Monday, November 14, 2011

Lacey and Geri Ann

Theodore, the shih tzu, greeted us Thursday night proudly wearing a Saluki bandana around his neck. Inside the Newbold house, family members had on their identifying T shirts as Saluki Mom or Saluki Sister. The evening’s honoree, Lacey Newbold, had a shirt that explained how many bulldogs, wildcats, and other mascots there were in the sports world and then explained on the back of the shirt that there was only one Saluki. As a Saluki alum, I could not have been more pleased that Lacey had signed a national letter of intent to play softball next year for Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Lacey is the first female athlete to sign for a Division I school from Crab Orchard High School, our small rural school district located in the tiny village of Crab Orchard. She is a three-time All-South and two-time Great Egyptian Conference most valuable player and was named to the first team All State Squad last year. It will be exciting for fans to see her play her final senior year next spring before we have to travel to Carbondale to watch her skill. Her family and best buddies had been invited to celebrate the achievements of this beautiful young lady, and it was fun to see the replays of the previous evening’s newscasts when she signed for the Salukis and Cierra (C.C.) Hutchinson signed for Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Our granddaughter Geri Ann down in Georgia, where their high school softball schedule is completed in the fall rather than next spring as in Illinois, had also signed that day for the University of Georgia. After winning the AAA division state championship, the very next weekend Geri Ann was playing with her travel team Southern Force. I was exalting that they had beat the California Bat Busters. Then this past weekend on Saturday, she did double duty traveling back to Columbus for Georgia’s high school all-star tournament. There she played three games, and in one game was able to pitch four innings with nine strikeouts. Having to leave early to get back to Watkinsville for the Southern Force tourney, she hit a home run, hugged her coach, and their family hurriedly took off for home, where she played two more games that evening.

Today’s young athletes have more playing time and more experience by the time they leave high school that was ever possible just a few years ago. I do not know if that is always a good thing, but for their skill level it certainly is. They often have to decide early which sport to concentrate upon and what other extracurricular activities they have to sacrifice.

(There are exceptions, of course. Right under that story in the sport section about Lacey and C. C., was a story telling us that local baseball standout Lucas Hileman from Anna was urged to join his school’s football team. A transfer to Indiana State after a year playing baseball at Baylor and a year at John A. Logan, Hileman, who will be a senior outfielder, acted on the suggestion by his strength and conditioning coaches that he should help out the Sycamores, who had a linebacker who was punting out of necessity. Hileman, 21, walked onto the football field, and helped Santino Davis go back to defense. In 28 kicks this season, he is averaging 41.9 yards per punt. Although Hileman was named Southern’s Baseball Player of the Year back in 2008, he also played six different positions on his high school football team.)

Dean Newbold, Lacey’s father, enjoys telling about Lacey and Geri Ann, when they were very young pitchers for their summer teams and played against each other. Lacey was playing for Creal Springs and Geri Ann for Johnston City. Each little girl wanted to beat the other one. One pitched, and the other got a home run. Dean said a big tear ran down the pitcher’s cheek. The next inning the other girl pitched only to have the opposing pitcher also hit a home run—and another tear ran down the second pitcher’s face. That was years before their playing together on Southern Force.

They have both come a long way to be playing next year for Division I schools, and we are so proud of their hard work and accomplishments.

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