Owen Taylor carries on family name for Gene Taylor’s baseball team
Somewhere, Gene Taylor is smiling.
“My grandpa, he’d be proud,” said Owen Taylor, the third generation of his family to wear a Gene Taylor’s baseball uniform. “We miss him a lot, but he’d be very proud of us, and of me and my dad. He started this team and he would be very proud.”
Gene Taylor passed away in March, only a few months before the American Legion baseball team that bears his name won the Legion A state championship.
It’s the first time since 1982 the club has reached the Western Regional.
Owen Taylor, who will be a junior at Grand Junction High School in the fall, has heard about that team his entire life. Those stories inspired him to help write the next chapter.
“My dad has always talked about how he took a team to the World Series one year, and it’s always been a dream of mine to get that experience,” he said.
“It was always in me to want to play on this team and represent my grandfather and this town.”
In 1982, said Tony Taylor, Gene’s son and Owen’s father, the club finished second at state, but hosted the regional, so got an automatic bid.
Taylor’s beat a team from Las Vegas in the championship to reach the American Legion World Series.
“I remember Geno was so proud of that team, so proud of every team, but that was a good ballclub,” said Tony Taylor, who’s helping coach this club.
“Geno would be so proud. To have his grandson out there playing, it’s wonderful.”
Taylor’s, with players from all four District 51 high schools, beat Rocky Mountain twice Sunday to earn a spot in the regional in Fairfield, Calif.
Taylor’s faces Lakewood, Calif., at 5 p.m. on Thursday in the first round of the double-elimination tourney that runs through Aug. 13.
Several of the players are veterans of Legion baseball, and the state tournament experience finally paid off.
The veteran players say better team chemistry and a deeper pitching staff has made the difference this summer over last year, when they were favored to win state but went 0-2.
“It’s an amazing feeling. I can’t even explain it. I’ve played Taylor’s for five years, two years when I was younger, before high school ball,” said catcher Tyler Gastineau, who is headed to Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College in the fall.
“We were runner-up in the state championship once. It’s good to finally win one.”
Coach David Jahnke gave Walker Williams the ball in the title game, and the Fruita Monument graduate, a reliever for the Wildcats, came through.
“When Coach told me I had the ball I was really excited for the opportunity to pitch in a state championship game,” he said. He wanted to start in high school, and said he was determined to prove this summer he could be a starter. He’s headed to Lamar Community College this fall.
“We’re definitely going there to win, not just for vacation,” Williams said. “We’re there to compete. California and Arizona are going to have solid teams, but we’re a solid team, too.”
The goal all summer was to be in this position.
“We’ve got to go out and have fun, keep playing the way we have and try to win some games,” Gastineau said. “We’ve got nothing to lose right now.”