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Garfield's Taylor Brown amplified her love of softball by dreaming of where it could take her

Published: April 18, 2017 4:00 AM
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By Jonah Rosenblum

Staff Writer

 

Taylor Brown can’t quite remember the game.

It might have been UCLA en route to its 2010 college softball championship.

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Then again, the time or team isn’t what’s relevant — at least not in Garrettsville, the charming village perched on Eagle/Silver Creek.

For the G-Men, what mattered about that moment was that was when Brown fell in love with softball. She had previously played softball, along with soccer and basketball, but that moment, when she was around 12 years old, is when she got serious about the sport.

“I fell in love with softball as a little kid,” Brown said. “Ever since I watched it on TV, I just thought it was so cool. I was like, I can be that one day.”

On Friday, she’ll take another step toward that dream, when she’ll officially commit to play softball for Muskingum University in New Concord, approximately two hours southwest of Garrettsville.

The Fighting Muskies will soon benefit from Brown’s prowess, but for now, it’s the G-Men who are prospering thanks to their star third baseman. Her sophomore year, she blasted six homers, but she has changed her tune since.

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“It’s nice to hit a home run once in a while,” Brown said, “but I’d rather go 4-for-4 than hit a homer and then not hit the rest of the game and bring down my team.”

That philosophy worked to perfection last season, as she batted .521 with 19 runs and 22 RBI.

“We fly out a lot because we’re always going for that home run. It’s great if you got it three times, but then you got 20 flyouts,” G-Men coach Tina Downing said. “She was one of the people who recognized, ‘Hey, I need to cut the middle of the ball. I need to move base-runners around. I need to get on base.’”

In addition to modifying her approach at the plate, she also changed positions, moving from catcher to third base, because the G-Men had a number of talented players to man the backstop but needed help in the field.

That turned out to be a good move for everyone, as Brown relished not having to squat all game behind the plate and the G-Men benefitted from her .915 fielding percentage last year at the hot corner.

“She has got all the guts,” Downing said. “She does well with a short reaction time, just fielding shots left and right (with) not a lot of time to think about it, just grab it and throw. I think that’s where she excels.”

Brown credited Downing with helping her assemble a portfolio that eventually landed her the chance to play softball for Muskingum. She also noted how her parents, Jeff and Tammy, helped morph a dream that started at the television set into the opportunity to play college softball. Both brought first-hand knowledge to bear, Tammy played softball for Ravenna and Jeff played college football for North Carolina State — and both offered their daughter plenty of advice.

“They don’t sugarcoat,” Brown said. “They tell me what I’m doing wrong and it helps a lot.”

When Brown was unsure about playing travel softball, nervous she wouldn’t be fast enough or strong enough, Tammy convinced her to give it a try.

“It was my first travel team and I didn’t know if I wanted to do it,” Brown said. “She was just like, ‘Hey, if you want to play in college, you’re going to have to play for a travel team. You just can’t play school ball your whole life.’”

The lessons didn’t stop.

As Brown pursued softball, her parents kept her honest, enforcing what the coaches told her and making sure she applied herself. Every Sunday for several years, Brown has spent roughly 45 minutes on the diamond with her parents, practicing hitting and fielding, taking grounders and throwing over to first base, where Tammy finishes the putout. Throwing to Tammy at first, instead of the Garfield first baseman, forces Brown to work on her precision, since Tammy would prefer not to take a bouncing softball to the shin.

“They take what the coaches tell me and they don’t let me slack off,” Brown said. “They always say, ‘Hey, you need to be working on that tee. Hey, if you want to be better, you need to go play catch or do something.’”

By the time Brown got to high school, she was already playing at a high level.

“I knew as soon as she came out for us that she was going to start all four years,” Downing said.

Brown has only gotten better.

She advanced from a .338 average her freshman year to .474 her sophomore season to a .521 hitter last year. The challenge is how to get better since .521 is already an extraordinary number. Downing told Brown to focus on the small things, like moving runners over, seeing pitches and relaying information from her at-bats to her teammates.

While her on-field talent blossomed through hard work, Brown’s leadership, she was a captain last year as well as this year, just came naturally for the gregarious senior. Quick to flash a smile or offer a cheery greeting, Brown has relished helping her teammates succeed.

“I like talking,” Brown said. “I’m like the friendliest person you’ll ever meet.”

Softball is different than basketball, where one great player can take a team a long way. Brown gets one-ninth of her team’s at-bats, at most, but somehow her impact has been greater.

“They feed off of her energy and her success,” Downing said. “If she is up there hitting, if she’s up there making plays, if she makes an error and shakes it off and comes back and makes a great play, they feed off of that. They feed off of her energy. They stay more positive. She can’t do it all, but her play can have a big effect on the rest of our team.”


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SoftballMom Apr 18, 2017 10:22 AM

“I like talking,” Brown said. “I’m like the friendliest person you’ll ever meet.”

Love this quotebecause it is so Taylor! She truly IS the friendlest person you'll meet!

My daughter plays against Taylor, but just absolutely loves her and her family. Congratulations on playing at Muskingum - I can't think of anyone who deserves it more! :)

pitsinger Apr 18, 2017 6:45 AM

A very talented and polite young lady from a great family.