Scott Taylor had been feeling so well, he’d bought tickets to see the Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays.
Not just spring training, but regular season.
He seemed to be holding his own in a five-month battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
“He was in the last week, talking about coming back to see the kids, planning on taking different people to ballgames,” said Sharon Scarbrough, principal at Sugg Middle School, where Mr. Taylor taught physical education since 1978.
“It looked like everything was working. He was so upbeat,” Bradenton firefighter Terry Wilson said, of his boyhood friend and best man at his wedding.
“The chemo was working,” said Mr. Taylor’s daughter, Kristina. “There was no reason to think this was going to happen.”
But Mr. Taylor died early Monday morning at his home.
He was 54.
His death stunned and saddened many, particularly in the county’s coaching fraternity.
“I owe my college career to Scott Taylor,” said ex-Palmetto High coach Ronnie Deans, a former player at Manatee Junior College and the University of Florida whom Mr. Taylor coached in summer baseball. “He spent three hours every afternoon trying to make me a better ballplayer. The last thing I wanted to hear was he’s gone. Broke my heart.”
“I feel like I’ve lost a brother,” said Bayshore High baseball assistant Jerry Dowdy, a teammate at Bayshore Junior High and Manatee Junior College and USF roommate.
A 1973 Southeast alum, Mr. Taylor pitched two years in the Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees organizations. Afterward, he became offensive coordinator for the Seminoles state championship football teams and head baseball coach at Manatee, where the Hurricanes went 102-64 in his six years there.
“He was a Southeast man, but he put his best foot forward at Manatee,” said Paul Maechtle, Southeast’s longtime athletic director and football coach. “Even though we were at opposing schools, the mutual respect transcended schools.”
All the time, he taught at Sugg.
“He was always ‘Coach,’ ” Scarbrough said. “We’ve lost a member of our family.”
Al Melnick succeeded Mr. Taylor as MHS baseball coach and later brought him back as an assistant.
“I never met anybody, coach or player, who loved baseball more,” Melnick said. “After spending three to four hours on the field with the kids, he’d go and watch a game either live or on TV. He was a teacher, a mentor.”
Which is how former Hurricane Brett Dowdy, now with the San Diego Padres, remembered Mr. Taylor.
“He wasn’t just a coach. He taught life lessons. He was grooming you to become a man,” Jerry Dowdy’s son said from Peoria, Ariz. “I’m forever grateful.”
Besides mother Naomi and daughter Kristina, Mr. Taylor is survived by niece Tina Ferry and nephews Clay Carter and Mike Ferry. He is predeceased by father Ed Taylor and sisters Sandi Taylor and Sheila Rae Carter.
The viewing will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at Manasota Memorial Park and Funeral Home, 1221 53rd Ave. E., Oneco.
The funeral is set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Trinity United Methodist Church, 3200 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.
Interment will be at Manasota Memorial Park.
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055, or write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, FL 34206 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a phone number for verification.