When Taylor Starr left Baton Rouge, La., earlier this month, he was certain it was the last time he would wear Oregon State’s orange and black.
A fifth-year senior, Starr was heading for graduation and, hopefully, a shot at professional baseball.
Then he went undrafted in the Major League Baseball first-year player draft. So he began looking forward to another career path.
“It was a roller coaster, especially not knowing I was coming back,” he said. “Seeing all the guys at the last game at LSU, seeing all the seniors leaving, thinking I’d never get the chance to wear the uniform again.”
OSU coach Pat Casey called Starr into his office during finals week with a bit of news.
“He said ‘You want to know something crazy, you have another year of eligibility.’ My heart kind of dropped, but he told me ‘You should start your master’s,’” Starr said on Monday. “Anytime I have the chance to wear the uniform, I’m going to do it.”
Starr was a rising star in 2008 for the Beavers and the Corvallis Knights, who won the West Coast League title that summer.
Then he had to have Tommy John surgery in 2009. The 2010 season was lost to another arm surgery and 2011 went the same way. Starr finally returned to the mound this past season, going 5-2 for the Beavers, including two victories over Oregon, in 18 total appearances with seven starts.
“It’s a really neat story — he was the closer on our 2008 championship team,” Knights coach Brooke Knight said. “With the arm struggles he’s had, to fight his way back, to get his degree, get some postgraduate classes, and then a couple of really outstanding outings against Oregon this spring, it’s like a second chance for him.”
Starr joined the Knights for this summer season on June 15.
“He’s a big guy, he’s strong,” Knight said. “I think it’ll be really nice for him this summer to just kind of air it out there and relax and play the game and have some fun and get ready for one more year with the Beavs.”
The seasons lost to injury made Starr a perfect candidate to receive a sixth year of eligibility.
“It’s a pleasant surprise,” OSU pitching coach Nate Yeskie said. “Certainly we’re excited.
“He’s got an opportunity to come back and continue to play and do some things he set out to do, both personally and team-wise, when he set out to come here a few years ago.”
For now, Starr is concentrating on helping the Knights win another championship
“It’s pretty crazy,” Starr said. “I’m excited about it and looking forward to the season with the Knights and then carrying that over to Oregon State.”
Starr’s second go-round with the Knights is a good fit for both himself and the West Coast League team. He gets to pitch in his home ballpark and deepen a talented Knights staff. His exact role hasn’t been established.
“We’ll be working with the Oregon State staff, it’s a cooperative effort, to make sure that we prepare him to be prepared going into the fall,” Knight said. “He can do whatever we need him to do, whether it’s start, middle or close, but it’ll be a cooperative decision we make together to do what’s best for Taylor.”