"When you called me and started talking, I was like 'Man, 10 years.'"
Sylvan Hills High School head baseball coach Denny Tipton still can't believe it.
"I mean, just two weeks ago I was talking about him."
By "him" Tipton is referring to Taylor Roark. A standout baseball player whose life was cut short after a tragic car accident in 2008.
Drills are underway and the sound of a baseball slapping a glove are already reverberating inside the Sylvan Hills indoor baseball facility.
Tipton enters his 21st season leading the Bears. State and conference title banners line the club's outfield wall marking sweet memories.
But, for Tipton, another piece of hardware marks a different memory.
"I keep it at my house," Tipton says while holding a blue bat.
"A lot of people, I guess, this is the first time that probably anybody will know about it."
Etched across at hat blue bat reads: Taylor Roark. Number 7. You will be always be missed.
"I don't think I missed a game," Lisa Roark says while flipping through a scrapbook in her living room.
The pages reveal some of her son's biggest on-field accomplishments.
"Baseball was always his favorite sport," Lisa says.
"He just continued playing since he was 5, up until college."
Taylor was a 2007 graduate of Sylvan Hills. He played football. He excelled at baseball. And, was even voted class president.
A deep dive into Facebook photos reveals a glimpse of Taylor's personality.
Life of the party. Funny. A bit of a class clown.
"I really can't tell you why everybody liked him," Lisa says.
"Goofy could be one of the reasons. I don't know."
He earned a scholarship to keep playing baseball at Henderson State in Arkadelphia.
By the winter of 2008, practice was in full swing. Spring was around the corner.
"They had practice games on Sunday getting ready for the season. So, we would always go up there," Lisa says.
"He was really good out in the outfield, and he was going to start as a freshman."
It was January 25. The season began in about a week. Taylor was in Sherwood visiting his girlfriend but left early on a Friday morning, headed back to Henderson on I-30.
"I knew the weather was kind of bad, so I had tried to call him," Lisa says.
Taylor's pickup hit a patch of ice and crossed over into oncoming traffic. He hit a semi truck head-on. Taylor died in that accident.
He was 18 years old.
"I remember driving home. They drove me home," Lisa says.
"I just remember staring out the window. I was just in shock, I believe."
At Henderson's first game that season, a Roark jersey -- Number 7 -- hung on the outfield wall and in the dugout.
Lisa was in the bleachers.
"I just wished he was out there on that field," Lisa says.
"I just wanted to still remember him, I guess. I was there."
Ten years later. She's still "there" rooting to make sure Taylor is remembered.
"I could get a scholarship for $1,000 in his name, and coming up this will be the 10th year I've done that," Lisa says.
It's called Ten for Taylor.
Lisa asks for $10 bucks from 100 people, resulting in $1,000 for a Sylvan Hills student-athlete chosen by coaches who's looking to further their education.
"And, every year, people are more generous than $10," Lisa says.
They also usually include notes about the impact Taylor had, and continues to have, on them.
"It's just a way for me to remember him every year around this time," Lisa says.
"And, I'll just keep doing it until I can't do it anymore."
"Love your kids while you got them around because you just don't know," Lisa says.
"You don't know when the time is up."
Back in Tipton's clubhouse, a new season is on the horizon.
But, memories of seasons past bring the coach back to that old blue bat.
"He'll always have a memory with me," Tipton says.
"And, he'll always have a place at Sylvan Hills."
It's a bat that's still swinging for the fences in the hearts of many.
If you would like to contribute to the Ten for Taylor scholarship drive, contact Lisa or Kelly Roark.
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