Taylore Fuller always wanted to be a Gator.
Growing up in Trenton, about 45 minutes from Katie Seashole Pressly Softball Stadium, Fuller dreamed of one day donning the orange and blue.
“From eight or nine years old, every girl within probably a three-hour radius wants to play softball for UF,” Ginger Fuller, Taylore’s mother, said.
“As she got older, UF was always picked No. 1.”
But Taylore never knew if she would get to follow her dreams and play softball for the Gators. NCAA rules state that college coaches cannot contact high school players until their junior season.
Despite putting up prolific numbers in high school, including a .778 batting average with 14 home runs her senior year, Taylore thought any mistakes she made would cost her the opportunity to play in Gainesville.
“Taylore felt like every scholarship lasts every at-bat,” Ginger said. “If she did well, she was fine. If she didn’t, she wouldn’t get recruited.”
But once the recruiting period opened up, faxes poured into the Chiefland High office, and envelopes filled the Fullers’ mailbox.
“She was getting a couple letters a day,” Ginger said. “‘Did you know you got the same birthday as our coach? That’s a sign you’re supposed to go here.’ It was very flattering.”
But Florida was always at the top of the list, and coach Tim Walton sold her on the program.
“He wasn’t trying to bad mouth any other schools or anything, so that was nice,” Taylore said.
“He just did the best that he could, and he saw what I had.”
Ginger coached Taylore at Chiefland. But Taylore didn’t receive any preferential treatment from her mother.
“She was always harder on me than everyone else,” Taylore said. “That’s how it’s always been with my parents.”
But Ginger had her reasons for being so hard on Taylore.
“Our kids ... had to be so much better than everybody else,” Ginger said.
“They had to work harder. They had to run more. They had to hit more. They had to steal more, because we never wanted anybody to say that the only reason she was there was because she was the coach’s kid.”
The constant pushing from her parents kept Taylore, one of the best high school players in the country, grounded.
After her senior year, she was ranked the No. 6 catcher in the nation and No. 38 overall recruit by ESPN.
“She never really had a clue how many home runs she had,” Ginger said. “She was always leading the area by quite a bit.”
Though Taylore was a team leader, she was never the most vocal player.
“She’s not a real talker,” Ginger said. “Even when she was little, she wouldn’t do the cheers and chants that they do in the dugout. She just wanted to be there and play, and that was it.”
But Taylore needs to work on improving her communication. She has competition for the starting catcher role.
Florida signed three catchers in 2012. Along with Taylore, the Gators have freshmen backstops Cari Broderick and Aubree Munro. Munro came to Florida as the No. 7 catching recruit and No. 42 overall prospect in the country, according to ESPN.
Both Taylore and Munro have earned rave reviews from teammates, Walton and each other.
“She’s the most amazing catcher I’ve ever seen,” Taylore said of Munro.
“She’s so good. She’s naturally gifted, obviously, but she also has the technicals about catching down, too.”
Said Munro: “Taylore Fuller’s a great stick, and she’s going to contribute a lot in the batting lineup, for sure.”
Taylore is listed on the official roster as a utility player. She expressed her willingness to play anywhere on the field if Walton asked. Walton decided to try her at catcher, third base and in the outfield.
“She’s never played outfield before, but that’s something her athleticism’s allowed her to do,” Walton said.
“She has a really strong throwing arm, good foot speed, can dive and do some things.”
Walton plans to bat Taylore in the middle of Florida’s lineup.
Ginger believes Taylore will not have much trouble adjusting to all the facets of college softball.
“She’s got the skill set to do whatever she wants,” Ginger said of her daughter.
“I think she’ll give them 110 percent, and all they have to do is ask.”
Taylore will make her college debut this weekend at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz. Whether those innings will be at catcher or in the field have yet to be decided.
Despite waiting years to take the field for the Gators, Taylore isn’t worried about the competition. She is just happy to be at Florida. Happy to have a chance to prove her worth — one at-bat at a time.
“I’ve been facing the best pitchers, so that part I’m not nervous about,” Taylore said.
“To finally be here is pretty awesome. I grew up watching them play, and I’m excited to put on the jersey for the first time. It’s everything I thought it was going to be and more.”