If 'Hard Work' was a Softball Player
Softball phenomenon, charismatic leader, diligent student, and current senior at Gahr, Taylor Stephens has proven through her high school journey that “hard work, works!” In the past four years, she has not only demonstrated her ability as a varsity softball player, but also the discipline to maintain good grades, communicate well with others, and take care of herself.
“I have had the pleasure of knowing Taylor for a long time and I can tell you that her natural leadership and skill for the game was evident even back then,” said Gahr Softball Coach Rey Sanchez. “She has a presence about her when she steps onto a field that tells everyone watching that something special is about to happen… She will be missed, but we are all so excited to see what is to come!”
On Wednesday, November 11th, 2020, Taylor signed her Letter of Intent with UCLA. UCLA has been her dream school ever since she was seven years old, and during our first interview back in January, she said, “every travel team I’ve played for, and my high school, Gahr- it was always with the goal in mind to attend UCLA.” And she’s done it! Taylor will now begin a new chapter in her life at UCLA, playing for their Division 1 softball team.
Talent on the Field
As a valuable and dependable infielder, Taylor mainly played as shortstop for Gahr- the position known universally as the “captain of the infield” by baseball and softball players alike. It is considered one of the most challenging positions in the sport, as hits (generally, groundballs) are most likely to be cracked in the direction of the shortstop. It requires constant attention to the game, quick thinking, responsive fielding, a powerful arm, and a high “baseball/softball IQ.”
As a versatile utility player who is adept at covering all infield positions, Taylor says that at UCLA, “I’m going to be playing wherever I can help the team the most. So if that’s short, then it’s short. If it’s third, then it’s third. I just want to go, and be able to help my team win.”
But fielding is only half the story. With a batting average of .463, 16 steals, 34 RBIs, and being ranked #26 in the 2021 Extra Elite 100 (published in October 28th, 2020) by her Junior year, Taylor is also a force to be reckoned with in the batters’ box, and on base.
Taylor grew up in an athletic family, where her uncles and brother in particular were passionate about baseball, and she began playing softball at the age of 4. But she says that her Uncle Pep was the real MVP in her softball journey, as he was her coach and mentor in the sport ever since she was old enough to pick up a bat.
“The number one person that will always come to mind when I’m asked who has helped get to where I am, like for a coach, is my Uncle Pep,” said Taylor.
She also radically improved in her four years of high school, during which she sharpened both her physical and mental prowess in softball. She learned to do so much more than just play the game. She began to study it, and master her craft.
Balancing Sports and Academics
While working hard to improve her skills as a passionate softball athlete, Taylor and her family always prioritized school. Recognizing her responsibilities as a student, she remained just as diligent in her studies as in her athletics, and was on the Principal Honor Roll at Gahr for all four years.
At UCLA, Taylor plans to major in Business and Communications, with one of her goals being to start, and run, a business of her own someday.
“That Communications route is still up for debate, but for the most part, I am sure that I want to use that towards some type of TV networking, sports broadcasting - something of that nature… [and] I’m not sure yet of what I want to own or what I want to run [in terms of starting a business] but that’s where my vision has been for the past couple of years.
With commitments in both school and sports, Taylor often finds herself with a packed schedule everyday. And while her daily patterns have changed due to the pandemic, she continues to work hard each day.
“I’m waking up at 4:45 to go to lifting workouts in San Dimas. And I come home at 7:50, and I have to hurry up, wash my hands, and get ready for my 7:55am class, my first period. So, juggling everything has for sure been different, but I know that at the end of the day, school comes first, so when I come home, that’s exactly what I do.”
Taylor says that she would not be where she is today without the people in her life who have showered her with love and support over the years. She is very grateful to her family, friends, coaches, teammates, and teachers who have guided her to success.
Taylor wanted especially to thank her family, who have shown unconditional love and support for her throughout her years of high school, softball, and the rest of her life. She said that she deeply appreciates all the love, guidance, long lectures, and even the important criticisms she has received from her family, which has molded her into the person she is today.
“I love my family so much… they all have supported me through my softball journey, my school journey, my high school journey, and they will continue to support me through college, and I can’t be thankful enough for that.”
And to her companions in both school and sports, Taylor says she is so proud of them and excited to see where life will take them next.
“We are a close class of 2021, and we’ve all supported each other all four years, and just, watching them grow into the young ladies who they are today, going to the schools that they are, I can’t wait to see them succeed, and I can’t wait to just continue life with them,” Taylor said. “And the young girls too [on the softball team at Gahr], just seeing them work so hard to be in the spot that they are today, it’s just incredible, and I’m glad to be a part of that culture at Gahr.”