Tankersley bound for World Champions

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 8, 2004

[6/8/04]The defending World Champions hooked their man.

Taylor Tankersley, who dazzled local crowds for years as a left-handed hurler for Warren Central, was chosen by the Florida Marlins with the 27th overall pick in the first round of the amateur baseball draft. “I was surprised,” said Tankersley of both his lofty pick in the draft and the team that picked him. “They have given me a great opportunity. Now we’ll see where it goes from here.”

Tankersley was the first Mississippian chosen, although several state players were taken in later rounds. He is only the third player in Alabama baseball history to get drafted in the first round. Joe Vitiello went seventh overall in 1991 to Kansas City, and Jeremy Brown was taken with the 31st overall pick in 2001.

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“We are real happy to pick Taylor with our first pick in today’s draft and add a quality left-hander to our system,” said Jim Fleming, Florida’s vice president for scouting and development. “Taylor is a quality three-pitch pitcher who has been both a starter and a reliever on the college ranks. We look forward to having him in a Marlins uniform.”

Tankersley was the sixth left-handed pitcher taken, and the 16th pitcher taken in the first 27 picks.

“I think that was a good thing,” Tankersley said of the amount of pitchers getting drafted early. “The more that came off the board the better.”

Tankersley gave up a chance to jump right to the pros after high school when he was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 39th round of the 2001 draft.

His waiting should pay immediate dividends, at least in the short term. First-round picks have routinely received generous signing bonuses.

The San Diego Padres reportedly have offered Matthew Bush, the top overall pick in the draft, a $3.15 million signing bonus.

“I know that the next time we go out to eat, he’s buying,” said former WC teammate Kevin Coker, who has known Tankersley his whole life.

This season at Alabama, Tankersley went 2-5 with a 2.00 ERA and opponents hit only .213 against him. He was 17-15 with a 3.93 ERA in his college career.

It is unclear where Tankersley will go from here. The Marlins have Single-A teams in Jupiter, Fla., Jamestown, N.Y., and Greensboro, N.C.

The Marlins’ Double-A club, the Carolina Mudcats, play in the Southern League, which will feature the Pearl-based Mississippi Braves next season. The Marlins Triple-A team plays in Abuquerque, N.M.

Tankersley said he will go into contract negotiations starting on Wednesday in hopes of signing with the team soon.

“He’s worth anything they’ll pay him,” said former teammate and Southern Miss catcher Kevin Coker said. “They drafted his arm, but they got heart and a bulldog mentality with that arm.”