Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Youth baseball player's skills win him trip to MLB All-Star events

ST. PETERSBURG

Twelve-year-old Jake Taylor's prowess at pitching, hitting and running will put him on the biggest stage imaginable this week in California.

That's when the avid baseball player will take part in Major League Baseball's All-Star festivities at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. As the winner of local and sectional Aquafina Pitch, Hit and Run competitions — including the most recent at Tropicana Field — the rising seventh-grader at Azalea Middle School earned a trip with his father, Terry, to this year's events.

"I've started to pack a little bit," Jake said. "I've been to other states for other baseball games, but nothing like this."

The first trip to California for father and son points to a lifelong love of baseball, the only sport the youngster plays. He started playing T-ball in Pinellas Park in 2002 and now competes on a recreational team with Northwest Youth Baseball in St. Petersburg and with his AAU team, the Bombers.

With the Bombers, he has traveled to North Carolina and Mississippi to play. On Monday, he will be in the outfield shagging fly balls during the nationally televised Home Run Derby. An All-Star breakfast, Fan Fest and the game itself Tuesday will keep the Taylors busy during their southern California sojourn.

It also will allow them to meet some of their favorite players.

"Albert Pujols," Jake said, naming the St. Louis Cardinal when asked who he most looked forward to meeting. "I like him because he's good, but my favorite team is the Rays."

He's packing a few baseballs and cards from his collection of more than a thousand, hoping to collect autographs. Signatures from his favorite managers, Joe Torre and Lou Piniella, would be neat, he said.

Jake's father, a sergeant in the Gulfport Police Department, joked that his biggest challenge as today's flight approached was trying to fit a baseball bat in a suitcase. He recalled the three competitions that led up to the trip, when Jake had to hit a target pitching from 45 feet, run from second to home plate and hit for distance off a T-ball stand.

"His first hit on the tee at Blue Jays stadium (in Dunedin), he hit 292 feet," he said. "The second he hit was 290. The third was the regional at Tropicana Field, and the longest he hit was 288 feet."

The Taylors were told they would find out in about four weeks whether Jake was selected. He was playing with his Northwest team in Tallahassee when the call came. He said he was shocked and happy, and then he realized it was part of his goal: "Get some experience to make it to the big leagues."

That journey continues in August when he and the Bombers play in a tournament in Cooperstown, N.Y., site of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. His AAU coach, Ron Rhoads, isn't surprised at Jake's success, both as a pitcher and a hitter whose batting average was .526 this season.

"He's very soft spoken, almost like what you'd call a gentle giant," Rhoads said of the 5-foot-8, 162-pound player.

"He just gets up and does his business and does it well."

Fast facts

Jake's itinerary

Today

7:15 a.m.: Depart Tampa International Airport for Anaheim, Calif.

MONDAY

Morning: Compete in the Aquafina Pitch, Hit and Run National Competition

8 p.m.: Shag balls at the State Farm Home Run Derby, televised on ESPN

TUESDAY

8 p.m.: 81st MLB All-Star Game at Angel Stadium, televised on Fox 13

WEDNESDAY

Head back to St. Petersburg

Youth baseball player's skills win him trip to MLB All-Star events 07/10/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 13, 2010 12:20pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Buddy Brew Coffee to open downtown Tampa location

    Business

    TAMPA — Buddy Brew Coffee plans to open a new location in downtown Tampa at Park Tower. The specialty coffee craft roaster, which was founded in 2010, has five other locations throughout Tampa including the Oxford Exchange, Sarasota, Hyde Park Village and Terminal F inside the Tampa International Airport.

    A cappuccino is displayed at Buddy Brew in Tampa in January 2017. [CHARLIE KAIJO | Times]
  2. What you might have missed in the second episode of the Bucs on 'Hard Knocks'

    Bucs

    We're back for another episode of The Annotated Hard Knocks, trying to find behind-the-scenes insights and things you might have missed in Tuesday's second episode of "Hard Knocks," following the Bucs in …

    As the crowd recognized him and got loud, Jameis Winston jumped up and down in celebration. [GREG AUMAN | Times]
  3. Review: 'The Defenders' brings out the best in Marvel's unlikeliest heroes

    Blogs

    The ties that bind Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist run deep. But they're just starting to figure all that out in The Defenders.

    Mike Colter, Scott Glenn, Finn Jones, Krysten Ritter and Charlie Cox in The Defenders.
  4. Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson can't keep 'The Hitman's Bodyguard' on-target

    Movies

    The Hitman's Bodyguard is an assault tank on semi-automatic pilot, spraying jokes and bullets with only the ammo consistently hitting its targets. The irresistible teaming of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson might be even funnier if they missed once in a while.

    Samuel L. Jackson, left, and Ryan Reynolds star in "The Hitman's Bodyguard." (Lionsgate)
  5. Hillsborough leaders ask for patience as multiple schools still suffer from broken air conditioners

    K12

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins and his facilities chief appealed to parents Wednesday to be patient as the district works through chronic air conditioning problems — and to advocate for more state funding.

    Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins says air conditioning problems at multiple schools are a "major concern" for the district. [SKIP O'ROURKE  |  Times]