La Crosse center fielder Kennie Taylor has been donned by those around — and within — the organization to be one of the best to ever patrol the Copeland Park outfield while wearing the Loggers’ pinstripes.
The son of two former college track stars — his mother ran track at Dartmouth while his father competed at Adrian College — Taylor has plenty of speed to burn. He shows it off by consistently and effortlessly running down fly balls that appear to be sure doubles off the bat. With anything hit toward Taylor, there is a pretty chance it will be caught.
“It’s real nice,” Logger utility man and left fielder Ryan Mantle said of Taylor's speed. “It makes me only have to cover left because he’s got left-center too. He’s really good out there. With the ground he covers, it’s nice to have him out there.
“It’s cool to watch him from left field. Some guy hits it and you are like, ‘Oh crap,’ but then he just goes and gets it.”
Thanks to Taylor's speed, glove and bat, La Crosse (13-13, 27-33) entered Tuesday night's game with Bismarck having won eight of its last nine games. Tuesday night's game was not finished as of Tribune press time.
Taylor, a junior at Duke University, did not committed an error while manning center field for 45 games for the Blue Devils this spring. His defense caught the eye of Loggers' manager Brian Lewis.
“There is nobody that tracks down fly balls like Kennie Taylor does," Lewis said. "There is no one that makes those diving catches like Kennie Taylor does. There’s scouts in the stands and I was just talking to one and Kennie Taylor is on that list.”
Taylor is no slouch at the plate, either. He hit .314 overall and led the Blue Devils with a .328 average in ACC play. He brought his hot bat with him to La Crosse, too, as he leads the Loggers with a .364 average in 40 games, which leaves him second in the Northwoods League. Despite his credentials this summer — and that he is on a number of scout’s radar — Taylor was not selected to the all-star game or the Northwoods League Major League Dreams Showcase.
That has Lewis, and others in the Loggers' organization, puzzzled.
“I have no answers for why he wouldn’t get chosen,” Lewis said. “Sometimes things happen in the game where I can’t figure it out, and that’s one of those. There is no doubt in my mind that Kennie is a prospect.”
Taylor has shrugged it off and used it as motivation.
“Not being chosen, I just saw it was chance to show them my tools out here,” Taylor said. “It gave me a chance to show them what I have.”
Taylor has certainly shown the tools that catch major-league baseball scouts' attention. Since the Major League Dreams Showcase roster was announced on July 25, Taylor has put up big numbers. Taylor, who bats leadoff for the Loggers, is 18-for-37 (.486) with six multi-hit games while scoring a staggering 16 runs during the eight games since that July 25 announcement.
“My mindset hasn’t really changed; it’s always been to get on base and get other people to drive me in,” Taylor said. “Then once I am on base, distract the mind of the pitcher and then get the guys behind me better pitches to hit.”
In the Loggers 13-3 win over the Bismarck Larks Monday night, Taylor had a night to remember. He was a triple short of the cycle, going 4-for-6 with two doubles, a homer, and four runs scored. It was one of the better games of Taylor’s NWL career.
“I think once,” Taylor said when asked if he ever had a night like that before. “But that was pretty fun. I feel like I’m seeing the ball really well. I have a good amount of power for my size anyways, but I’m usually a gap-to-gap, doubles line-drive type person. Usually I don’t try to hit home runs, but hey if one sneaks out, that’s the way it goes.”
Taylor has been a key reason for the Loggers' recent run. Entering Tuesday night's game against Bismarck, the Loggers have won eight of their last nine games while scoring 81 runs.
“I think we are all starting to feel a lot better at the plate,” Taylor said. “I think we are all in a groove and no one wants to make an out.”