Going to bat for a fallen Bear
RIFLE – A tear trickled down Shawnee Young’s cheek Tuesday afternoon outside the auxiliary gymnasium at Rifle High School.The freshman from Grand Valley High School was thinking about her older sister, Misty, who was killed tragically in an automobile accident two years ago.She remembers vividly that awful winter day when Misty was taken in the prime of her life.The pain never goes away.Samantha Young, a junior at Grand Valley, closed her eyes and sighed. She, too, feels the pain.But the girls from Grand Valley are coping. One way is by playing softball – the sport their sister loved.They’re doing it the same way Misty did – playing softball for Rifle High School. The Youngs and several other girls from Grand Valley are participating in the Rifle program because their own school does not have a softball team.
Misty started the pipeline four years ago as a freshman. Misty played junior varsity for three years, waiting for her chance to play on the varsity. She would’ve been the starting second baseman last year.”I really miss her,” said Shawnee, trying to hold back the tears but not doing a very good job. “Misty was always there for me.” Now Shawnee will be there for Misty. On Saturday, she’ll be playing in a tournament honoring Misty.The Misty Young Memorial Junior Varsity Tournament is scheduled for this weekend at Deerfield Complex. Eight teams from around the Western Slope will be competing.”I know she’ll be there with us,” Shawnee said, her voice wavering.She turned away for a second, bit her lip and sighed.”I’m really proud to be out there, doing the things she loved to do,” Shawnee said. “She’s never far away from my thoughts. Every time I play, I say, ‘Please Misty, help me have a good game.'”Samantha won’t be playing in the tournament. She’s a starter on the varsity, which will be playing for the Western Slope League title in a game against Palisade. The game is scheduled to start at 11 a.m., the same time the tournament begins.
“Being my older sister, she was somebody I looked up to,” Samantha said.Misty was somebody everyone could look up to and count on, said Rifle head coach Cindy Skinner.”She worked hard. She talked to other people. She was always encouraging other people,” Skinner said.Her outlook on the game, and in life, made it easier for the girls to bridge their differences. The team was impressed by her passion and dedication for the game. Her parents drove her from Parachute to Rifle every day for practice and games.”For somebody to travel that far every day shows you just how much she loves the game,” said Rifle senior Chelsea Webb.What made her special was the intangibles she brought to the game.”She was always happy when she was out there,” said senior Allison Skinner.
“She always wore these crazy clothes to practice,” Webb said with a smile as her voice tailed off.She paused for a second and then cleared her throat.”She’d do goofy things to make girls laugh,” Webb said. “But she could play. She loved to play.” Misty’s death hit the team hard, Cindy Skinner said.The team attended her memorial service together, each writing a personal note to their fallen teammate.They retired her number, 2.And now, as one final tribute, they named the tournament in her honor.”I like that a lot. It’s a great honor because she wasn’t even from this school,” said Samantha.
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