This is the latest installment of our spotlight on some top-caliber and high-character club baseball organizations that have helped Pathway Baseball establish a foothold in tournament offerings at 15u-18u.
Next up, we have Chris Taylor, co-owner and operations/marketing director at Elite Athletic Baseball in Denver. A Colorado native, Taylor played junior college baseball in Kansas, sharpening his skills with 100-plus games, and vaulted to the high ground of D-I, playing at Tulane and UT Arlington. While the opportunity to play professionally never took root, Taylor had always been serious about school and decided to shelve baseball, getting his MBA at Seattle University and then getting into corporate marketing.
Brother-in-law Danny Vais started Elite Athletic; its growth compelled Vais to ask for some support on the off-field chores, and Taylor jumped into the venture, first as a part-time solution and then full-time in 2017.
Q: Was moving into the business of academy baseball and leaving your other position a difficult decision?
A: There were a lot of personal factors that told me it was the right time. I disliked business travel, and I was at a point in my career where that would have happened if I moved up, and I didn’t want to do that with my boys growing up. I had to invest myself back into my development as a coach; just because you were a good player doesn’t mean you can coach. The game had changed a lot, and if you’re teaching the things you learned when you were 12, you are probably behind the times. I got very immersed in it again with my own kids (now ages 9 and 6). That’s what pulled me fully into it, but most of what I do is outside the coaching realm.
Q: What’s the history of Elite?
A: We’re coming up on our five-year anniversary. We started out as a training-only facility, born out of what Danny was doing in elite high-school training, but without a facility. He had a group of high school guys, and he felt there was such a game-after-game-after-game mentality with high school players, they were lacking fundamental strength and the skill work we felt was under-developed. There are high-school tryouts coming up, and we will see high school guys who have worse footwork than my 9-year-olds. They’ve never been taught. Danny took the idea, got the facility, and that was the core. We have 14 teams, 10 on the youth side and four on the high school side.
Q: What compelled Elite to start fielding competitive teams?
A: We got into teams because we saw the training was great, but clubs were getting so dominant that we had to have that. My oldest nephew’s team went out at age 8 and had success, and then we had other teams want to come and be part of the organization. We went from two teams to nine. Teams are a lot to manage, with a lot of admin work, and if we were going to grow, we had to focus on it so it would grow the right way – that’s my role, and we try to not burden our coaches with a lot of that.
Q: What’s the guiding philosophy of Elite Athletic?
A: We were a training-first facility when we started, so it’s the focus on player development. For our high school guys, once the season ends, it’s not a thing like playing a doubleheader on Tuesday and tournaments Thursday through Sunday. We have a Monday-Thursday workout program, doing lifting and skills work, trying to develop the things that can get lost. If you only play games, you’ll see your skill development plateau.
Q: What’s been your experience playing Pathway Baseball events?
A: I’ve been pleased – (director) Gino (Grasso) does a great job communicating with us as an organization and as coaches. We’ve done the Albuquerque events for two years, and the nice thing about that event is … at a high school tournament in Denver, it’s spread out on a million fields all over town, and that makes it challenging for anyone to watch anybody play. The Albuquerque event allowed Gino to get a lot of these (college) coaches in one place. To bring in the right-sized school for a lot of these (potential recruits) … players can flash, be seen, while a coach can watch five fields at the same time and see 30 (high school) teams without driving all over the place. We got the chance to play different teams, different states. We’ve had some guys get seen and start conversations with coaches, and it’s been beneficial that way, too.