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Heath Taylor promoted to head boys baseball coach

Assistant to Swenson has strong family values, love of mentoring young athletes
Thursday, June 10, 2021
Heath Taylor promoted to head boys baseball coach

New head Hawk baseball coach Heath Taylor instructs youngsters Tuesday during the Hawk Baseball Camp KEVIN HAMILTON/IOWA PARK LEADER

Heath Taylor looks to be a perfect fit as the new head boys baseball coach at Iowa Park.

The big, strapping Bowie native spent the past four years as assistant under Michael Swenson, and three years prior to that as pitching coach at Fredericksburg.

It was here, though, that Taylor matured with a combination of strong family values, and a love for mentoring young athletes to compete and succeed not only in their sports, but in their lives.

It has been an interesting journey for Taylor, first as an all-state pitcher out of Bowie, then college stints at Vernon College and the University of Oklahoma before spending three seasons in professional baseball at Cleveland.

After suffering through some shoulder injuries and the subsequent surgeries and periods of rehab, Taylor decided to return to college for a degree and the chance to coach.

“I got tired of being hurt,” he remembers. “I knew that the chances of me coming back and being in full health after shoulder surgery wasn’t very high. I also knew the more I was away from college, the less I’d want to go back.

“But living out of your luggage for the past three years, I was at the point where I wanted to make roots somewhere.”

He finished college as an assistant baseball coach at the University of Science and Arts in Oklahoma, then the stint at Fredericksburg before being lured by Swenson to Iowa Park.

And after four seasons as assistant, Taylor earned his promotion.

“His background speaks for itself,” Swenson said Tuesday. In that capacity, he’s a baseball guy.

“I’ve been kinda grooming him for the past five years,” Swwenson continued. “Maybe not always envisioning him taking over this program, but taking over a program.

“It is time for him,” the new athletic director said. “There will obviously be bumps in the road ... a little learning curve.

But I have full faith he is going to get the job done. He is going to continue the excellence we’ve established in this baseball program, and that means a lot to him, too.

“At the end of the day, that was what I was looking for,” Swenson said of his search for the new baseball coach. “When we were interviewing for those positions, we put a lot into that program. That’s my baby. So I definitely don’t want that to fall off or suffer. He knows how we share athletes. That is big to me. He knows how our offseason works.”

Swenson noted that he wants Taylor to put his own spin on the program as well.

“Keeping Brady (Whitaker) on is huge,” Swenson said of the veteran assistant. “He has been a head coach before. He is from here, and been an assistant here for two different stints.

“They are going to do great,” he continued. “It is the same thing when I took over for Coach (David) Fuhrman. You want to put your own spin on it. And that’s what I told him (Taylor). It is not my program anymore. This is your baby, and you are going to be the one answering questions if it doesn’t go. So you need to put your own spin on it.”

Taylor said being offered the position meant everything to him. “Obviously I wanted the job. I mean, it is a great job.

“But outside of that, I’m not worried about the pay raise. I wasn’t worried about anything but the kids, basically. I wanted the kids to have somebody that they trusted to lead them. And selfishly, I felt like I was the best guy for that.”

Taylor remarked that he has a great relationship with his kids, not only in the baseball program, but in football and basketball.

“We are fortunate enough here, you could ask a kid to run through a brick wall for you, and they will do it,” Taylor laughed. “It is just the kind of kids we have. And that makes you want to coach them. You want to be able to make them good men outside of athletics. Make sure they have the right mentors that teach them how to live life after the games are over. And just be good men, good adults, good husbands, good workers.

“I wanted too be that guy that is leading those kids because I wanted to make sure it was done right.”

Having Swenson as a mentor has proven beneficial for Taylor.

“He made me kind of get out of my comfort zone and learn,” he said. I really didn’t have a base to start with, because I knew pitching. Previously when I was in Fredericksburg, I was the pitching guy there, too. And being a pitcher at a higher level, that came easy to me.

“The great part is, he (Swenson) forced me to get out of what I knew best and learn other things. I’ll forever be grateful to him. The way he runs the program, and his relationship with the kids are all positive and something all of us assistants look up to.”

Taylor has a strong home life as well, with wife Kristen (a school counselor for Burkburnett ISD), and a “fireball” of a two-year-old daughter, Brookes.

“This is a place, soon as we had her, that we wanted to raise her, be cause it has such a good school district” he said of Iowa Park.

“The community is unbelievable with their support,” added. “It is unlike anything I’ve seen.”

“His background speaks for itself ... he’s a baseball guy.”

– Michael Swenson IPHS Athletic Director