Tim Denks, left, of American Family Insurance, presents the Raymond “Hap” Dumont Award of the 2010 World Series to Jerry Taylor, National Baseball Congress Tournament Director, last week in Wichita after the 2010 tournament, which was won by the Liberal Bee Jays. With Jerry is his grandson, Finnigan Mathias, and the NBC’s Josh Robertson. Courtesy photo
By LARRY PHILLIPS
• Daily Leader
When the Liberal Bee Jays clinched their fifth National Baseball Congress World Series championship last Friday night in Wichita, a former Liberal native sat in the top of Dumont Stadium and took a moment to relish the victory.
“It was fun,” Jerry Taylor said. “I have to be impartial here, but I always kind of root for the Bee Jays.”
Taylor graduated from Liberal High School in 1968, and Friday night, he was completing another – and possibly his last – year as the NBC World Series Tournament Director – a position he has held for 11 years.
But for Taylor, baseball wasn’t in his dreams as a young man in Liberal.
“After high school, I went to college at K-State,” Taylor said. “Originally, I was going to be a lawyer, and I went into pre-law at K-State. I was thinking about either going to Washburn or KU to law school.
“About the time I got ready to graduate, I thought, ‘You know, I don’t really want to be a lawyer,’” he added with a chuckle.
He went back to school at Wichita State and received his teaching certificate – something to get him by for awhile.
“I started teaching, and I was going to teach for a few years and try to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up – well, I never grew up,” Taylor said, laughing.
Taylor ended up teaching in the Wichita area for 30 years, retiring in 2005. During most of that time, he also coached football. Though Taylor did play football at LHS, he didn’t realize he would spend his adult life working with youth, teaching and coaching and being involved with sports.
In the early 1980s, Taylor found himself keeping official scoring at the NBC tournament at Dumont Stadium – tedious for a rookie scorer when game starting times can be as late as 1 a.m. in the morning during the early rounds of the tournament – and everyone else has gone home for the night.
But it was while taking a class later at Wichita State – events and sports management – that he learned from Steve Shaad, his class instructor, as well as the Wichita Wranglers and NBC General Manager – that volunteering was the way to get into sports, so Taylor volunteered in the summer of 1999 and worked the NBC tournament as an intern. He was made tournament director the next year.
Eventually, after 2005, the NBC asked Taylor to come on board full time, since he had only been working summers while he was still teaching. His full time title is now director of operations.
While enjoying his “retirement,” Taylor also took a job coaching football at Bethel College in Newton, where he coached for three years.
“I just got tired of driving back and forth so I resigned up there,” Taylor said. “I thought I’d take a year off and just watch a little high school football. But some of my buddies over at Friends University called me up and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, so I’m back in it.”
Taylor started Wednesday with team meetings at Friends, where he will coach the Falcons’ tight ends, and actual practices will start this week.
“You know, I’m not very smart. I just keep going from one thing to another,” he said, laughing.
When the NBC World Series Tournament began two weeks ago, Taylor had a good feeling about the Bee Jays.
“People always ask me, ‘Who do you think is going to win it?’ and I don’t know,” Taylor said. “If I did, I’d be in Vegas. But early on, I told them one team that caught my eye was Liberal, and it was just the way they played – they hustled, took extra bases and just did the little things that helped them win it.
“It showed on the field – they played well,” he added.
Taylor felt there were other contributions to the team’s success, as well. One was a back up catcher – and now coach – who played some summer ball last year for the Wichita Wingnuts, the pro team that calls Dumont Stadium home.
“I’ve known (Bee Jays manager) Johnny Martin for a couple of years now, and, of course, he came in with Liberal last year,” Taylor said. “Johnny was here with the Wingnuts for a little bit, and he’s back here again this year.”
Martin, 26, – and now the NBC Manager of the Year – agreed to help the Wingnuts out after the tournament last week since they had lost a catcher to injuries. But it isn’t Martin’s playing that impressed Taylor. It was was his coaching.
“He’s had some good teachers,” Taylor continued. “And that’s the first thing he talks about – he mentions (former Bee Jays Manager Mike) Hargrove and (former Bee Jays Manager and Seward County Saints baseball coach) Gayland (McSpadden), and that’s good. He knows where he learned a lot of it. And the thing I like about him is he’s just so even keeled – doesn’t get too high or too low.
“I just love the guy,” Taylor added.
Taylor also thinks Bee Jays General Manager Bob Carlile has had a positive effect on operations.
“Once Bob took over, it changed things over there,” he explained. “When Bob and Mike came into the picture, it changed in a hurry, and you could see it on the field. I was really impressed, and they had some great kids, and that’s what makes it fun.”
Taylor has been married to his wife, Debra, for 30 years, and they have three grown children and one grandson. And besides coaching college football and working as the director of operations for the NBC, Taylor also works part time as an usher at Intel Arena in Wichita and is the official scorer for the Wichita Wingnuts baseball team. So what’s next for the “retired” teacher/coach?
“I don’t know. All this stuff is what’s kept me young,” Taylor said. “I don’t stay home very much. That’s how I’ve stayed married so long. My wife would kill me if I was home all the time.
“I don’t know – I’m in good health, and as long as I feel good and can do it, I’m going to continue, I suppose,” he said.
Taylor does think it’s time to let a younger person take over the tournament director’s position at the NBC, but that may be all he gives up for the time being.
“I’m just gradually weaning myself out of (the tournament). It may be here in the near future I’ll just be sitting in the stands watching baseball with my grandson,” he added.