Homegrown: Taylor Tankersley
Published 3:55 pm Thursday, September 7, 2017
For five seasons, Taylor Tankersley lived the dream.
The former Warren Central baseball star was a first-round draft pick and reached the major leagues with the Florida Marlins after just two seasons in the minors. He stared down some of the fiercest hitters in the game and spent four years in the big leagues before retiring.
With so many career highlights, it’s a bit stunning to hear that his best favorite moment was not in a high-stakes game with the season on the line, or facing Barry Bonds when the slugger was one home run away from tying Hank Aaron’s home run record, or even his major league debut.
“My career highlight was my senior year in high school,” Tankersley said.
That was the 2001 season, when the ace left-hander led Warren Central to the Class 5A championship. Tankersley was a perfect 13-0, with 165 strikeouts and a 0.44 ERA in 95 innings pitched. He threw nine consecutive shutouts at one point.
The Vikings finished the season with a 36-3 record and were ranked No. 6 in the country by USA Today.
More than the stats or the championship ring, however, Tankersley said that year will always hold a special place in his heart because it was the culmination of years of work and camaraderie.
“I grew up with those guys. You can go down the line, and there’s a lot of guys, the Brian Pettways, the John Morgan Mims, the Joey Liebermans … we grew up playing together and were a family,” Tankersley said. “The cohesiveness and bond we all shared was far and away more meaningful to me than pitching in the major leagues. I was just the one that was fortunate enough to get the path that could get me to the big leagues.”
Tankersley’s playing career ended in 2011 after a season with the New York Mets’ Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo. Not long afterward, he moved to North Carolina — the place where his minor league career started six years earlier and where he met his wife Lauren — and took a job as a broker with East Coast Lumber Company.
In his new job, Tankersley arranges sales of cut lumber between the sawmill and those who use the wood to make various products.
“I had to shift my focus from trying to make people miss pitches to letting them hit it out of the park,” he said. “I still deal with people, but I want my customers to feel like they hit a home run.”
Although he enjoys his second career, Tankersley admits that it took him a while to make the transition. He said it was several years before he was even able to watch baseball again as a fan. He once considered a career in coaching after his playing days were over, but said he’s content to be a family man now who is home every night.
Taylor and Lauren Tankersley will celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary in November, and they have a 6-year-old son, Huck.
Even if his baseball career was fleeting, Tankersley said he’s thankful for everything he’s been able to do and accomplish.
“I joke with people all the time that I had a horseshoe up my butt. I could give you a list of reasons a mile long why I was lucky. All I can do is be thankful for it,” Tankersley said. “My in-laws are wonderful, and I fell into a great career, and the company I work for is wonderful. And that horseshoe is still there.”