The Oyster Capital of the World, home to one of Dr. Beach’s Top 10 Beaches in the US, backdrop to the 2012 Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, and hometown of the “Future of Women’s Softball.”
Led by the most dedicated coaching staff in Florida, these phenomenal young women have made our county more proud than any supermodel ever could (we still love you Kate Upton!). These sport stars, outstanding coaches, and parents have managed to do the unthinkable - change a stubborn Southern woman’s mind, not an easy feat.
After retirement, my grandfather dedicated his spare time to coaching fast pitch softball to the aspiring youth of Wakulla. The afternoons of my youth consisted of walks home with my grandfather where I played in my grandmother’s ceramic shop while he was guiding these future local legends. I spent countless hours on the steps of “This n’ That Ceramics” watching him coach these dedicated young athletes.
I am not an athlete; I am a writer/musician who was safer on the steps in Crawfordville, as my late Grandpa was well aware. I shamelessly begged him to make me as good as the stranger’s granddaughters because I was an eyewitness to their success. I allowed myself to be so consumed with envy that I did the unthinkable, after all the Wakulla girls made it look so incredibly easy. In my efforts to prove my athletic prowess to the men in my life, I boldly announced that I was trying out for the softball team at Wakulla middle school.
Knowing the drum line was a better place for my kind, these men still rallied together to teach me their sports. My first time ever being knocked unconscious was from a fateful meeting of a pine tree stump with my grandpa’s ground ball. I hated softball! I was forced to watch it my entire life and now my chin was bloodied. I was nauseous, still no better an athlete, and my viewing steps were starting to look enticing. My drive to impress my role models was stronger than logic or my desire to quit.
I made the fast pitch Wakulla middle school softball team that year, where I found a nice safe spot to practice my math skills while keeping score. Making lifelong best friends made all the blood, sweat, and tears worth it. The bench there was never cold because of my efforts. I ceremoniously gave my glove to a child in Tallahassee in need. I assure you she’s put it to better use than its previous fate in my dusty closet.
Attempting sports taught me to respect athletes of all kinds. I know what it takes; I do not have it. Now as an adult, my jealousy has turned into admiration. I’ll admit when Christian told me our twin daughters were going to play softball, I had mixed emotions, hopeful their genetic line may somehow help them, yet fearful of the dangers of sports and the new science on traumatic brain injuries and how athletes are affected.
I was selfishly upset my life would now become softball all year long, there goes violin, guitar, vocal, and dance lessons. My artistic offspring thrust me into a new world of quality parents and wonderful children, a world where coaches love kids as if they were their very own. As a single mother, that type of help is appreciated. Thanks to David Paul and daughters Kristen Kent and Jaime Martina, Link Carroll, and the Dixie Youth Softball Organization. Because of you I’ve had the honor of being introduced to some great citizens of this paradise we all call home. These coaches deserve more gratitude than I alone could give. So if you see Coach Dusty Mallon, Coach Allen Ham, Coach Jordan McNair or Coach Michael O’Neal, show them your gratitude for all of the countless hours they’ve dedicated to the youth of our county. Tell the parents how inspirational they are for giving up everything for their children. Tell the parents how inspirational they are for giving up everything for their children.
Our Franklin County Belles All-Star team, for girls ages 11 to 13, lost both games during the state tournament in Belleview, on Friday morning, July 12 in their opener 6-2 to Hernando County and on Saturday morning, July 13 lost to Belleview 10-2.
They did so with class, dignity, and a gallant effort. Taking a page out of my book these young ladies have earned more from this sport than could ever fit in a trophy case. They have earned integrity, the will to keep going when it looks like all the chips are down, and friendships that so quickly turn into a sisterhood to last a lifetime. So we won’t dwell on this loss, we will mention the names of the young phenomenal women who change my entire view on sports. I suggest you asked for autographs before they leave for college on their scholarships and take over the world!
The legends are Alexcia McNair, Kaylyn McNair, Sarah Ham, Maryssa Branch, Michalyn O’Neal, Taylor Mallon, Kristen Martina, Kylie Sapp, Marissa Gilbert, Maya Itzkovitz, Jocelyn Escobar and Hannah Abel.