Taylor Deniston’s (g’19) view of sports took a different spin in 2023.
A lifelong athlete and native of Holcomb, Kan., the former Bluejay is in her first year as a replay operator for Major League Baseball. She works and resides in New York, N.Y., the home of MLB’s global headquarters.
After a four-year career with Bluejay women’s basketball, Deniston earned her M.B.A. from Fort Hays State University and served as a graduate assistant.
Todd Tichenor, an 11-year MLB umpire, lives in Holcomb through the offseason and is a close family friend. She first approached Tichenor about opportunities in MLB while at Tabor. He told her about “Take The Field,” a two-day program at baseball’s Winter Meetings for women interested in working in professional baseball.
Looking for opportunities after completing her master’s, Deniston saw an ad on LinkedIn for “Take the Field” and applied and was accepted last December. She traveled to San Diego, Calif., for the event and met Raquel Wagner, director of MLB umpire operations. She also connected with more of the team that works in the replay studio.
Deniston applied for her replay position in January 2023 and moved to New York in a month to be ready to start on March 1.
She said she is in-studio five hours ahead of games, conducting tests of cameras and umpire headsets. Whether it is hit-by-pitches, catcher interference, tags, force outs, fair/foul balls or home runs, it is just part of the list they watch in their selected games.
“You are definitely watching games from a different perspective,” Deniston said. “When coaches decide to challenge, we can also see exactly what angles they are looking at when they decide to challenge. Often, it is the angle we look at first. If we need something better, we find better angles.”
Umpires work rotations through the headquarters and discuss replays with the umpires on the field. The technical director in replay is also in communication, but the umpire in-studio affirms or changes the call.
MLB and Zoom partnered this season, giving fans at home a chance to see the inside of the replay studio. Deniston was pictured on ESPN when the crew reviewed a pick-off play between Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Carlos Correa in a playoff game between the Minnesota Twins and Toronto Blue Jays.
Beyond attending conferences that led to her current position, Deniston encourages Tabor students to take advantage of all opportunities. While a student at Tabor, she participated in a business seminar at Brigham Young University. The online conversation allowed her to meet with a vice president of Adidas. She also interned through Ripken Baseball in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., and PrimeTime Sports in Plano, Texas.
“It is crazy how a six-month internship with Ripken led to me knowing all these people at Major League Baseball who also did what I did,” Deniston said.
Tabor women’s basketball coach Shawn Reed said Deniston’s ascension in professional sports matched her competitiveness on the basketball court.
“Taylor grew so much during her time at Tabor, and her fearlessness and desire to win were second to none,” Reed said. “That fearlessness led to her selling her car and moving from Holcomb to New York City, and I admire that about her. Working with Major League Baseball has been a great start for her career.”