Softball world mourning Taylor’s death
According to whomever you talked to in Bellaire Monday night, the word of Ben Taylor’s passing was on everybody’s minds.
Probably none more than long-time friends and coaching compadres Jerry Magistro and Neal Johnson, both of whom spent many hours on the 42nd Street diamond in the middle of the All-American Village, which is now known as Amanda’s Field in honor of Amanda Rosepapa, with Taylor.
“Ben was a great man and the kids loved him,” Magistro said prior to the start of the Bellaire vs. St. John Central girls’ basketball game inside the SJC Greenhouse.
A moment of silence was held prior to the tip-off.
Taylor, who died Sunday after a lengthy battle with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), is known as being the pioneer of girls’ fast-pitch softball in the Ohio Valley.
“He lived and loved softball,” Magistro continued, choking back tears at times.
“He was the one that got these league’s started around here. Three-hundred and 65 days a year, every weekend he was taking girls to tournaments around the tri-state.”
However, Magistro said as much as Taylor prepared the girls for softball, he also prepared for what was ahead in life.
“He was even more than a softball coach, he was a mentor to some of the girls,” Magistro added.
Johnson said it didn’t matter what school the girls were from, either, although he had very strong ties to the Lady Irish program.
“Whatever any kids needed, he do it,” Johnson said. “It didn’t matter whether it was a kid from Indian Creek, Steubenville Central, Wheeling Park, whatever.
“It didn’t matter to Ben. He would do anything for that kid.”
Johnson also credited Taylor for his daughter’s achievements.
“Ben really did help my daughter (Megan),” Johnson said. “I give him all the credit for that.”
For all that Taylor has done for the sport in the Ohio Valley, it was only fitting that the No. 4 Field at the J.B. Chambers I-470 Complex in Elm Grove was re-named “Ben’s Field” in his honor during emotional ceremonies late last July.
“The field will be known as Ben’s Field for eternity,” Wheeling Recreation Department Executive Director Tom “Bear” Bechtel told the huge gathering on that sun-splashed day.
“I’ve been around fast-pitch softball since Day 1, and no one in the Ohio Valley, state of Ohio or the state of West Virginia has done more for the game than Ben has.
“We are really happy to name this field after Ben,” Bechtel added. “We are going to make some things happen here so that this is the nicest field up here with all the amenities.”
Personally, I got to meet Ben while covering girls’ softball when I wrote for other media outlets.
He was as easy to get along with as any other coach I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.
Two things I will always remember about Ben are his little ‘Black Book’ and his pitch counter.
The ‘Black Book’ was his scouting report on just about every player in the Ohio Valley, and some for his summer travel teams.
The Fighting Irish family lost a real fighter in Ben, but he was also a big giver!
Ben is survived by his wife, Jennifer, and their children, Amy, Alyson and Ben. They also have four grandchildrem, Ben, Noah, Caroline and Paige.
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org