Leader Blues

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

SPORTS >>Coach recalls Roark as more than a great athlete

Leader sportswriter

Tragedy hit the local sports community on Friday morning when former Sylvan Hills catcher and Henderson State freshman Taylor Roark was killed in an automobile accident on icy interstate I-30.

Roark, who collected almost every accolade imaginable as a three-year starter for the Bears, chose Henderson last April over Arkansas State, and quickly fit into the Reddies’ baseball program.

He was two-time All-Conference during his high school career at Sylvan Hills, and also earned All-State honors as a senior. He was invited to play at last summer’s high school All-Star baseball game, before finishing out his youth career on the Sylvan Hills Bruins AAA American Legion team.

Sylvan Hills athletic director Denny Tipton, who also served as Roark’s head baseball coach for four years, remembers Taylor as a fun-loving kid, but also one who had strong leadership abilities.

“The biggest thing I’ll always remember about Taylor is him coming around the bases during the state title game with Bryant his sophomore year,” Tipton said.

“That was the year Bryant was supposed to be unstoppable, and I can still see him coming around the bases for us to tie the game. I remember what a great leader he was for us. He was always a prankster, and he enjoyed the game so much.”

Tipton also remembered Roark as someone more than a great baseball player.

“It’s been tough around here; he wasn’t just a good athlete, he was class president his senior year, and he did great in the classroom,” Tipton said. “He had tons of friends, and everyone’s trying to cope with it. We will honor him on the baseball team this season. We haven’t decided exactly what we’re going to do yet, but we will figure that out when things quiet down some.”

Roark was known as a strong competitor, who rarely displayed excitement or frustration. In a spring feature for The Leader last March, Roark talked about how being so laid back sometimes confused people into believing he was apathetic, but his fans, coaches and teammates knew better.

His stats were solid through and through — including a batting average of over .450 his senior year — but none was more impressive than his on-base average of .708.

He also took part in the Xtra Innings Classic at UALR as a junior. He was on the 5A state champion Bears team in 2005 as a sophomore as starting catcher.

Henderson State coach John Harvey only knew Roark for a brief time, but liked what he saw.

“He was really laid-back, but he was really funny, and all the guys enjoyed being around him,” Harvey said. “He was an outstanding player, but an even better person and teammate. Our whole team here at Henderson State is like a big family, and he fit into that family very well.”