Samad Taylor made his Vancouver Canadians debut on August 11.
I caught up with Vancouver Canadians second baseman Samad Taylor to talk about his eventful 2017 season. The 19 year-old right-handed hitter from Corona, California was in the midst of his second professional season with Cleveland before he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays as part of the deal that sent reliever Joe Smith to Ohio. The 10th round pick from Corona High School in 2016 was with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers of the New York-Penn League at the time of the trade. To say he was taken aback about the deal would be an understatement.
“I was getting ready for a game and our GM came into the clubhouse and told me to go into the coach’s office and they told me I was traded. It was a pretty big shock. You don’t grow up expecting to even get drafted and then you definitely don’t grow up expecting to get traded. So when that happened, it was like, ‘Dang, this really happened.’ It didn’t really hit me that I got traded until I got to Bluefield.”
On the Blue Jays wanting to trade for him.
“That was a big thing because I don’t really pay attention to the TV stuff and all that. I really focus on just my game and that’s about it. I didn’t know how the trade stuff went or anything like that so I was like, ‘I got traded.’ I didn’t know how to react. And then hearing who I got traded for and talking to the Blue Jays guys, it sounded like the Blue Jays really wanted me. Now that I am a Blue Jay and I see that they wanted me, it feels way better than when it felt the first time when I first got traded.”
On his first contact with the Jays and heading to Bluefield before Vancouver.
“I’m sure it was (Blue Jays general manager) Ross Atkins. He called and asked when I wanted to head out and I got my plane ticket and I was in Bluefield the next day.
“I had to wait for my passport so I got my passport. I purchased it the week before and then I get traded and Ross was like, ‘Do you have your passport?’ I was like, ‘I just ordered it. I’m waiting for it to come in.’ ‘Do you know when it will be in?’ I told him, he was like, ‘Alright, We’re going to send you to Bluefield for a couple of days and then once you get your passport, we’re going to send you out to Vancouver.’”
On the difference between the New York-Penn and Appalachian Leagues.
“In the New York-Penn League, you’re seeing guys that are not necessarily trying to blow fastballs by you but you’re seeing guys that can spot a fastball and come back with a good off-speed and stuff like that. In the Appalachian League, it was more guys trying to overpower you.”
On joining a new organization.
“It wasn’t that big of an adjustment. I’m real good friends with Chavez Young. Once I got there (in Bluefield), he was there and it took off from there.”
On getting promoted to Vancouver.
“I was happy. I was thrilled. I felt like once I got sent to Bluefield, back in Rookie ball, and then get the call to Vancouver and it was like I’m back where I should be. I was ready to get out.”
Samad Taylor hit an opposite-field home run at Nat Bailey Stadium for his first home run in a Canadians uniform August 12.
On his first home run as a member of the C’s.
“0-0 count and I knew I was batting in the lower half of the lineup and I knew I was going to get a fastball. I got my foot down in time and (Volcanoes pitcher Greg Jacknewitz) happened throw the ball on the outer half (of the plate) and I drove it out.
To be honest, I wasn’t even looking at the ball. I didn’t even think the ball was getting out. I put my head down and I started to sprint and I look up and the umpire is waving his finger. At that moment, I realized it was out because all of the fans were going crazy. That was a real good feeling.”
On playing in front of sell-out crowds at Nat Bailey Stadium.
“It was real different. You’re going from like in the New York-Penn League, we were playing in front of 3,000 to 4,000 fans a day and you go to the Appy League and you’re playing in front of 50 to 60 fans a day and then you get called up to Vancouver and it’s like ‘Wow!’ Like you think from the Appy League, you get called to Vancouver, you think you’re in a big league stadium so it was so wild. You can’t really hear anything. Like in the playoffs, for the championship series, I was trying to talk to (shortstop) Logan Warmoth (from second base) and we can’t hear each other, like it was that loud, the whole game.”
On the reception he received in Vancouver.
“They welcomed me real well. It wasn’t a big culture shock. It was more of like, ‘I’m here now. I’m going to do whatever I can do to help the team win and they were all for it.’ They weren’t negative fans whatsoever.”
On the final week before the Northwest League playoffs.
“That last game in Tri-City, that was a weird set-up. If (Tri-City) lost and Spokane lost, then they were in and if Spokane won, then they were out of it so they were playing to lose that whole game and it was just like, it was a weird feeling, like ‘Why are we playing a team when they’re not even giving it their all?’ And then we end up beating them and Eugene has Spokane down to the last out and they end up blowing that so when we figured out that we were playing Spokane, we knew Spokane was hot. They’ve been hot for 9 to 10 games, we knew it was going to be a good fight and we were getting guys healthy after we had seen that Spokane had won.
“We get on the bus to head there the next morning and it’s foggy. 3:00 in the afternoon and it’s foggy. Once we’d seen that, I knew off the bat there was a hard chance that we would even play on how smoky it was. They were trying to push it and we were getting on the bus and they told us that we were heading back to Vancouver.
That was a good thing to have two off-days after that one and then we get back home and they say that we’re playing as an away team, that was just a weird feeling.”
Samad Taylor recorded hits in his first three playoff games with the C’s.
On how bad the forest fire situation was in Spokane late in the season.
“It was terrible. You couldn’t even see. Mind you, we would have played a night game (for Game 1). We played out there a week before that and it was a forest fire or something like that and it was hard to see then. And this one was twice as worse as the one we had played in. I couldn’t even imagine how it was going to look at night. That other day, it was bad. It was hard to breathe. It was hard to see, you really couldn’t function as you wanted to but they ended up moving it back home. They brought their A-Game, we brought our A-Game and we came out on top.”
On being the “road team” at home in Game 1 vs. Spokane.
“It was weird but I must say that we knew that it was going to come down to the wire. It was great pitching versus great pitching and like how the game of baseball is, it’s going to take one bad pitch to determine who comes out the winner or one error, or something like that to come out on top and that’s what it was for us…We knew that if we got runners on or if we would’ve scored, it was a done deal because we know our pitching. Our pitching was pretty darn good.”
On the C’s Game 1 victory in Eugene.
“That was kind of a weird game. They jump out ahead in the first and Chavez Young hits one out and once he hit one out, the momentum was just on our side. You could see it in their face, they were getting down and everything and it wasn’t going their way. We went back and forth that game but after a certain point, it wasn’t going their way anymore and that’s when we stepped on the pedal.
“That’s what was different between our team and other teams. Once we see a team fold and once their energy was negative, that’s when we stepped on the pedal and didn’t give up. It was a pretty good series between Eugene (and Vancouver), I got to say that. They brought their A-guys, they threw their number one (pitcher), we threw our number one. It came down to whoever was going to get a hit that day and we came out on top, with quality hits in certain situations.”
On emerging with a split of the first two games in Eugene.
“We knew from the jump that we had two games on the road, we knew that from the jump. We know how our fans are at the stadium, I can tell you from playing there, it’s real hard for a road team to come there and win three games so we knew if we had one win in Eugene, then we were fine. That was our ultimate goal, we took it one game at a time. We won the first game. The next game, the pitching wasn’t on our side. I’m not going to say we didn’t have the arms but the arms weren’t working that day and then we go home for Game 3 and once we got home, we knew the series was getting done. It’s pretty hard (for a road team) to come to Nat Bailey Stadium and win three with our fans.”
On the C’s battling back from early deficits to win Games 3 and 4 against Eugene.
“We were down in both games. The third game, a key hit, a key play in the outfield and we were back in it. Fourth game, a key hit and we win the game. It was the simple things that meant the most to our team. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, we need the home run or we need a triple or anything like that.’ If we had runners at second and third or runners at first and second, he was getting over regardless in any situation.
“If it came down to us choking up and taking an ugly swing to put the ball in play, to get our runners over, we were doing that. We were sacrificing anything to get our runners over. That’s one thing about our team, we fought for each other. We didn’t have any guys that were just there for themselves. Everything was for us. ‘What could I do to make our team better?’
On being on the field for the final out.
“Oh man! That moment, that speechless moment. You really can’t even…you don’t even have words for that moment. It was the pitch before that, or two pitches before that, (William Ouellette) got (Will Remillard) with two strikes and (Ouellette) threw a pitch and I almost threw my glove up because I thought it was strike three. I was like, ‘Man!’ It was a borderline pitch but it could have went either way. (The umpire) called it a ball and (Remillard) fouls another one off and the last pitch, I know how Will’s slider is and facing (Remillard) earlier on in the series, I knew he would chase offspeed down and Will threw a slider and froze him.
It was one of those moments like I had an Alex Bregman moment where he was in the World Series and fell to his knees and it was like, ‘This really happened!’ I didn’t fall on my knees but it was like I was so shocked and froze when I realized Logan Warmoth was coming over running towards me. I’m like, ‘Dang, we really just won this!’ and after all the celebration went up.”
On getting to raise the Bob Freitas trophy as Northwest League champions.
“I still get chills talking about it. I still get chills looking at the video and all that. It’s like we play so hard and put all the work in and go through extended and spring training and we’re in Florida so it’s boiling out there. It’s not like Arizona where you get cool days or anything like that. It’s boiling out there every day and we’re going at it every single day. When guys that break a full-season roster, they’re not getting the Florida weather we’re getting unless they’re in the Florida State League.
“Other than that, it’s like we’re putting our all on the line for one thing and that’s to come out with a ring. Once we got in the playoffs, we told everybody, we told our team that we’re going to bring the trophy back to Nat Bailey Stadium. That was our one goal. It didn’t matter what it was going to take, we were going to bring the trophy back. The last pitch, we struck them out and it was an amazing moment. It was a moment that you’ll always remember.
“I get cold and the chills looking at that video every single time and to like get on somebody’s shoulders to hold the trophy and know that you accomplished a goal, accomplished a goal not just a goal as for yourself but you accomplished a team goal and to bring that trophy back to Nat Bailey meant everything.”
On how the C’s championship mentality was developed.
“When we had off days, we’d always hang out with each other. The vibe and the culture that we had, on hanging out, brought us all in as one and we had all the same ultimate goal—to get a ring. It didn’t matter what it was going to take to get the ring. whether it’d take somebody to get a hit in the head or take one for the team, that’s what was going to happen. We were going to fight for each other. Blood, sweat and tears, we were leaving it on the field.”
Samad Taylor was at second base for all of his 25 games with Vancouver.
On his baseball beginnings.
“I grew up catching and playing center field. I didn’t really start playing shortstop until my sophomore year in high school. It became second nature, I was so used to playing short and then I was going to college to play shortstop but then I get picked up by the Indians as a middle guy and playing short, second and center. I get to the Indians and I was taking live reads and stuff at center and all that. The whole time I was with the Indians, I’ve probably seen 16 innings at short (Editor’s Note – eight in 2017) and then it was all second so I just got used to it. I look at like whenever I’m out on the field, I’m going to perfect it and help my team win and help myself get better. It really didn’t faze me that much, second base or anything like that. I don’t mind it.”
On whether the Blue Jays have approached him about playing multiple positions.
“Pretty much I’m going to stay at second for the time being unless something miraculously happens to where they have to move me to short or to where I have to go to center field or anything like that. At the moment, I’ll be at second.”
On how he describes himself as a player.
“Well-rounded. All-around player. As my stats showed, I can hit for power, I can bunt if I have to, I can run if I have to. I’m a pretty good defensive player. I’m a fastball hitter so if you’re throwing a fastball, you’re taking a big chance. I would rate myself as a Dee Gordon or coming up, a Chone Figgins or one of those guys. I’m not a guy that’s going to give you 30 home runs a year or stuff like that. I’m going to give you 15 to 20 home runs with 35 to 40 stolen bags and a great defensive player.”
On his favourite major league team as a youngster.
“I was a New York Mets fan growing up. Figgins and Jose Reyes were always my radar. I watched everything they did and tried to do everything they did because whatever they were doing got them to where they’re at.”
On his off-season plans.
“Just to keep perfecting my craft. There’s really nothing that stands out that’s like, ‘Oh, I need to do this, this and this.’ I’m just trying to get a little bit more size on me and keep perfecting my craft.”
My thanks again to Samad Taylor for this episode of C’s Chat!