Friday, July 14, 2006

SPORTS >> Taylor signs with Bears

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: Fomer Sylvan Hills standout Kent Taylor will play baseball for the University of Central Arkansas next season.

Sherwood’s Kent Taylor is a Bear once again. The former Sylvan Hills first baseman recently signed with the University of Central Arkansas as an outfielder after spending one season with Pratt Community College in Pratt, Kan.

Taylor is a left-handed hitting outfielder/first baseman and will enter UCA as a sophomore. He hit .320 with six doubles, two triples, two home runs and 30 RBIs at Pratt this past spring. Taylor helped Sylvan Hills High School to a state championship in 2003 and a runner-up finish in 2004.

Taylor chose UCA over offers from Lyon College in Batesville, Cameron University in Okla., Georgia State and another Division II college in West Virginia.

Taylor’s decision to return to central Arkansas after just one year in junior college was an easy one. He was interested in playing for UCA out of high school, but a scholarship offer never came despite a lot of interest shown by the school. The Bears’ program is also moving up to the NCAA Division I level next season.

“That’s always been a dream of mine to play DI,” Taylor said. “It’s closer to home too. My parents hardly ever got to see me play.”

The transition from first base to outfield was an easy one as well. He still played some first base, but spent most of his time in the right and left field grass.

“It was an easy adjustment,” Taylor said. “With my size, being that I’m shorter, they moved me to outfield. They always want a taller guy over there. I played pretty good out there.”

One of the most significant changes in Taylor’s stat line in college, compared to high school, was his 10 stolen bases at Pratt. Taylor wasn’t known as a base stealer, but picked up some important tips during his time on the college playing field.

“I learned a lot of running and stealing,” Taylor said. “The way he (Pratt coach Jeff Brewer) coaches and teaches you how to read the ball out of the pitcher’s hand, it helps give you a little jump. And I am a little faster.”

Being an underclassmen at UCA probably won’t have an effect on how Taylor sees his role on the team. He may not play every game, but he considers himself a leader.

He shared time at first base during his junior year at Sylvan Hills with a senior, but was still one of the clear-cut leaders on that team.

It was a team that was supposed to see a drop-off after the departure of a group that sent nearly the entire starting lineup to college on baseball scholarships, including one that drafted by the New York Mets in the Major League draft.

Instead, that group won the state championship after three previous years of bowing out of the state tournament in the semifinals.

“We always felt we were better than that group in front of us,” Taylor said. “That just wasn’t what everyone else thought for some reason. We had won lots of state championships as kids coming up, so we knew we were good.”

That group was also the first to win the American Legion state championship, making it the first Sylvan Hills class to do both in the same year.

Taylor is part of seven UCA signees so far this recruiting period. He is one of six JUCO transfers, four of which are from Texas. UA-Fort Smith pitcher Corey Grist, and Cabot High School standout Chris Gross are the other signees.

UCA finished 30-18 overall last year and 13-9 in the Gulf South Conference. The Bears finished fourth in the GSC West Division and had the sixth best record in the 17-team conference.