TALOGA — The pitcher's mound is no longer the only bump on Taloga High School's baseball field. Some of the gopher mounds are more than ankle high.
Near third base, the cover of an old baseball is nestled among the weeds and short grass of the base path.
The bulbs on the eight light towers around the field have been cold for a few years, now that the school no longer plays the game. With a declining high school enrollment, the program ended.
Nevertheless the Taloga Panthers are, in a sense, headed to the Major League Baseball playoffs, via Jordy Mercer.
The Pittsburgh Pirates had 20 losing years. While that run ended this year for the playoff-bound Pirates, it's been a half-dozen years since the Panthers, who won few state titles in school history, have had baseball.
But Mercer, one of seven in Taloga High School's class of 2005, has played in more than 100 games this year for the Pirates and will be on the team's 25-man playoff roster as postseason play begins this week.
Although Mercer resides in Edmond in the offseason with wife, Kasey, and 1-year-old son, Maverick, Taloga, with a population of about 300, is home. It says so right there on the back of his 2013 Topps baseball card.
Jordy's parents, Rick and Tammy, have resided in the same house in Taloga for 30 years. Out of the picture window you can see light towers at the field.
“We were down there virtually every night I was home,” Rick said. “It was his idea. He'd look at me and say, ‘Let's go, I need to hit.' I'd hit him maybe 50 to 100 ground balls and then I'd throw and he'd hit probably 50 to 100, every night.”
After the Pirates clinched a playoff berth, Jordy called his dad.
“He said, ‘You've come a long ways. It took a lot of practice,'” Jordy said. “He asked me if I'd change anything. I said, ‘No. We've come a long ways together.' I wouldn't have been here without him, that's for sure.”
Jordy's home field in the majors is PNC Park along the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh.
But as Rick said, “Jordy grew up hunting in the tree line along the South Canadian River.”
Jordy's first vehicle was a pickup, a bright yellow 1999 Chevrolet short-bed. Pickups are plentiful in this town 37 miles north of Clinton. Here, agriculture and oil and gas play big roles in the local economy.
Taloga, the county seat for Dewey County, has a convenience store, a bank, a grain elevator, a few churches and more. And the senior center isn't just for seniors. It's a popular lunch spot in the community. Plus, Taloga Public Schools this year experienced an enrollment increase in younger students.
“Everybody here in Taloga is like family,” Tammy said. “Everybody watches after each other's kids.
“We wouldn't have wanted to raise our children anywhere but in a small town.”
Pride is easily found in Taloga, Tammy said. For example, with Jordy about to turn 27 on Aug. 27 this year, a friend put a note in the Taloga Times Advocate. They urged other friends to gather in front of the Mercers' house for a birthday video. What does that say to Jordy about his hometown?
“It speaks volumes,” Jordy said. “I wouldn't expect anything less because Taloga is such a great community. When I first heard the story I thought there might be 10 or 15 people but 40 or 45 people showed up, all wearing Pirates gear and holding Pirates signs.