SMITHFIELD — After spending the past two seasons at Monmouth (N.J.) University, Brandon Taylor was eager for a fresh start someplace closer to his native North Smithfield.
The Bryant University baseball program checked off all the necessary boxes with Taylor joining the Bulldogs with two seasons of eligibility remaining. High school baseball fans probably remember Taylor as playing a key role in La Salle Academy’s ability to win the 2017 Division I state title before heading to Monmouth.
“The coaching change [at Bryant, with Ryan Klosterman replacing Steve Owens] played a very big part. I was away for two years and loved it at Monmouth. I had no problems there, but being closer to my family played a big part in coming back home,” said Taylor. “I knew a lot of guys at Bryant from having played against them either in high school or summer ball. Walking into a culture that I’m sort of familiar with was definitely big.”
Usually a player in Taylor’s baseball spikes must sit one season after transferring from one Division I school to another four-year D-I college. As a non-scholarship athlete, Taylor is cleared to play for the Bulldogs when the first pitch of the 2020 season is thrown Friday against Dayton down in Wilmington, N.C.
“I’m excited for the season … to be able to play right away is awesome,” said Taylor. “If I had to sit out, it’s something I would have to do but I would still be learning and developing throughout the year.”
“You’re talking about a local kid who wanted the opportunity to play at Bryant,” said Klosterman. “I had never seen him play and had no history on him, but everything checked off. The guys said nothing but great things about him.”
Taylor batted just .218 for Monmouth last season but posted a solid .386 on-base percentage.
“I know who I am as a baseball player and if that means getting on base so that the guys behind me can drive me in, so be it,” he said. “I want to win games just as much as the next guy.”
An infielder by trade, Taylor has logged time at catcher during the preseason. One of the key offseason losses for the Bulldogs was the departure of NEC first-team catcher Sam Owens after he decided to follow his dad Steve to Rutgers. Right now, senior Gaby Cruz is the frontrunner to take over for Owens with two freshmen – Alex Lane and Sam Sinisgalli – also in the mix.
“I’ve actually never caught before. It’s a position that’s completely new to me. I’ve stayed after practice to work on it,” said Taylor. “It’s becoming more natural to me. So far, things have been going well.”
“Brandon is a ‘Whatever you need, coach,’ guy,” said Klosterman. “He was a late summer addition to the program and has been nothing but a pleasant surprise.”
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03