor watched the Wolverines make an early exit from the conference tournament. A shot at the College World Series would have to wait another year for the gangly, 6’4” sophomore pitcher, even though he was there last year with perennial power Georgia Tech – a school that gave itself that very chance again this year before bowing out in the regionals.

It was just another reminder of what could be someday for a kid already living in the shadow of his father, Ron Taylor, who has made it to the big time, and has a World Series ring to prove it. Heck, he’s almost a national hero.

Oh yeah, and Taylor is from Canada.

It’s true – fate seems to have been cruel to Michigan’s young pitching star.

But don’t tell him that. Everything is going just fine for Taylor. According to him, he’s right where he wants to be.

And right now, that place is Michigan. Not Georgia Tech.

“I left the warm weather and the screaming fans,” Taylor said. “But I do not regret the move. In fact, I’m very excited that I made it.”

Taylor pitched just 9.1 innings his freshman year for the Yellow Jackets and posted a less than enviable 7.71 ERA. With most of the Georgia Tech pitching staff returning for his sophomore campaign, Taylor figured it was time for a change of venue.

Conveniently, Michigan was experiencing a change of its own. The program was in the middle of a coaching change, with Rich Maloney and his staff poised to return a storied program back to the glory that most had forgotten.

Maloney already had a reputation for producing outstanding pitchers at Ball State – specifically Ryan Bullington, the first pick in the 2002 Major League Draft. The calling card seemed too good to pass up for Taylor.

“When I heard that these coaches were moving over to Michigan – a great academic school – it just seemed to all fit,” Taylor said.

Taylor wouldn’t necessarily walk right into the role of the ace, though. Along with the current state of the program, the pitching staff was left without much direction. Junior Jim Brauer was the only established returning starter, and he lost his season to injury in his first start. Early on, it seemed the team would depend on the likes of Taylor and sophomore Michael Penn – a Ball State transfer who followed his former coach – to carry much of the load for the young staff.

“Guys aren’t going to have a lot of confidence in you unless you go out there and prove yourself,” Taylor said. “(The staff) is a great bunch of guys and they made the transition real easy for me.”

By the time the conference schedule began, he had emerged as a solidified starter, if not the No. 1 ace.

“I think we gave him some confidence,” Maloney said. “With a new environment and players, there’s always a learning curve. To his credit, he kept working and studying and it finally clicked for him.”

He finished the season with a 9-1 record, the first Wolverine with that many victories since 1997. He also led the team with five complete games, a vital stat considering the shakiness of the Michigan bullpen all season. The team awarded him with the Geoff Zahn Award as Michigan’s most valuable pitcher.

“There’s no way we could have finished third (in the Big Ten) without the production, effort and gamesmanship that he displayed,” Maloney said. “He really took ownership of the pitching staff.”

It may not have been so outlandish to figure Taylor was anchoring “the best team in the Big Ten” after the Wolverines took an important series from Ohio State in the first week of May. Michigan handed the Buckeyes their first home-series loss since 1996, and was quickly climbing up the conference standings.

“I strongly believe that still,” Taylor said. “The tournament was rough for us and it’s a wakeup call for us to come back next year refocused.”

Taylor had found an identity on a team that had just found its own identity, but it certainly came with a price among his teammates. It’s hard to forget that this skinny pitcher with the defined sideburns is a native of Toronto, Ontario.

“The guys call me SARS,” Taylor said. “Whenever we’re in the lockerroom and a Canadian comes on the TV, I’ll shout out he’s from Canada and I’ll get things thrown at me.”

Being Canadian in an American world is more than likely bound to bring about a little ribbing, but there’s a certain amount of pride when it comes to representing your country abroad.

Canada may be hockey country, but it has its share of baseball heroes. Just take a look through one of the two books entitled “Great Moments in Canadian Baseball,” or “Canada’s Baseball Legends,” and you’re likely to run across the name of Ron Taylor, Drew’s father.

Ron Taylor pitched 11 seasons in the major leagues for the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Mets and Houston Astros between 1962-72. He was an ace closer out of the bullpen years before the role was utilized like it is today. He won World Series rings with the 1964 Cardinals and the 1969 Mets. Ron is about as close to a Canadian baseball superstar as you can ask for.

“He’s definitely a big player in Canadian baseball,” Taylor said. “He’s in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and he has a bunch of accolades over his career. It’s impressive.”

It’s a tough path to follow for a son, but his father’s accomplishments on the field aren’t the most important thing for Drew to measure up against.

Ron attended medical school after he finished his pitching career, and now serves as the team doctor for the Toronto Blue Jays. Before obtaining his medical degree, he was already a registered electrical engineer in Toronto. The thirst for knowledge seems to have rubbed off on Drew.

“He’s always stressed academics to me and it was one of the most important things for me when I chose the University,” Taylor said. “I want to go into medicine when I’m older so that’s how I’ve geared my academics.”

Education isn’t the only thing Ron has passed on to Drew. His major league contacts allowed Drew to mingle with legends like Yogi Berra, Bob Gibson, Nolan Ryan and even Joe DiMaggio. One former great gave Drew a bit of wisdom that remains with him today.

“Tom Seaver asked me a question once,” Drew said. “‘Average is the best of the worst and the worst of the best. Where do you want to stand?’ That’s one thing that he said to me that I’ll remember for a long time.”

It’s just one of the gifts Drew’s father has been able to give him. And Ron is part of the reason he acts the way he does on the mound.

“On the field, the most important thing my dad has ever taught me is how to compete,” Taylor said. “My dad’s always told me to go right after hitters and challenge them – never be intimidated by somebody.”

That attitude just might make Taylor the first pitcher Maloney hands the ball to next season. As the clich

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