What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
Picture the opening scene of the 1989 baseball classic “Major League.” Tom Berenger’s character Jake Taylor is awakened from a night of debauchery in a Mexican motel by a phone call. He fumbles to pick it up, mutters a couple of “uh-huhs,” and then the tirade comes.
“Goddamnit…Is that you, Tolbert? This isn’t funny! I’m hungover, my knees are killing me, and if you’re going to pull this shit, you could have at least said you were from the Yankees!”
While that’s a classic scene, and has probably happened to more than one journeyman big-leaguer, it has yet to happen to the real Jake Taylor.
Like his movie namesake, the real Jake Taylor is just trying to stay in organized ball, just another league baseball player clinging to the professional ranks. But unlike his compadres, Taylor just happens to share a name and position with the main character in one of the most popular baseball movies ever made.
That fact, coupled with the fact this year happens to be the 25th anniversary of the release of “Major League” has made Taylor a bit of a celebrity in the American Association, an independents league with franchises scatters across the heart of North America from Canada to Texas. In parks all across that swath, everybody has fun when Taylor comes to town. Most parks capitalize on the name to have some sort of “Major League” fun when Taylor comes to town. Some show Tom Berenger on the video board when the real Taylor steps up to the plate. Others play quotes from the film. But everybody has a bit of fun.
That is to say, except Taylor’s own team.
Throughout their 20-year history, the St. Paul Saints have a long tradition of making waves with wacky promotions. The combination of owner Mike Veeck and one-time part-owner Bill Murray (yes, “Carl from Caddyshack” once owned his baseball team; no word on if the outfield grass was “smokeable”) provided a franchise which drew people to the ball-park with attractions like getting a hair-cut and a rub-down from a nun, an homage to “Disco Demolition Night” (one of the great baseball disasters brought to us by Veeck’s father Bill), and a pig who carried balls to the umpires between innings who was fattened to gargantuan proportions during the season and lovingly barbecued on “Fan Appreciation Night.”
I could spend the rest of this article posing the question “How does a franchise that was the first one to bring us “Star Wars” night years before it became faddish not take advantage of such a huge opportunity with the obvious ‘Major League’ tie-in?” Think of it; Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn Eyeglass Night, Willie Mays Hayes Batting Glove night, or a bikini contest between innings where fans can vote for “Miss Fuel Injection.” The possibilities are endless.
But that would take away from the story of the real Jake Taylor.
The real Jake Taylor is 27 years old, has a brown buzz-cut, and has yet to play a single game for a team affiliated with the major leagues. Taylor was drafted in the 35th round in 2005 MLB draft by the Marlins Florida but chose to play junior-college ball at Chaffey College in his native California. At the time, Taylor played the hot corner, but scouts with the Marlins told him he had a better future as a catcher. During his time at Chaffey College he did just that. Not only that, Taylor learned how to play middle infield, and even saw duty on the mound.
Being versatile increases your chances of catching the eye of major-league scouts, but the wear and tear from playing so many different positions and throwing from just as many arm angles, led to a torn labrum. After recovering from that injury, Taylor transferred to Missouri Southern State University and wrapped up his collegiate career as a middle infielder.
Taylor has an impressive resume as a bona fide utility man; His abilities as a utility man were attractive. He’s got decent right-hand power, can play the two toughest positions on the diamond (catcher and shortstop), but the scouts that passed through Joplin, Missouri saw fit to not bring Taylor with them. Since then, Taylor hasn’t had another shot at “The Show.”
That’s why Taylor is plying his trade in the American Association, where he has notched time with the Grand Prairie AirHogs and the Sioux Falls Canaries. But it wasn’t until he signed with the St. Paul Saints when he returned to catching. Once he was back behind the plate, the “Major League” references started.
We never knew what the movie Jake Taylor’s numbers were, but the real Jake Taylor is batting a respectable .282, with a serviceable slugging percentage of .419. And he’s still versatile; the Saints have used him at second base, third base, catcher, and even one game in the outfield.
But when he’s catching, I really hope whenever he’s fielding a pop-up near the plate, he says “Uh-oh, I don’t think this one’s got the distance.”
As of this writing, the St. Paul Saints have a record of 42-31 and are in second place in their division. That means they could do what the movie Jake Taylor suggested…”Win the whole fucking thing.”