They are few, the proud and chosen, who rise above the worthy rest – as she has assuredly done – to become the Face of the Program.
For that is what Taylor Chavez represents at Vela, a signature talent who has comported herself like a champ, on the field and off. And as Chavez signed Tuesday to play college softball at Prairie View A&M next year, Coach John Maples recognized as much.
“With her leadership, her coachability, she has really represented the program for three years,” said Maples, whose team rode Chavez’ offensive excellence all the way to the Sweet 16 last year. “She has always represented the school and our program the right way, with character.”
The senior-to-be joins a select group of stars who have risen through the ranks to become all-around standouts; the Lady SaberCat list would include Shay Abbott and Monie Reyes of earlier vintage, plus other city luminaries such as Iliana Hinojosa and Annie Badillo of North; Myranda Hinojosa and Dezi Marmolejo of EHS; and Roxy Rodriuguez and Ashley Escalante of Econ. They are the real McCoys, this handful of super players who came to be emblematic of their programs.
All Chavez has done so far is smash 15 home runs and 33 doubles, compiling 88 RBI in leading her team to 71 wins in three seasons, against just 27 losses. After a tremendous freshman campaign in which she hit a robust .476, the hard-hitting infielder rebounded from a decent – for her, anyway, most people would have been thrilled with it – sophomore slate to become one of the most feared sluggers in the region last season. Her 10 home runs in 2018 set a school mark and Maples says that she showed amazing resilience and drive.
“Sophomore year was when we went up to 6A from 5A and it got tougher,” the coach commented. “Teams figured out that they didn’t want Taylor to beat them so they started pitching her differently.”
Chavez adjusted well, thanks to more patience at the plate, and concentrated on using her phenomenal strength to hit shots to the opposite field.
“That, and last year we got some production before and after her in the lineup,” Maples continued. “Teams couldn’t just walk her a bunch, although Harlingen South and Warren tried that. I think Taylor has really proven herself as someone who is always improving. She even led us in walks last year; she’s become more disciplined at the plate through the years.”
Maples and assistant Joe Ortiz pointed out that aside from her potent bat, Chavez has distinguished herself in other ways, including expert base-running and exquisite bunting ability.
“She’s very fast on the bases, quick,” said Ortiz, while Maples added that Chavez could very easily have been a champion powerlifter with her ample lower body strength.
Chavez is looking forward to the challenge of college softball for a program that has been solid recently, making the postseason last year. Prairie View has a few Valley kids on the roster, including pitcher Crystal Castillo of San Benito, and now it has added one of the best to ever wear the Blue and Black, a real frontline performer whose athletic exploits and leadership have made her a figure of prominence, the true face of the Vela program.
NOTES: The All-Area volleyball team was released recently, with North’s Natalie Rodriguez on first team plus Victoria Fuentes of EHS and Julia Cordon of Vela on the second.