One of my biggest worries everyday when I get up is writing this blog from the story I found the day before, once that is done I start fretting about finding a story for the next day, so far it has gone pretty smoothly and when I arrived at the Snowbird Baseball Classic in Port Charlotte, yesterday, I immediately ran into John Taylor walking to watch his son Clayton play. As we walked to the field, I explained to John what I was doing and if he would like to be my subject for the day. He smiled and agreed, my worry and fretting was for naught again, I think I do it because I think that if I don’t I will have a problem finding someone to interview or profile…
John, 51, had this easy going nature that I really like, he wasn’t super laid backed and he didn’t have an outward intenseness but I could tell that it was there and what seemed like to me an unbelievable focus (my initial guess was he, like his son, was a very good ball player) he smiled sincerely and had a comfortable way about himself. He was down in South Florida to watch Nebraska-Omaha, Clayton is their starting 1st baseman this year, first time he has played 1st base regularly since he was around 8, he played shortstop last year but he bulked up and grew some in the last year, now standing 6’4″ and weighing in at 215. When we sat down to watch the game another Omaha parent or grandparent came to John to tell him about the monster home run Clayton hit in batting practice that hit the concession stand at the other field. John said calmly, “Clayton is a very good hitter”, I had no doubt.
John was there with his with Denise who he met in 1981 on a blind date his cousin set up, he said his cousin owed him since he set her up with a ballplayer friend of his, John smiled and tapped my leg and then laughed remembering that Denise worked at Bakers, a grocery store chain that had a restaurant counter where you ordered your food via a phone and then Denise would deliver it.
Denise and John actually went to the same high school but didn’t meet until college, they dated for awhile but John got transferred to North Carolina by the construction management firm he was working for at the time and Denise wasn’t ready to move from Omaha, after a short stint there he came back and they were married in 1988, then moved to St. Louis, Des Moines, Franklin, MA and then back to Omaha. Besides Clayton who is 20, they have 2 other children; Meredith, 22, a pharmacology student at Creighton and Jackson, 18, a senior in high school and who is also a baseball player. John said he was a “farm kid”, he was required to work on his uncles farm that his mothers father started and the way to get out of doing chores was to get involved with sports, he loved competing in football, wrestling and baseball, which ever one he was playing at the time was his favorite, he was given a scholarship to play baseball at Nebraska-Omaha, where he was one of the top hitters, they wanted him more for his bat, he humbly states that he was an average center fielder. He continues to play 25 baseball games a year in the men’s 50+ MSBL senior league, he batted .375 and thinks he leads the team in that catagory, 3 or 4 of the guys he played with in college are also on the team.
As we were talking Clayton hit a home run, it was a line shot and got out of the park in a hurry, when I looked down at Denise she had a big smile on her face and gave me a thumbs up! I asked John and Denise if they get nervous when they watch Clayton play, he said not that much, he did more when he pitched but now he trusts Claytons game (Clayton was placed on the All American Freshman Team chosen by Louisville Slugger 2013), Denise on the other hand says she tries to stay even keel on the outside but underneath it is a different story. John said he does more with Jackson since he coached his select baseball team, but states that there is a fair amount of apprehension with watching your kids he said and then slaps my leg. Clayton and Jackson both played in select/elite/traveling baseball, Meredith did so in softball, John said that they are a baseball family and even has a building in their back yard with a batting cage and pitching mound, so he could work with the kids. He coached Jackson’s baseball team and Clayton’s basketball team and makes sure to point out that it wouldn’t have been to much fun for the boys if he coached everything.
John says that he really doesn’t pay attention to major league baseball until playoff time, his favorite team is the Kansas City Royals; he laughs and says that is maybe why… but quickly states that the Royals did well last year. He said that they are busy with baseball, Clayton played college summer ball last year in the Jayhawk League for the El Dorado Broncos, so they tried to get down to watch him play a few times, Jackson played and with John playing in the Men’s league it is hard to take time to watch the MLB. He said that he has taken the family to Chicago on occasion to catch a Cubs and White Sox game when the kids were growing, does root for the Boston Red Sox since they did live in Franklin, Massachusetts for a little while and it was exciting watching them win the World Series.
We talked a little bit about select baseball and what it was like coaching and watching your kids compete at that level, he said parents could get a little out of control and when he was choosing his team he tried to recruit the best parents possible and not necessarily the best players, he figured he could work with the players if he had the support of the parents. He stated the parents that were the most overbearing are the ones that never competed and really don’t understand what it takes for a kid to be successful at a high level, they seemed to be living vicariously through their child. He said when he watched Clayton play on one of his elite teams it was hard to watch games with other parents because some would be rooting against his kid, even when on the same team, since he was taking playing time away from their child. He said as you move up through the different levels of play that kind of behavior falls off, but acknowledges that it can get frustrating since it is a game it should be fun for all.
I could go on about John and his family, if I write a book about this experience I will share more about them, they are “All American”, I enjoyed watching the game with him and hearing how passionate he is about baseball, his gentleness and sincerity came out and I was comfortable sharing things about my life with him, at one point we were showing pictures of our beautiful daughters. This is what makes me love this game so much, the people you observe all have a story and have a love of the game that runs deep, some people will never understand, “The people that don’t get it, I don’t get”, John said shaking his head, I agree fully!
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