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Utah Bucks baseball keeps players sharp in summer

Published July 6, 2011 3:17 pm

Outfielder must decide whether to sign with Houston Astros or return to Salt Lake for another season.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Dominique Taylor has a big decision to make, and time is running out. In June, the outfielder was selected by the Houston Astros in the 33rd round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft. Taylor has until August 15 to decide if wants to sign with the club or return to SLCC for another season.

"Getting drafted was truly a blessing," he said. "I'm really not sure what I'm going to do. I could sign [with the Astros] or I could go back to the Salt Lake Community College and play another year."

The former Northridge standout carried a .385 batting average last season and helped the Bruins to the Region 18 championship game. To stay sharp this summer, Taylor is playing with the Utah Bucks, an elite 18-and-under baseball team that plays most of its home games within the confines of Gates Field at Kearns High School.

"It helps me because I'm playing baseball every single day, and that's what I need," Taylor said. "I don't just want to sit around the house and not do anything.

"I think it's great because I can be an example. There are a lot of kids [on this team] going to SLCC. So I can say, 'Hey this is how we do it at Salt Lake.' "

Ten members of the Utah Bucks have signed to play at SLCC next season, including former Woods Cross star Austin Bankowski and Stansbury catcher Colton Barkdull.

Last month, the Bucks played in Tempe, Ariz., at the Connie Mack World Series qualifier and showed that Utah baseball has come a long way. The Bucks put together a record of 6-3 and were one win away from earning a berth in the Connie Mack World Series, eventually falling 11-1 to Arizona Firebirds in the championship game.

"It gives our kids the opportunity to play against good competition, which a lot of kids in Utah don't get to see," said Bucks coach Kellen Carsey. "With the grind of playing 25 games in 20 days, it prepares them for playing in college."

"There are a lot of good hitters [we face] and you can't just come out and expect to win," said Taylorsville pitcher Dalton Carroll. "I just try to come out and do what I've been doing all year."

Still, the costs associated with a travel team are high — for the Bucks, it's roughly $4,000 per player. Chad Shepherd is the director of the Marshall Gates Foundation. It's his job to control the purse strings and set up the team's schedule.

"The foundation funds all the activities — the players don't have to pay for anything," Shepherd said. "The majority of our kids are from Utah, but we have kids from Colorado, Nevada, Georgia, California, Idaho and Texas. It helps bridge the gap to keep us one of the top five baseball programs in the country."

The team also has a player from Japan. Yuto Kata has been a foreign exchange student at Juan Diego Catholic High School the past four years. He's also a former member of Japan's 2004 Little League World Series team. He came to the United States to learn baseball from Americans.

"After the Little League World Series, I came here just because I love how they play baseball," said Kata, who has signed to play at Dixie State. And even though he admires the way Americans play the sport, he holds on to a Japanese tradition of bowing to the bases before every game.

Numerous college scouts will be flocking to Kearns High School this week to watch the Gates Field World Series. The Bucks will be competing against teams from California, Texas, Colorado and New Mexico in the four-day event that runs from July 6 to 10.

Fans who came to last year's tournament got to see 17-year-old phenom Bryce Harper, who was taken No. 1 overall by the Washington Nationals in the 2010 MLB Draft. —

About the Bucks

The Utah Bucks are an elite 18-and-under baseball team sponsored by the Marshall Gates Foundation. The Bucks took second place at the Connie Mack World Series qualifier in June.

The Utah Bucks and Utah Marshalls are two of state's premiere travel squads. These two All-Star teams will play a five-game series at Gates Field starting July 19.

SLCC outfielder Dominique Taylor plays for the Bucks and was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 33rd round of last month's MLB Draft