Taylor Black to Return to Kentucky for Senior Season

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky senior shortstop Taylor Black, a 28th round selection in the 2010 MLB Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals, has elected to return to UK for his senior season, he announced.

“Coach Henderson, my parents and I had a good talk about what was best for me and I felt like it was best for me to come back and get my degree and put myself in position to go back in the draft next year, maybe go a little bit higher,” Black said. “I felt like there was room for me to improve and I wanted to come back and show everyone that I can be a better draft pick next year.

“It means a lot to get a college degree too, a degree is worth a lot. There are a bunch of people that elect to play pro ball out of high school or leave after their junior year and don’t ever come back (to finish their degree). I wanted to come back, I just feel like if I can get it done this year, that just makes it easier to come back for a summer or a semester.”

After transferring to Kentucky for the 2010 season from Spartanburg Methodist and Charleston Southern, Black stepped into the starting shortstop job from day one, replacing former UK All-Southeastern Conference shortstop Chris Wade. Black started 55 of UK’s 56 games at shortstop, ranking second on the team with 11 home runs. A 6-foot-1, 180-pound right-handed hitter, Black batted .270 (48-for-178) with six doubles and 37 RBI, stealing 12-of-12 bases.

“We are thrilled that Taylor has elected to return to Kentucky for his senior season,” UK head coach Gary Henderson said. “As a junior in his first year in the SEC, Taylor had an outstanding season and has positioned himself as one of the better players in the conference. We are looking forward to Taylor having an outstanding senior year.”

Black was one of nine players with a UK connection to be drafted in the 2010 MLB Draft, going 859th overall to the Cardinals in the 28th round.) The highest UK player selected, second baseman Chris Bisson, was picked with the fourth round selection of the San Diego Padres (No. 124). UK seniors Gunner Glad, Marcus Nidiffer and Keenan Wiley each signed free agent contracts.

“I feel like I am going to have to be a leader this year, going into my senior year,” Black said. “We are going to have a lot of new players coming in and we are expecting some of them to play a lot. I need to be a leader. It is going to be fun, just knowing how the SEC works now – it is just so competitive. Playing in this league is a great experience and I want to take another run at it.”

A native of Easley, S.C., Black struggled through the first 12 games of the season, batting .182 (6-for-33) with one double, five RBI, drawing one walk and striking out eight times, also committing eight errors. UK head coach Gary Henderson then gave Black a day off during weekend series with IPFW and Black responded after the day off, batting .290 (42-for-145) with 39 runs scored, five doubles, 11 homers and 32 RBI over the final 43 games, adding 14 walks and 29 strikeouts, fielding .931.

In SEC play alone, Black was one of the top offensive performers in the league, batting .300 (30-for-100) with team-bests in runs (26), homers (10) and RBI (22), hitting primarily in the lower half of the batting order. With 10 homers in conference action, Black ranked No. 7 in the league, also ranking ninth in slugging percentage (.620) in league games.

Defensively throughout the season, Black showcased his outstanding range and ability to make dazzling plays, ranking second in assists (175) and 11th in double plays (34) at the end of the regular season.

During the summer, Black spent the first 11 games playing for the Cotuit Kettlers in the prestigious Cape Cod League, joining UK outfielder Chad Wright on the Kettlers. Black also played in 23 games with 22 starts for Columbia in the Coastal Plains League after leaving the Cape. He batted .303 (20-for-66) with 16 runs, one double, one homer and nine RBI. Most impressively, Black drew 21 walks and struck out just 16 times, stealing an eye-popping 28-of-31 bases.

“I have had a great summer, got to play in two of the best leagues in the nation,” Black said. “I was able to go to the Coastal Plains League and use some of the stuff I learned at Kentucky and in the Cape (Cod League). Felt like I got better, specifically with my running game. I started swinging the wood bat pretty well. It was fun just to go out there and play this summer.

“When I got to the Coastal Plains League I asked our coach if I could just run whenever I could, and with him being a pitching guy, he knew how much it affects the pitcher, so he just told us to do whatever we wanted. It got to the point where I could steal a base whenever I wanted. I was confident on the base paths, I don’t know what it was but something changed in the way I play baseball.”