USAO catcher Blake Taylor was finishing up his final year of college baseball with the Drovers, and Chickasha assistant baseball coach Mickey Edwards was going to be leaving his position with the Fightin’ Chicks to take an administrative position with the school district. The timing was perfect.
Taylor had known since he was in high school that he wanted to become a baseball coach, and current Chickasha High School head coach Brad Gore told him back then that he had a job with the Chicks when he was ready.
“I’ve always had a passion for the game of baseball,” Taylor said. “I’ve played it my entire life competitively, at the highest level I possibly could. I just could never see myself behind a desk or in an office job doing anything different.
“Money is really not important to me; I want to be out here doing something I love day in and day out.”
Taylor will have to spend some time behind a desk, as he will be teaching in the fall of 2013, teaching either history or English.
His journey from Chickasha High School catcher to current assistant coach wasn’t direct, but now that Taylor is back at Chickasha High, he is right where he wants to be.
Upon graduating from Chickasha High School, Taylor played at Connors State before playing two years at Labette Community College in Parsons, Kan., where he said he realized how much he loved being in Chickasha.
“When I was in high school, I think it’s kind of typical to want to get away from your hometown, and I always said I would never come back to play at USAO,” Taylor said.
“I wanted to get as far away as I could. But once I was gone those two years, I couldn’t wait to come back.
“The people here are a lot different in the way they treat you. They treat you so well, and I’m definitely glad to be back in my community at Chickasha.”
Even while he was gone, Taylor knew from high school that he could always return to Chickasha if he chose to.
“Coach Gore’s first year here [in Chickasha] was my freshman year,” Taylor said. “We’ve always been really close. He always told me, ‘I’ll have a job for you, I want you to come back and coach with me.’”
The immediate transition from baseball player in May to summer league assistant coach in June provided some unique perspective and challenges, said Taylor.
“It’s a lot different being on this side of it,” Taylor said. “There are things that you don’t see as a player. Sometimes when you’re running a practice, you want to run out there and do things how you would do it as a player, and you can’t do that. You have to put your personal stuff behind you.”
Last season, the Chickasha High School baseball team wasn’t always the most athletic team on the field, and lacked power hitting. Taylor hopes he can help with that, by focusing on physical conditioning with the players.
“One of my big things that I’ve always prided myself on is my strength and conditioning,” Taylor said. “I’ve started a new program with the guys here. We are vastly undersized compared to a lot of the guys we play, and I think this will make a big difference.”
Another one of the weaknesses of the Fightin’ Chicks last season was defense, as the team committed too many unforced errors during the season. Taylor’s defensive focus as a catcher should bring improvement in that area as well.
The best coaches are able to relate to their players on a personal level, and to gain their respect. Taylor, having been an all-conference player at Chickasha High before going on to play college baseball so recently, said he feels he can connect to the players better due to his young age and his experience.
“I think they can relate to me a little bit better because of age, and we are a little more similar,” Taylor said. “Of course, Gore played at OSU and was a great, great player. But they see that I just got done playing college ball, and some of these kids, when they were younger, would come and see me at high school games. They know who I am.”
“I kind of saw myself as the captain of the defense, as a catcher, and it was something I really prided myself on,” Taylor said. “I think we have to get back to putting defense and pitching first, and that will get us back where we need to be.”