Chance to play for titles sparks move to American Legion for Gene Taylor’s
Motivation can be hard to come by when there isn’t something to play for at the end of the season.
The Gene Taylor’s 19-and-under summer baseball team found in the past something was missing by the time late July rolled around and the season was coming to an end.
“The past couple of summers it would just end with the last tournament or last game,” Gene Taylor’s coach Blaine Bernades said. “We’d say it was a fun summer, but that’s the end.”
The anticlimactic finish won’t happen this summer. Gene Taylor’s has joined American Legion Baseball, and is a part of the Colorado American Legion ‘A’ league.
Gene Taylor’s has nine legion games before the American Legion state tournament July 28 in Greeley. If it wins the state tournament, Gene Taylor’s advances to the American Legion Western Region tournament, which begins Aug. 5 in Las Vegas.
The winner of the Western Region moves onto the American Legion World Series in Spokane, Wash., in August.
“This gives the guys something to play for,” Bernades said. “Before it was just extra games to fill the summer, but now they can keep the fire and competitive spirit going.”
Gene Taylor’s plays a doubleheader today against the Longmont Twins at Niwot High School. This weekend, Taylor’s is part of the Tony Andenucio Tournament in Pueblo, playing five games in three days.
After the Andenucio Tournament, Taylor’s returns to Grand Junction next week for home Legion games at Canyon View Park.
Scott Clow graduated from Central High School in May, and was the Warriors’ No. 1 pitcher. This is Clow’s second year playing for Gene Taylor’s, and said the move to American Legion ball is a good thing.
“Last year we didn’t have anything to play for,” Clow said. “This year we have the big goal to go to Las Vegas for the regional tournament, and we know we are pretty good, so we just have to play like it.”
Clow’s assessment of the team is spot-on, with Bernades and assistant coach Dave Jahnke assembling a who’s who of Grand Valley baseball.
Of the 18-man roster, 11 are recent high school graduates.
Taylor’s has 11 players from Grand Junction High School, three from Fruita Monument, two from Central, plus Austin Watson from Delta and Garrett Hatch from Glenwood Springs.
Fruita’s Ryan Mixon is in his first year with Taylor’s and said it’s exciting to be a part of such a talented team.
“It’s great, I’ve never been on a team this good,” Mixon said. “It’s been fun coming out and watching the other guys make plays.”
Bernades said the team has a solid offensive lineup, but much of Taylor’s strength is on the pitching staff. Grand Junction’s Tyler Stanford, Fruita Monument’s Cody Rahmann and Clow lead Gene Taylor’s pitching staff.
“The arms are there,” Bernades said. “Stanford leads our team on the mound, but Clow is right there. We have (Austin) Watson, who is a really good lefty from Delta, Charlie Reicks from Grand Junction, who was their number two.”
Fruita Monument’s TJ Pollock, Grand Junction’s Andy Willett and Central’s Lanny Baker lead Gene Taylor’s offensively.
“We have to get playing (games) to get these guys together and playing like a team,” Bernades said. “We’ve said in the past that they are playing against each other all year, so the competitive juices are flowing. Now they have to find a way to play as one.”