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Taylor on verge of TCL history

By Jack Stallard
May 27, 2012 at 11 p.m.

When the East Texas Pump Jacks were making a coaching change heading into the team's second year of existence, Ben Taylor made general manager Mike Lieberman an offer Lieberman couldn't refuse.

"My first experience with Ben was an email I received, and in the subject line it said 'If you want to win, read this,' " Lieberman said. "The more I read and the more I talked to him and talked to others about Ben it made complete sense. We saw things eye to eye and wanted the same things in the same way. It was just a perfect fit."

That was before the 2009 season, and as the Pump Jacks enter their fifth year of play in the Texas Collegiate League - the fourth under Taylor's watch - East Texas has established itself as a top tier team in the league.

Along the way, Taylor has positioned himself to become the TCL's all-time winner among coaches.

The 2012 TCL season begins on Friday, with the Pump Jacks visiting McKinney for one game and then trekking to Alexandria for games on Sunday and Monday. If all goes well, by the time the team returns to Kilgore for the home debut on June 6 against McKinney, Taylor could stand alone at the top of the list among league coaches.

"It's really exciting," said Taylor, who needs just two victories to tie former Brazos Valley coach Brent Alumbaugh for the most wins by a TCL coach. "I'm not going to lie and say I haven't thought about it. I knew last year we had a chance to get close. ...and I mean we. This wouldn't be possible to even be close without all of the people involved. That includes Mike (Lieberman) allowing me to basically go get any player I want, to the fans who support our kids, to my assistant coaches to the kids themselves."

In the regular season (playoff records don't count in the record chase) Taylor is 98-56-1 in three seasons with the Pump Jacks. His teams are 101-63-1 counting the playoffs. Alumbaugh's 98 wins came in four seasons.

The Pump Jacks were 22-26 in their first season and 0-2 in the playoffs. Taylor took over in 2009 and led the team to a 26-21-1 record, but the team was again swept out of the playoffs.

In 2010, East Texas went 34-21, won the TCL's first half and went 2-3 in the playoffs. A year ago, the Pump Jacks won the regular season title and set records for wins in a season (41) and winning percentage (661) after finishing 41-21.

"It has been more than I expected," Taylor said. "I didn't anticipate the relationships I've built in Kilgore. ...the lifelong friendships. I didn't know the fans would support us like they have."

Taylor's coaching staff will include infield and third base coach Ruben Munoz, pitching coach Billy Coleman and first base and catching coach Ricky Wilson.

As for the players? They are Pump Jacks for life - even when their time in Kilgore is finished.

"One thing that really tells you the impact Ben has on players moving forward is when you see some of the correspondence on social media," Lieberman said. "You're talking about guys, who 2-3 years after they played here, use phrases and talk about things they learned here. It's part of them now. The last time we spoke with the 2011 team, the first thing we conveyed to the players is they are Pump Jacks and regardless of where they go from here or what they do when they leave they are Pump Jacks.

"A lot of people come in with bluster and confidence, and it's just air. Then you have guys who foster that kind of environment. That's what Ben Taylor is all about."

Taylor said he realized he put a lot of pressure on himself with his early correspondence with Lieberman, but that proved to be a driving force toward what will soon put him at the top of the list among TCL coaches.

"To be honest, I just wanted a head coaching job," Taylor said. "I had been an assistant at one of the best programs in the country and wanted to see if I could do it. Once I got the job, I had to back it up. I had to put my money where my mouth was."

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