Like many aspiring baseball players, Maize senior Jacob Taylor has dreams of becoming a professional baseball player.
But Taylor has had the luxury of having a former professional to idolize in his own house growing up: his father, Scott, who pitched 10 seasons in the minor leagues and registered a win in the majors for the Texas Rangers in 1995.
Jacob has been inspired by his father and wants to follow in his footsteps. He will complete a step in that path at 1:15 p.m. Thursday when Taylor and Maize, the No. 3 seed in the Class 5A bracket, return to the state tournament to play Shawnee Heights at Eck Stadium.
“My dad is definitely the hero in my life,” Jacob Taylor said. “He was the one who taught me the game when I was 3 years old and he is the one who has had the biggest influence in my life.”
Scott Taylor also played in the 5A tournament when he was in high school as a standout player for Arkansas City. His father, Rex, was the coach of the team, so the Taylor family has had a long history with the state tournament.
Growing up, Jacob would always remember hearing about those glory days in Arkansas City from his father and grandfather.
“I think he always kind of enjoyed that part of history with our family and baseball,” Scott Taylor said. “He’s always been a reserved kid, but he’s always had big goals for himself and one of those big goals this year was to make sure Maize got back to the state tournament.”
There are 14 seniors on Maize’s roster, and Taylor quickly became one of the team’s leaders through his play on the field. His batting average has hovered at .400 throughout the season and he has also become a crucial arm for coach Rocky Helm to rely on when his two starters, John Short and Jake Doerflinger, need rest.
Maize (19-3) has made it a goal to win the program’s first state title since 2011.
“I think the most impressive part about Jake is just the way he goes about playing the game,” Helm said. “He does everything the right way and goes about his business the right way and I think others on the team respect that about him.”
Jacob Taylor knows the value of hard work from his father’s story.
When Scott graduated from Arkansas City, he didn’t have a single scholarship offer. He decided to enroll at Kansas for pre-med, but saw a poster advertising walk-on tryouts for the KU baseball team.
Scott earned a spot on the team, then quickly caught on as a pitcher. He caught his break during his junior season when he faced off against a heralded pitcher from Oklahoma with several scouts in attendance and threw a gem of his own, which he thinks put him on teams’ radar.
Scott Taylor was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 15th round of the 1988 major-league draft that summer. He played baseball in 40 states, three countries, and eventually pitched in the major leagues — with Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez as his catcher.
“It was the best thing ever I did,” Scott Taylor said. “I was fortunate enough to play the game that I loved for that long and I never got injured. It was a dream come true for me.”
Jacob Taylor has always been inspired by that story.
He knows what it’s like to wait his turn. Just last season he began as the No. 7 hitter on Maize’s junior-varsity team before his performance led him to a regular spot on varsity. Now he’s a mainstay in Maize’s lineup, leading the team in RBIs (25) and extra-base hits (9).
“I just try to be the hardest worker on the team, just like my dad was,” Jacob Taylor said. “I just really look up to how he goes about his life and how is baseball career went. It’s everything I would like it to be.”
Jacob Taylor’s baseball career will continue next season at Dodge City Community College. Before that, he will try to do something his father never did — win a state championship.
“Regardless of what happens at state, I’m going to be so proud of him and how he’s kept believing in himself,” Scott Taylor said. “I think that’s what has gotten him this far and now he just needs to keep making others believers in Jake Taylor.”