When Maryland baseball coach Rob Vaughn arrived in Rangely, Colorado, he parked next to a rodeo arena and prepared to watch a Canadian infielder. In the small town about 300 miles west of Denver that is best known for its oil fields, Vaughn witnessed Taylor Wright's versatility.
On that day in the spring of 2017, Wright smacked a home run and bunted for a hit for Colorado Northwestern Community College. Vaughn, Maryland's hitting coach at the time, determined his lineup could use that dynamic offensive ability.
Shortly after that visit, then-Terps coach John Szefc offered Wright a spot with the team. Midway through this season, Wright is still adjusting but remains a versatile player. He's shown a willingness to bunt while his power develops.
With his mom in the stands against Michigan last weekend, Wright recorded the first home run of his Maryland career, reminding Vaughn of Wright's potential. Wright's offensive success would be a boost for a Terps lineup that is hitting .230 entering Tuesday's matchup against VCU.
"We don't need everybody to be Superman, we just need everybody to do what they need to do when their name's called," Vaughn said. "So, if we can really get him rolling a little bit, obviously it kind of lengthens the lineup for you and kind of gives you a pretty solid top-five or six that you're running out there every day."
Wright went 1-for-7 against the Wolverines, but his home run provided Vaughn with a flashback of his time in Rangely. Wright thrived with the Spartans last season, hitting .333 with five home runs, 17 doubles and 23 stolen bases in 52 games.
Wright was expected to start at third base when he arrived, because AJ Lee shifted to shortstop to fill in for Kevin Smith, who the Toronto Blue Jays drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 MLB draft. While he started at third for the first 13 games this season, his early struggles at the plate led to freshman Tommy Gardiner, a middle infielder by trade, earning an opportunity to play March 10.
The pair has split time since, though Wright started both games at third against the Wolverines.
"His at-bats over the last couple of weeks have been getting better," Vaughn said. "We definitely need him to keep working and kind of try to string that together a little bit more often."
Vaughn admires the work ethic of junior college players, who have to clean fields after games and aren't recognized on a national level. Wright, third baseman Brad Barnett and right-hander Ryan Hill all came to Maryland from junior colleges. Their unorthodox rise to the next level of competition can bring toughness and maturity to a team, Vaughn said.
Since Wright packed up and drove himself from Vancouver to College Park, that's what Vaughn has seen. Now, the first-year coach hopes it translates to success at the plate after Wright's promising showing in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
"You're looking for the guy who has the ability but also has that kind of makeup that he can grind through some things," Vaughn said. "So, that's what we need to continue seeing out of Taylor. That he continues making the adjustments he needs to make."