Chip off the old Block

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 29, 2004

Greenville's Chip Taylor has lived up to his name.

Up until two months before he was born, his mother, Sandy, and father, Keith, debated on what to name their child. Sandy wanted to name her son after his father and Keith didn't want a son that was a junior.

Keith finally gave in on the condition that their son could go by the nickname of Chip. He never knew he would end up being a 'Chip off the old block.'

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Just like his father, who was an All-Star shortstop in Greenville's youth baseball program, Chip has become a well-rounded baseball player and proved that by winning the Pepsi Pitch, Hit & Run Sectional title last Saturday in Dothan.

"It made me feel like I was the best from all those counties," the 8-year-old shortstop said. "I was pretty surprised to win."

Chip competed against 14 other baseball players in the 7-8-year-old division from Auburn, Enterprise, Troy, Valley, Dothan and Ozark. He won two of the three events to claim the championship.

In the pitching event, Chip ran away with the victory after hitting 5-out-of-6 one-feet wide, two-feet tall targets. He also won the running event and came in third in hitting, which is done off a tee and is judged for accuracy by tape measures placed throughout the field. His score of 785 points far exceeded the other competitors. He nearly doubled the second place opponent, who finished with 451 points.

"I was proud to know that he can go off to other towns and compete with the best children his age from a bunch of other towns and finish at the top," Keith said.

Keith and Sandy were unable to attend the event due to prior engagements, but were grateful to Greenville Parks and Recreation Athletic Director Gregg Fuller for taking him down south to compete.

"Chip did extremely well," Fuller said. "He had a lot better day than he did here. He seemed to be more relaxed, which surprised me because I would expect most children to be nervous, but he did extremely well. All the children we took down there represented Greenville well. I was particularly proud to have two of the Top 3 participants in the 7-8-year-old age group from Greenville especially with us competing against children from larger towns."

Greenville Parks and Recreation Director Jerome Harris along with Fuller held the citywide Pepsi Pitch, Hit & Run competition on May 19 at Beeland Park's Cavanaugh Field.

Harper Vinson claimed the city title and Chip finished runner-up. Both were eligible for sectionals after winning at least one of the three events. Chip finished first in hitting, placed second behind Vinson in pitching and tied with Vinson in running.

"I wanted to go up there because I wanted to compete," Chip said.

Chip and Vinson both attended sectionals with Chip claiming first and Vinson finishing third.

"He didn't have any problem with it at all," Keith said. "It's good to know that when I'm not there, he can still raise his competitive level as high as he did."

Chip is the second athlete from Greenville to place first at sectionals. Hunter Armstrong won the competition two years ago when he was eight.

Chip's sectional score will be compared to the winners in the Mobile, Dothan, Montgomery, Birmingham and Huntsville districts. If his score is the highest he will go to the Southeastern United States Regional at Turner Field in Atlanta, Ga. on June 28. If he wins there, he will be on hand during the All-Star game in Houston, Texas.

"His mom and I are as proud as can be," Keith said. "The only regret I have is that we weren't there to see it, but there were some things happening and we couldn't make it. Gregg Fuller took him and I was just as happy as could be. I couldn't wait for the two and half hours for them to drive back home."

As for following in his father's footsteps, Keith believes Chip has already surpassed him.

"He's gone past me so far," Keith said. "He went down to Dothan and won. I never went to Dothan and won. I never made it that far."

Keith won the citywide pitch, hit and run when he was 12-years-old when it was sponsored by French's Mustard. He went on to compete in Dothan, but lost.

Until June 15 when Chip finds out if he qualified to go to Atlanta, he plans to practice in hopes of moving even further in the competition.

"If I get chosen, I'm going to try to hit off the tee better because that's my worst thing," Chip said. "If I could change one thing, it would be my hitting."

Keith is confident his son will do well if he is chosen.

"Chip just loves to compete," Keith said. "He wants to be the first one to finish his supper, the first one to tie his shoes and the first one to get dressed. He just competes in everything, classroom and all."