Get To Know Miracle Catcher Taylor Grzelakowski
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins Daily (photo of Taylor Grzelakowski)Taylor Grzelakowski (pronouced jeh-luh-COW-skee) grew up in the community of Fraser, Michigan, a community of about 15,000 people just north of Detroit. He notes, “I take a lot of pride in my hometown of Fraser, Michigan. We are a very small and close-knit community.”
Yes, Twins fans, he grew up a fan of the Detroit Tigers. “Bobby Higginson and Miguel Cabrera were some of my favorite players to watch.”
He was very busy throughout his high school years. Along with baseball, Grzelakowski participated in football, basketball and was on the swim team. “I was also a part of Student Council, Health Occupation Students of America and helped run our school blood drives.”
But baseball was his favorite sport, the sport that provided him an opportunity to continue playing in college.
“My senior year summer baseball coach, Matt Sandals, sent out my recruiting videos to different schools. I had a few opportunities present themselves, and I decided to play at Madonna University. The coaches played a huge role in my decision to attend Madonna. The campus was also only 45 minutes away from my hometown. It was a perfect balance of being away but still close to home.”
On the field, Grzelakowski had a lot of great experiences. His teams “won two conference championships, won a conference tournament and appeared in the NAIA regionals four times.”
He was also named the WHAC Player of the Year as a senior when he hit .426/.538/.756 (1.294) with 16 doubles and 12 homers in 49 games.
Madonna University is a small, private college with around 3,500 students. It is an NAIA school. It is not known as a baseball hotbed, but it does have a good history. “The catching coach, Mike George, started the program and is still with the team.”
Grzelakowski enjoyed his time at the college. “The experiences I had at Madonna University were some of the best of my baseball career. I made many lifelong friends throughout the years of playing there.”
But despite consistently putting up big numbers in college, Grzelakowski was never even drafted. Even more, he points out, “I never spoke to any scouts.”
But knowing he wasn’t likely to get drafted may have been a blessing in disguise for Grzelakowski. “I was already playing in the USPBL at the time of the draft because I never heard from any affiliate scouts. Jim Essian, the Utica Unicorns manager, watched me play at Madonna. He offered me a position on his team, which meant everything to me.”
He may have only played in 29 games for the Unicorns, but he refuses to overlook just how valuable that experience was for him. “If it weren’t for the USPBL, my career would be over. They took a chance on me and changed my position from first base and outfield to catcher.”
The Twins signed three players out of the USPBL last July. Along with Grzelakowski, they also signed pitchers Kevin Marnon and Randy Dobnak.
Grzelakowski went to the Gulf Coast League where he played in a dozen games. There he learned about the heat and humidity of southwest Florida in the summer, adjustments to pro ball and more. “My experience in the GCL last year was short but a grind. Florida is very hot in August and understanding that there are many people fighting for the same goal. The biggest adjustments for me have been the speed of the game, the fact that we play basically every day for six months straight and being 20 hours away from home. The amount of resources we have to help us become better players is incredible.”
He went into his first offseason with a few goals for improvement. “My main focus during the offseason was to get my body right and try to meet the weight goals I was given. I also worked to on improving every aspect of catching that I could.”
But weight loss has been an ongoing goal for Grzelakowski for years now. It’s something that he’s worked very hard at and achieved some impressive goals.
“My weight loss started my redshirt freshman year of college. I have lost a total of 60 pounds since then. I have worked with two nutritionists, the Twins nutritionist Kate Moran and my college nutritionist Maureen Stoecklein. Both have worked countless hours with me to master my diet plans during the offseason. I also worked with the trainers at Detroit Mercy, Nick Wilson, Trevor Klump and Allen Son."
This spring, Grzelakowski went to his first spring training in pro ball. “I was excited to get down here for spring training. I live in Michigan and the winters are brutal. I had to do all of my lifting, catching and hitting indoors. To be back outside in the warm weather was something I was very happy about. I felt that my spring training went very well. The amount I learned from Tanner Swanson about catching in a month definitely made an impact on my game. I felt that I was hitting the ball pretty well and taking my walks. I was unsure of where I was going to be placed, and was beyond thrilled when I saw my name on the Miracle roster.”
NAIA. Non-drafted. Independent ball. Sign with the Twins. Play 12 games for the GCL Twins. With all that, he skipped Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids and jumped directly to Ft. Myers, and he is more than holding his own with the Miracle. Through 17 games, he’s hitting .322/.412/.576 (.988) with six doubles and three home runs.
“My first month has been awesome. I really enjoy the group of guys we have in the clubhouse. I have learned that I need to slow my game down and stop trying to force results.”
He believes that his greatest strength can also be his area of growth potential.
“My biggest strength as a player in being a left-handed hitting catcher. I also think that being new to the position leaves me a lot of room to learn and grow.”
Grzelakowski also is quick to give credit where credit is due and thanks those that have helped him get to this point in his career.
“I’ve had many coaches along the way. Dave Kuppe, Dave Gulock, Joe Loria, Matt Sandals, Al Winters, Greg Haeger, Mike George, Cedrick Landrum, Ray Ortega, Justin Orenduff and my two baseball mentors Jim Essian and Ted Faulkner. My family, friends and fiancé have also been a critical part of my success.”
Away from the game, Grzelakowski keeps busy. “I enjoy playing video games, following other sports and spending time with friends, family and my fiance Sarah."
And maybe most important, Taylor Grzelakowski has great taste in baseball movies. “I love The Rookie, Hardball, and The Benchwarmers.”
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