The game is humbling, man. The game is a humbling game. —Salt Lake Bees reliever Taylor Cole
SALT LAKE CITY — Taylor Cole is one of 16 players with big league experience on the Salt Lake Bees’ opening day roster. The right-handed pitcher also happens to be the guy most familiar with the area.
“This is like a second home,” said Cole, who played for BYU in 2011.
Cole returned there for six offseasons after opting to turn pro with the Toronto Blue Jays organization. Cole earned his degree from BYU and his wife, Madilyn, attended graduate school.
On the baseball front, Cole provided instruction to young players in the state and even worked out with the Cougars. He credits coach Mike Littlewood for always leaving the door open to former players and being supportive.
Cole’s professional journey, by his own admission, has been crazy. So much so, in fact, that he joked to reporters at media day for the Salt Lake Bees about being unsure where to begin.
On Aug. 9, 2017, Cole made his debut in the major leagues — facing the New York Yankees. The relief appearance was especially meaningful given that Toronto was where he had his LDS Church mission.
“The Blue Jays were great to me,” said Cole, who was very appreciative to get to the show with them.
Cole’s one and only inning, though, didn’t go so well. He gave up four earned runs. However, he did strike out rookie sensation Aaron Judge.
Five days later, Cole was released.
“The game is humbling, man,” he said. “The game is a humbling game.”
Cole wound up signing a minor-league contract with the Blue Jays and later opted for free agency. Last month, he inked a minor-league deal with Los Angeles Angels.
While acknowledging that his major league debut was a “great learning experience,” Cole emphasized that there’s “unfinished business to take care of” in that regard. He’s determined to slow the game down and focus on what got him there.
Cole’s approach is to make every level your big league.
“For me, that’s what this is,” he said. “So I’m excited to do the best I can here — to take care of business here — and then everything else will kind of fall into place.”
Bees manager Keith Johnson hasn’t seen Cole pitch a lot, but described the 28-year-old as being “crisp” with an “electric fastball.” Cole’s past experience as a starter and his length, Johnson noted, gives Salt Lake a guy with a “kind of pedigree is always beneficial to a club like ours.”
The Bees open their season Thursday at home against Albuquerque. They do so with a projected roster featuring a combined 2,936 games of major league experience. The list includes Chris Carter, who led the National League with 41 homers while playing for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2016.
From a roster standpoint, Johnson, who is back for his seventh season at the helm, said that the Bees have a “nice mix” and a fun group to watch, including a “three-run homer” in the line-up.
Salt Lake team president Marc Amicone also expressed excitement for the upcoming Pacific Coast League campaign. Besides noting that the roster is filled with a lot of “major league ability,” he wants fans to know about the new LED lighting system at Smith’s Ballpark and enhanced concession offerings that include a sandwich that is as big as a base.
“We’re excited for the season to start. The stadium is ready,” Amicone said. “We’re excited to welcome the players back here.”
Salt Lake Bees roster
PITCHERS: RHP Jaime Barria, RHP Parker Bridwell, RHP Vicente Campos, RHP Ralston Cash, RHP Taylor Cole, LHP Ian Krol, RHP Adam Hofacket, LHP John Lamb, RHO Osmer Morales, RHP Eduardo Paredes, RHP Felix Pena, RHP Troy Scribner, RHP Nick Tropeano,
CATCHERS: Jose Briceno, Juan Graterol.
INFIELDERS: Chris Carter, Jose Fernandez, David Fletcher, Sherman Johnson, Ryan Schimpf.
OUTFIELDERS: Jabari Blash, Michael Hermosillo, Rymer Liriano, Ben Revere, Eric Young, Jr.
STAFF: Keith Johnson (manager), Erik Bennett (pitching coach), Donnie Ecker (hitting coach), Ray Olmedo (defensive coach), Brian Reinker (trainer), Adam Auer (strength and conditioning coach).
2018 Salt Lake Bees schedule
APRIL: 5-9 — ALBUQUERQUE, 10-12 — at El Paso, 13-16 — at Albuquerque, 17-20 — SACRAMENTO, 21-23 — ALBUQUERQUE, 25-29 — At El Paso, 30 — FRESNO.
MAY: 1-3 — FRESNO, 4-7 — LAS VEGAS, 8-11 — at Sacramento, 12-15 — at Fresno, 17-20 — SACRAMENTO, 21-24 — at Albuquerque, 25-29 — RENO, 30-31 — at Tacoma.
JUNE: 1-3 — at Tacoma, 5-7 — ROUND ROCK, 8-11 — NEW ORLEANS, 13-15 — at Oklahoma City, 16-19 — at Colorado Springs, 21-24, — TACOMA, 25-28 — at Reno, 29-30 — at Las Vegas.
JULY: 1-3 — at Las Vegas, 4-8 — EL PASO, 12-15 — at Sacramento, 16-19 — LAS VEGAS, 20-22 — at Tacoma, 24-26 — MEMPHIS, 27-30 — NASHVILLE.
AUGUST: 1-3 — at Iowa, 4-7 — at Omaha, 9-12 — TACOMA, 13-15 — EL PASO, 16-19 — at Reno, 21-23 — at Las Vegas, 24-27 — at Fresno, 28-30 — RENO, 31 — FRESNO.
SEPTEMBER: 1-3 — FRESNO.