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Scrappers’ Porter makes his own name

NILES — Growing up in the shadows of athletically-gifted parents can be both a blessing and a curse for any athlete trying to make it on his own.

The experiences and the expertise shared by parents can provide invaluable guidance and insight. The expectations and the automatic assumptions that you’ll carry on the athletic legacy can be daunting.

“You just have to take it all in stride,” said Mahoning Valley Scrappers catcher Taj Porter. “I know the expectations can be a bit crazy and unwarranted. But personally I’ve been blessed, I’ve had nothing but positive experiences my whole life. I’ve been in a great environment.”

Porter’s mom Carla played basketball at the collegiate level, while his dad Ricky Porter played professional baseball at the AAA level (Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies) and played in the NFL in the early 1980s for the Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions and Baltimore Colts.

Ricky Porter then went on to serve as an assistant coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Denver Broncos and most recently the New Orleans Saints.

Ricky Porter was a two-time All-American selection and team MVP in football at Slippery Rock University. He became the first player in school history to be drafted into the NFL when the Lions took him in the 1982 draft.

Taj Porter was born in 1999 in Mandeville, Louisiana. There, he attended Northlake Christian High School. He began his college career at Louisiana Lafayette and ended his career this spring following three years at Southern University.

“I grew up in a very competitive family, but it was competitive in a good way, it made me a better athlete and a better person,” Porter said. “I was never pressured into sports. It’s just something I’ve always loved.”

“All of the stories I’ve heard about my dad’s playing days were positive. All the memories I have of my dad coaching in the NFL are good memories. I feel like growing up in the environment that I did helped me learn how to handle where I’m at right now. At the end of the day, baseball is a child’s game, you have to have fun with it.”

Porter grew up playing baseball, football and soccer. He was a football and baseball standout in high school, noting that he equally loved both sports.

“It came down to the fact that the better college offers were for baseball, and I have no regrets,” Porter said.

At Southern University, Porter was part of two teams that advanced to the Southwestern Athletic Conference title game. He earned a conference championship ring in 2021.

“I loved the college experience, loved the way my playing career turned out,” Porter said. “I became a better person and a better player and I met some great people and had some special moments along the way.”

Porter describes himself as “a utility player,” noting that he grew up playing third base, shortstop and second base. He even pitched for awhile, then ultimately found himself situated behind home plate. Porter acknowledged that the physical demands of catching “can be quite taxing,” but believes the role has made him a better player — and will help with his goals beyond his playing days.

“Mentally, it really keeps me sharp,” Porter said. “I’m directly involved in every play. Other than the pitcher, I touch the ball more than anyone on the field. I have a lot of control over the game and the pitching staff, and that has made me a better player and teammate.”

“To me, being a catcher puts you in a position where you have to be a leader on the field. In a way you’re sort of like a manager on the field.”

And — just like his father — Porter hopes to one day become a coach or manager.

“I just love the game, I want to be in the game as long as possible and coaching would present me with that opportunity,” Porter said. “And again, it goes back to all of the positive experiences I’ve seen and been a part of while growing up.”

“I’ve been blessed to be around a great athletic environment my whole life. Now I just want to go out and make a name for myself.”

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