East Xtra: Franklin Regional grad lands in Frontier League Hall

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Kirk Taylor had dreams of walking in the footsteps of some of baseball's greatest players when he graduated from West Virginia University with a degree in sports management in 1997.

But while the dreams of playing for a Major League Baseball team didn't work out the way he had hoped, this Murrysville resident and all-section standout in football and baseball at Franklin Regional High achieved his own immortality as he was inducted last month into the Frontier League's first Hall of Fame class at a ceremony in St. Louis.

The Independent baseball league has been around since 1993, and its nearest member is the Washington Wild Things, a franchise that currently sits atop first place in the loop's Eastern Division.

"I am definitely honored and humbled," said Taylor, who achieved a lifetime batting average of .320 in the four years he competed in the league for the Ohio Valley Redcoats and the Johnstown Johnnies. He also hit 64 home runs, drove in 275 runs and stole 87 bases.

He managed the Johnnies in the 2002 season before retiring from the game to run TNT Collectibles, a Monroeville-based sports card and memorabilia company that was founded by his father and has been in business for 31 years.

"The league has progressed so much since I played, but the Frontier League gave me an opportunity to chase my dream of playing Major League Baseball," he said.

While that dream eluded him, Taylor is grateful for the teammates he met during his time in the league.

"Playing the game is more about the people I met and the friendships I made," he said. "The friendships I made are lifelong, and when I was inducted into the Hall of Fame, I received many kind words from the guys I played with and against."

Taylor did attend the induction ceremony.

"I've been kind of removed from the game since I took over the business, but it was great to see [the other inductees]," he said. "It was a great time in my life."

Taylor said the league has made itself attractive to Major League Baseball by installing an age limit of 27 years for most of its players.

"That shows affiliated organizations that there is younger talent playing in the Frontier League, and that appeals to them," he said.

"What's different about the game today is that there is more depth on the teams. But the level of play in the Frontier League is just as good as the talent I saw when I was in affiliated [minor league] ball with Royals' and Mets' organizations."

As a member of the Frontier League's first Hall of Fame class, Taylor is still coming to grips with the honor.

"This really is humbling," he said. "The league's been around since 1993, and there have been a lot of amazing players that have come through the league. I'm just really honored."

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