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East County Wednesday, Jun. 8, 2011 10 years ago

Thunder remember former pitcher

by: Jen Blanco Sports Editor

LAKEWOOD RANCH — A tattoo with his son’s initials graces Mike Emmons’ forearm.

Below the initials lays a shamrock, in honor of the Boston Celtics, and two dates. The first — Jan. 31, 1991 — is the date his son, Taylor, was born. And the second — Dec. 5, 2010 — marks the day an accident took his son’s life.

Mike Emmons never envisioned himself getting a tattoo; but two days after the accident he got his first and only tattoo as a tribute to his son.

“I see that tattoo every morning in the mirror when I shave, and it reminds me to do what Taylor would want me to do,” Emmons said. “It reminds me every day to enjoy life and do something because that’s what he would be doing. That was the whole thought behind the tattoo.”

And on June 5 — the six-month anniversary of Taylor’s death — the rest of the Emmons family, the Out-of-Door Academy family and the community got tattoos of their own in honor of the baseball star and 2009 graduate during the Taylor W. Emmons Memorial Out-of-Door Field dedication.

“I thought everyone having tattoos was really neat,” Emmons said.

During the dedication ceremony, the Thunder renamed its baseball field Taylor Emmons Memorial Field in honor of its former pitcher who helped lead ODA into the regional finals for the first time in school history as a senior.

An archway depicting the field’s new name was constructed at the entrance to the field along with a memorial plaque and flower garden.

”It is our sincere hope that the dedication of the baseball field and the creation of the Taylor Emmons Scholarship Fund serve as inspirational reminders to everyone in the community that out of tragedy can come inspiration and hope,” ODA Head of School David Mahler said. “While Taylor’s life, and the brightest of futures was taken away in Miami, his spirit and strong belief in loving life and caring for others will live on forever. We are all amazed and inspired by the obvious strength of the Emmons family and their commitment to make a difference in the lives of others.”

Mike Emmons, along with his wife, Katie, and Mahler spoke to the crowd and thanked them for their support in helping keep Taylor’s legacy alive and to celebrate Taylor’s love of baseball.

“It was just overwhelming,” Mike Emmons said. “Our idea for doing it was that we wanted to thank everybody and celebrate Taylor’s love for baseball. We wanted to just invite everyone who has been so helpful and generous to us. It was a way to celebrate him.”

“We feel very blessed to be part of such an amazing community,” Katie Emmons said. “From day one ODA has embraced our family, as well as all of the other families that attend, and became our new family. Once you become one of their families you are their family for life. The fact that they are dedicating their baseball field in memory of Taylor is proof that the loss was just as great to them as it was to us. We are honored.”

In addition to thanking the ODA family and the community for its generous support, Mike and Katie Emmons also announced the first recipient of the Taylor Emmons Scholarship Fund.

ODA eighth-grader Desmond Lindsay, who also plays on the Thunder’s varsity baseball team, was selected as the first recipient of the scholarship.

“There haven’t been a lot of things that have made us feel good since Taylor died, but this made us feel good,” Mike Emmons said. “This is something good that came from Taylor’s death. We think we picked a great candidate. Desmond is a great kid and he reminds us a little bit of Taylor.

“It’s such a good feeling to be able to help people like that, especially in honor of Taylor,” he said. “That was big for us. I hope he doesn’t feel too much pressure from it, but we really feel good about this.”

Mike and Katie Emmons decided to create the Taylor Emmons Scholarship Fund the morning after Taylor died, knowing it was what Taylor would want them to do.

Since its creation, the scholarship fund has received more than $100,000 in donations. The Emmons family plans to use the money to send one child to ODA every year in Taylor’s name.

“It’s just been tremendous support,” Mike Emmons said. “I don’t want to ever ask people for money, but this is for such a good cause. It’s for another child’s education. That’s huge. It’s just the beginning. I just can’t say enough about the support financially and emotionally of this great community.”

Following the dedication, Taylor’s brother, Mikey, 24, and sister, Samantha, 14, threw out the first pitch of a pickup game of baseball on their brother’s new field.

“I think Taylor would be amazed at the support we have received and the love that everyone had for him whether they knew him or not,” Katie Emmons said. “Because they know and love us, they know they would have loved him. Taylor would be very proud that everything he worked hard for at ODA was actually acknowledged, and is being recognized and honoring him on this special day.

“We hope that each family will realize how precious life is and to live each day to the fullest as we did,” she Emmons said. “We can honestly say that when Taylor died we had no regrets and there was never anything left unsaid between us. We hope that someday everyone can understand how important family and friends are and how they impact your life every single day.”

Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].

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