Aiken’s Taylor Widener has dreamed of becoming a Major League Baseball player since he was a kid throwing the ball around in his back yard. The journey has taken him from South Aiken High School, to the University of South Carolina, and on to the minor leagues. This season, Widener made the Arizona Diamondbacks Opening Day roster, and made his MLB regular season debut on July 25 against the San Diego Padres. The only thing that would’ve made it better is having his parent’s there to see it.
“We would have absolutely been on a plane to get there if all this mess wasn’t going on,” said Taylor’s dad Billy.
Billy and Elizabeth Widener have traveled all over the country to watch their son play baseball, from youth travel teams, to Minor League teams in cities like Reno, Nevada and Tampa, Florida. But because of the pandemic, they couldn’t be in Arizona for Taylor’s MLB debut. MLB is not allowing fans in the stands for the shortened 2020 season.
“I know it’s absolutely killing them,” said Taylor. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them and they’ve devoted their life to the game just as much as I have. So it sucks that they weren’t able to be here but hopefully they’ll be more opportunities for them to come later on,” added Taylor.
Watching their son’s big moment from their living room in Aiken, South Carolina 1,700 miles away was still emotional.
“If I had hair, it would’ve made the hair on the back of my neck stand up,” said Billy. “But it was exciting. It’s something the boy’s worked his tail off his whole life for and he finally achieved it, so it’s not a greater feeling than seeing your child out doing that,” added Billy.
Besides not having his biggest fans at the game, the 25 year-old right-hander had to adjust to not having any fans in the stands at all.
“I tried to look at it as much as a real game as possible and just keep the same intensity,” said Taylor. “And obviously I was excited with it being my debut and all,” he added.
“We had to stay home and watch it on TV, and he called us as soon as the game was over with,” said Billy. “So we got to speak to him after his debut, and we cried again, we sure did,” said Elizabeth.
Taylor did consider an alternate way to have his parents be there.
“A lot of his teammates were ribbing him about getting cardboard cutouts of us and sending it out there so we could see his debut, but that didn’t happen,” Billy said laughing.
“Yeah I wasn’t able to get those made right away. I wish they would’ve been able to be here for real but with everything going on,” said Taylor.
Taylor couldn’t really celebrate his debut after the game with his teammates because of the pandemic, but he has the ball from his first strikeout, the ball from the first pitch and the scorecard from the game. He entered the game with one out and a runner on first base in the bottom of the seventh inning, threw one pitch to get two outs. A fly ball to left field resulted in a double play. Widener pitched 1.2 innings, giving up no runs or hits and striking out one.
When fans are allowed back, the Wideners won’t waste any time booking a plane ticket.
“The first one we can book, we’ll be there,” Billy said with a grin.