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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Echo
Lincoln Reed hitting.png

Lincoln Reed found a field of dreams at Taylor

Meet a Taylor University baseball legend

“If you tried to create a catcher in ‘MLB: The Show,’ it would be Lincoln…he would walk to the plate like he was a gunslinger.”

That quote is from Taylor University’s sports broadcaster Rick Johnston, referencing the Trojans’ former elite catcher Lincoln Reed. 

Trojan baseball has had a deep history of acquiring star catchers. The list includes TJ Bass, Ben Kalbaugh, Kade Kolpein, Austin Mettica, Tanner Watson and Reed. But what makes Reed so great? Is it his prowess on the plate? Is it the tunnel-vision focus? Is it the batting power?

It's all the above.

Johnston recalls the first time he caught notice of the catcher. It was during his first couple of years announcing Taylor sports. He was in for a rapid awakening as to the extent of what Reed could do at the plate.

“He walked up there (to the plate) and I’m like ‘Who is this dude?’,” he said. “He looked the part. He commanded everything. You see him walk about there, and he was what a catcher looked like.”

The average height and weight of an MLB catcher is just over six feet tall and 211 pounds. Reed was 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds. He wasn’t just above average, he was better than average.

Johnston recalls Reed’s defensive dominance and force against opposing teams. He said that Reed was the best defensive catcher in the Crossroads League at the time, seamlessly blocking everything that was thrown his way with his tremendous arm strength.

“When he walked up to the mound, he was all business,” he said. “He was an intense guy, and you could feel it when he walked up.”

Even with all the praise for his on-field performance, Johnston said that Reed was also known for more than just playing ball. As he recalls it, there was more to the star catcher when the game was over.

“He was the nicest guy, so down to earth,” he said. “He’s got this 10,000-watt smile, he’s funny, he’s humble…It was almost like a Jekyll and Hyde thing.” 

Johnston remembers Reed’s play as not being dirty or acting like a jerk. Rather, he saw him play with a standard of excellence that he carried himself with, where everyone else could meet him at that level.

The pinnacle of Taylor baseball met its peak last year when the team made a deep run into the NAIA World Series. 

As the Trojans hosted the opening round, Reed got the chance to be in the booth with Rick. They had previously worked together a couple of games before, when Reed was a few years graduated. When given the opportunity to reunite the duo, the chemistry clicked right away. 

Side by side, they called the game when Taylor threw the last strike, defeating Point Park 12-0. They saw the joy from the players as they realized they were going to advance in the World Series.

It looks like the last strike paid off.

“I just remember hugging each other knowing how special a moment that was,” Johnston said. “It was near-perfect chemistry. The laughs of jubilation definitely reached the other alums.” 

Johnston also said that Reed never talked over the audience’s head. He kept his speech simple, being careful about what he said to those watching.

In that historical run, Johnston reminds himself how fitting Reed was when he called some games. Being a catcher, Reed was involved in every aspect of the play. From when the umpire says “Play ball!” to when  the last out of the game, the catcher must be ready for anything that may happen.

From phenomenal player to current film professor, Reed’s path to Taylor was not the easiest. He started at Hillsdale College, a Division II school.

At the time, Reed headed into college to study law. He said those two years were formative, and they made him grow up. He pushed himself academically and physically to try to be the best he could.

His calm voice never spoke out of line. With one leg semi-folded over the other, hands holding themselves, Reed spoke with intention and honesty. While playing for his former university, he spoke about the drama that was created on the team. As those who face adversity come to realize, the bonds you make with those going through that are much deeper than what is seen on the surface.

“In my sophomore year, I did not have a very good season on the field,” he said. “It’s not that I wasn’t trying or didn’t intend it, it’s just I had a slump.”

Feeling like the year was not what was intended, he started to question whether college baseball was something of a myth rather than a reality. Every part of him worked so hard in the off-season to get where he should be, and yet, rarely any of it showed. By this point, he shifted his focus onto academia, and what was right for him to study.

“I know if it matters what I major in,” he said, “why not just major in something fun?”

Reed faced reality with his new understanding he had two years of school left. Why not learn some type of trade? Why not completely re-orient life from law to something fun for himself? Why not film?

And that’s when the ball turned into a boulder, and found its way rolling into Taylor.

Reed spoke to a few family friends and heard that the film program was doing a lot of new things to become more successful. He looked into a few schools, including Taylor, but he wasn’t intending on playing baseball. 

He took a chance at the purple-and-gray and called Kathy Bruner, the department co-chair of the Film and Media department at the university.

“She seemed like a really good person,” Reed said. “She talked about the program really high and thought it would make good use of a place where I could actually learn some skills that could be applicable to the workforce.”

In this transitional period of his life, he was still playing some baseball with an organization called Athletes in Action Baseball. It was a Christian baseball league connected with Campus Crusade for Christ. Even still, the slump struggles continued. He said that his swing was a “mess”, and he was overall not playing well. But, from the midst of struggle, came hope.

“I had this amazing coach, Bob Randall. I love this guy,” he said. “He was this really awesome coach, very old school … (he) just said like it was, no bullcrap.” 

If someone were to help the catcher become great again, Randall was that guy. Soon, Reed’s swing was fixed. His confidence was coming back. What helped the most was that he was a Christian, and Reed needed the guidance of a positive male influence at the time.

As the summer went by, Reed wrestled with the idea of transferring. He asked himself, “What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a good man?” The more he sat and thought, the faster the answer came to him; transferring was the best option. Coach Randall recommended talking to head coach Kyle Gould but insisted on taking his time to get through Hillsdale before arriving that coming year.

Coach Gould heard about Lincoln Reed through admissions, as they mentioned something about his baseball days at Hillsdale. He looked up some of his statistics and didn’t find anything  too special. He then found some game footage and Gould saw the true potential of what Reed could become.

“My general rule for transfers is that you don’t want to bring a transfer that is not going to play for you right away,” Gould said. “It wasn’t like we definitely needed a guy, but it’s like, I watched and thought this kid is way better than the numbers he has produced.”

Apart from Reed’s potential, Gould said he had such a driven guy with a physical prowess that even the coach could see value in.

The more that Gould pursued Reed, the more Reed had to make a decision. It was either go to Taylor for film or try his soft hand on a new team, new roster and perhaps, new experience to baseball.

“I was gonna walk on the team, and if it’s fun, I’ll stay,” Reed said.

Reed came to Taylor without a baseball scholarship. It was purely for fun, letting go of what happened in the past. If he quit, he would have lost nothing.

Little did he know that his excellence would start to show.

When Reed decided to play baseball as a Trojan, it didn’t take long before his impact was felt. During fall training, Gould spoke on the new transfer’s work ethic, such that when he got to Taylor he was finally able to be himself and commanded respect from day one.

“He’s such a physically imposing guy, just a really big, strong guy,” Gould said. “He just had this demeanor of an intimidating presence.” Reed showed his physical prowess early, hitting a home run in his first at-bat at Taylor.

As a part of the catching position, he is responsible for calling plays, either physically shouting them onto the field or with hand gestures. The catcher calls out pitches, reads certain runs and controls the ball. Reed said that communication is vital, whether its hand or eye signals, teammates must be ready to say something.

As his joy for the game increased, so did his stats. In his 2015 campaign, he notched a .309 batting average and led the Trojans with 165 at bats and 11 doubles. He was second on the team with four homers, along with 34 RBI and 74 total bases. He had a .448 slugging percentage and a .985 fielding percentage. He was named as an All-Crossroads League player.

His numbers only increased from that point forward. In that next year, he notched a .351 batting average, a .463 on-base percentage and a .610 slugging percentage. Not only did he win Crossroads League Player of the Year but also a second Golden Glove award. In that senior year, It was Gould’s best year as a coach, as the Trojans broke the 40-win mark.

“When I played, I made it a point to never look at my stats,” Reed said. “Even now, I don’t know what I batted. To me, it wasn’t about my stats, or what am I doing on the field…as long as the team is winning, I don’t really care about stats. All that matters is we need to score more runs than the other team.”

Any time that Reed walked up to the plate, the song “Bad Company” by Five Finger Death Punch became aligned to his name. With each step, the fans, coaches and announcers could see just how much force the star catcher brought. The guitar blared, and the vocals roared across campus. It was perhaps the only time that song would ever be played, and it was when he was ready to swing.

“It was this mindset of ‘I’m gonna be the baddest dude on the field,’” Reed said. “Even if it was only in my head, for the next two or three hours, I'm going to give it everything I have … I want (the pitcher) to be like ‘Oh crap, he’s coming to the plate’”.

Reed never shied away from a pitching battle, and he always accepted what was coming at him.

Now that Reed is a film professor, he tends to try to stay in touch with alumni, as well as track how well Trojan baseball is doing. Coach Gould said his former catcher will always be welcome back at the baseball program with open arms to whatever he needs. Johnston said he will be thrilled to have him back in the booth at any time a home game is happening. The Taylor University community is proud to have Reed serving as a teacher for those ready to learn.

Lincoln Reed’s impact is beyond just a sport. It’s a legacy, serving the Lord with a Christian mindset to live for an audience of one but for the joy of many. His playing days may be over, but they are not forgotten.