With a love for the game and a passion to help others in any way possible, Taylor Juran decided to give coaching a shot.
After a four-year playing career with the Owls, Juran was set to never put on a Temple baseball jersey again as the 22-year-old was set to graduate. But during the summer, Juran contacted coach Ryan Wheeler about an open coaching position. The unpaid position would keep Juran involved with baseball and Temple.
“It’s been everything I could have wanted,” Juran, now an assistant coach, said. “The experience itself has just been really eye-opening so far. The overall transition from player to coach hasn’t been that difficult.”
“Juran has done a great job with it,” Wheeler said. “One of those difficult things is making the jump to player to coach. He has really done a great job separating himself from the other players as he is now a coach for us.”
In four seasons with the Owls, Juran batted .282 and added a .990 fielding percentage as Temple’s catcher. The four-year veteran was also a leader in the clubhouse, a quality every coach is looking for in an assistant coach, Wheeler said.
“[Juran] has a love for the game,” junior catcher Andrew Nist said. “That is clear as he is so happy to be on the field every day. He just loves learning more and more about baseball, being around the guys on the team and just loves teaching us.”
As the youngest member of the Owls’ coaching staff, Juran’s age has a lot to do with the success he has with the players on the team, specifically the catching staff, Wheeler said. Juran has worked closely with each of the team’s four catchers, but Wheeler said freshman catcher Michael D’Acunti has benefited the most from working with Juran.
“I think it’s really important to have such a young guy around helping us,” D’Acunti said about Juran. “We can always be ourselves. He is more on our level and understands us because he just got out of the game last year.”
D’Acunti credits much of his defensive success this season to working exclusively with Juran and hopes to continue to improve defensively as a freshman catcher. In his first season with Temple as a transfer student, Nist credits Juran with helping him make a smooth transition into a new team and making him feel comfortable as a player.
“[Juran] has helped me a lot with the mental aspects of the game as he knows different situations and is thinking about certain plays and anticipating things before they happen,” Nist said. “He knows how to get us ready and is able to prepare us for anything.”
Although he is now a coach for Temple and no longer a player, Juran has separated himself well and has matured into a successful member of the coaching staff, Wheeler said.
“Obviously he understands the system and how we want things done around here,” Wheeler said. “He is somewhat young and has a pulse of what’s going on with the team and the instinct of players’ minds.”
When Juran came to Temple in 2008, he entered with redshirt-seniors Dan Moller, Matt Elko and Steve Visnic, all of whom are currently on the Owls’ pitching staff. The three players understand Juran’s role with the team and while they joke around with their former teammate, they know when to take him seriously and respect him, Juran said.
While Juran said the transition from player to coach has not been all that difficult for him, he credits coach Wheeler and coach Brian Pugh for his success and ability to learn quickly as a coach.
“I can’t say enough good things about [coach Wheeler and coach Pugh],” Juran said. “They are always there if I have questions about something I am unsure of. They treat me as a coach and while there are some jokes here and there, it is all in good fun. They help me out any time I need it and they are always pointing me in the right direction.”
As a young coach, Juran has showed the potential to one day be a head coach, Wheeler said.
“I would love to move up the [coaching] ladder,” Juran said. “It’s a long road and it’s tough, but if it continues to treat me well, I would absolutely love to continue to coach.”
Like every job, coaching is no different in that it has its challenges. For Juran, the biggest struggle is how frustrated he gets during the course of the game as well as trying to get the players to buy into the strategies that he is teaching. Baseball is a game of failure and only a coach knows that it is only a matter of time until the strategies at practice begin to pay off in actual games, Juran said.
As for whether Juran misses playing baseball, he admitted that it is tough to watch the team during batting practice, but the rewarding feeling of seeing a player succeed outweighs his itch to play.
“I think I will enjoy coaching more than I did playing,” Juran said. “It is a really rewarding feeling. The players listen to you, respect you and pay attention, and seeing the players make the adjustments on the field that I teach, well, that’s why I will enjoy coaching more than playing.”
John Murrow can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @JohnMurrow12.