By Will Johnson
GRAPELAND – While the crack of the bat and the pop of leather signifying the start of softball season for area athletes are still months away, the sport took center stage in the Grapeland High School Gymnasium on Thursday afternoon, Nov. 10, as Grapeland Sandiette Taylar Mullen signed her National Letter of Intent to play softball at the collegiate level.
The GHS senior was joined by family, friends, teammates and coaches as she inked her name to the letter saying she plans on taking her softball prowess to Cameron University in Lawton, Okla.
When asked why she decided to on Cameron University, Mullen replied, “I went on a visit after visiting several other colleges and Cameron seemed like a home to me. I liked the place, I liked the players I met, I liked the coach and I liked the atmosphere. So, I decided to commit there.”
As to other colleges who expressed interest in her, Mullen said she was first contacted by Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth and then rattled off over a dozen colleges and universities including Le Tourneau, Texas A&M Commerce, Texas Southern University, Tyler Junior College and Texas A&M – Galveston.
When asked for her thoughts about the first recruitment letter she received, Mullen said she remembered thinking, “This is kind of getting real. This is college softball! It was very exciting and a great experience.”
Used primarily as a pitcher for the Sandiettes in 2015, the newly committed Lady Aggie said, “They recruited me as a middle infielder. Cameron is four year Division II University. They didn’t make any promises to me about playing time, which I actually liked. You have to work to get out there on the field. Whoever is the best on the field is the player that gets to play. They did say, if I happen to take a fifth year of college, they would offer me a grad assistant’s position.”
On the overall recruiting process, Mullen said, “It was really hectic but it was also a lot of fun. You have to have a lot of hard work and dedication towards your sport as well as having the time to contact the coaches and let them know you really are interested in playing for them.”
Asked what she felt might be the most difficult part of her transition from high school to college, the senior Sandiette commented, “I feel like it will be the stress level of balancing both school and softball. Softball will be more like a job there and you will have to balance that with your academics. It will be like having an important job in high school and trying to maintain your grades in high school, considering in high school, softball is much more of a seasonal thing.”
In regard to what she would tell her Grapeland teammates for the 2016 season, she smiled and said, “I would tell them we are going to go out with a bang! We are going to hopefully make it to Austin for our last game. That’s our plan and they will do great without me next year (in 2018). I would also say whatever you do, don’t stop working no matter how difficult it gets. You’re going to get there as long as you work hard. Keep dreaming!”
Also present at the signing were her parents Amber and Heath Mullen. As to their thoughts on their daughter’s signing, her dad said, “We are really proud of her. She has put in a lot of hard work. She has loved the game of softball since she was little. It has been her dream to go to college and play softball. It is a huge achievement for her.”
Her mom added, “I’m really proud of her. Oklahoma is a long way from here, but she has worked hard, it has been a dream of hers and I think it’s worth it.”
Mullen’s parents were also asked what motivated her to be as successful as she has been in softball. “When it comes softball, she has always pushed herself. She loves the game that much. She faced a lot of disadvantages when she was younger because she was so much smaller than everyone else, but she loves the game and worked her tail off. She really is a self-motivator when it comes to softball. She got to where she is because of the work she put in. She did it herself,” her dad said.
As to how much her select league softball play helped, her mom expressed, “It would definitely be hard for her to be where she is right now without Pro Form, her showcase team. Kenny Bruce, the guy who is over it, knows what he’s doing. He knows how to get the girls out there and get them seen. You can work hard all day long and be great at it, but if you don’t have someone getting your name out there, it would be almost impossible, especially coming from a small town.”
GHS Softball Coach Joel Barbosa added, “This is a great thing for Taylar and her family. It is well deserved recognition. It has been a pleasure coaching a kid like her and I hope this signing is the first of many more to come for Grapeland softball.”
Will Johnson may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com