High school baseball: Steen has skilled teachers

At home, Grand Forks Red River sophomore Taylor Steen accepts the advice of his father, Scott, who was a first-round MLB draft choice by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1985.

At home, Grand Forks Red River sophomore Taylor Steen accepts the advice of his father, Scott, who was a first-round MLB draft choice by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1985.

At practice, the young catcher listens to the counsel of Roughriders coach Mark Varriano, who played in the minor leagues of the Boston Red Sox organization.

So it's not a major surprise that Steen, who was recently named to his second all-East Region team, leads Red River into the North Dakota Class A state tournament beginning Thursday in Mandan.

The Riders play the No. 1 seed from the West Region and host Mandan Braves in the late game.

"Taylor's had a good year," said Varriano, whose team takes the East Region's No. 4 seed into the state tournament. "He's getting stronger, more physically mature."


It helps to have a good set of coaches, said Steen, who is batting .318 and had a team-leading 14 hits heading into the East Region tournament.

"Coach Varriano has helped me out a lot," Taylor said. "He's taught me a lot of different things. I give him a lot of credit."

Support system

Steen also gives credit to his family. His grandfather, Donald Steen, videotapes each of Taylor's at-bats from the stands.

"My dad's also given me a lot of help," Taylor said. "He watches all the games and tells me what I'm doing wrong and what I'm doing well in every at-bat."

Steen, who bats third in the lineup for the Riders, gives the team a number of options at the plate.

"He's probably our best contact hitter," Varriano said. "He's good for the hit and run. He's also a good bunter. He has a few drag-bunt singles this year. He doesn't have a lot of power, but he's still getting stronger."

Steen is also an asset behind the plate.


"He's a good leader to have behind the dish," Varriano said. "Pitchers are confident with him back there. They throw their best stuff to him. That's a good thing to have -- a strong catcher to be a leader."

Find the zone

Steen said his approach to handling a pitching staff is simple.

"You always want them to throw strikes, especially first-pitch strikes," Steen said. "I always tell our pitchers to do that and we'll go from there.

"Our pitching has carried us throughout the whole season; our bats have been on and off. I think the key to the state tournament will be throwing strikes. With wood bats, if you throw strikes, you have a chance to win every game."

Varriano sees things similarly.

"Our pitching has been good all season," Varriano said. "Hopefully we can ride that and scratch for enough runs. I told our kids we don't have to be the best team for the whole season; we just have to be the best team for three days. We have that possibility if we play well."

Miller reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1121; (800) 477-6572, ext. 121; or send e-mail to .


If you go

What: North Dakota state Class A baseball tournament.

When: Thursday-Saturday.

Where: Mandan.

Red River in first round: vs. No. 1 West Mandan, 35 minutes after conclusion of 4:30 p.m. game.

Devils Lake in first round: vs. No. 3 West Bismarck High, 35 minutes after conclusion of 11:30 a.m. game.

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019 and 2022.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
What To Read Next
Get Local