William Byrd athletic director Jason Taylor didn’t have to look far for a new baseball coach. The mirror was all he needed.
Taylor has been named “interim coach” of the Terriers, replacing departed Neil Zimmerman for at least one season and possibly more. The position will be evaluated again after the spring season.
“The job was late in opening and we didn’t get a full set of applicants,” said Taylor. “There’s a lot riding on this job and it’s important to continue the success of William Byrd baseball. I always tell people to have a five year plan for anything you do, and that’s how I’ll approach this season. We all know that can change.”
There’s no doubt Taylor is qualified for the position. Before coming to Byrd he coached the baseball team at Hidden Valley for a dozen years. He had a record of 183-93-5 and 35 of the losses came in the first three years, as Jason was the first Titan baseball coach when the school opened for the 2002-03 school year.
The Titans won a half dozen district titles in the dozen years Jason coached, playing in the tough River Ridge District. Hidden Valley won four RRD tournament titles, a conference championship, a regional title and made four appearances in the state tournament, finishing as state runnerup one of those years. He had quite a few players go on to the college level and beyond.
Taylor will jump right back into the fire at Byrd, as Vinton is a town that loves its’ baseball. He’s been out of the dugout for eight years, but has watched his son, Luke, play for Byrd during his time as AD and sees the game changing.
“There are differences I see now compared to coaching eight years ago,” he said. “The district alignments to advance to the Region are a challenge. Every game means something, so players getting experience in games will be limited. We used to have 10 non-district games that we could get game experience for a lot of players. That is a state wide issue in my opinion for all sports. So, I plan on making practices more competitive.”
Taylor will take over a team that finished 11-4 in the COVID-abbreviated spring season. The Terriers had 11 seniors on that team, many who will play college ball next spring. You’ll need a program to recognize the players at Walthall Park in 2022.
“We need to get the younger players accustomed to the high school level,” said Taylor. “With COVID, a shortened season and graduating 11 seniors varsity experience is minimal. They have played a lot of travel baseball and have been successful, but the difference in travel and school is the age. The players will be competing against players that are older and stronger. It is very important to see who can compete with the older players and be successful.”
Taylor has already assembled his coaching staff. Varsity assistants will be Jamie Lyle, who assisted Jason for eight years in travel ball, Larry Long, a former Glenvar head coach and Roanoke College assistant, Troy Beckner, a Byrd grad who pitched at Concord, and Bryce Boothe, another Byrd grad who has been on the staff for the past two years.
Long time Byrd coach and grad Larry Light will return as head jayvee coach and Brian Jones, another Byrd grad, returns to coach the middle school team. Justin Dent and Kevin Witcher return as assistants and Hunter Thompson is new to the staff.
“The players and the coaching staff are excited,” said Taylor. “There are 31 returning players from Varsity, JV and the Middle School. I hope that a couple of other players will come back out. There is a lot of talent in those returning players.”
Taylor will have to juggle his athletic director duties with coaching the baseball team, but he doesn’t see that as a problem.
“Payton(daughter) and Luke both played sports at Byrd and the administration worked with me so I was able to be at their games,” he said. “I don’t see where it will be a problem at all, but like I said we’ll evaluate things at the end of the spring season and take it from there.”