SMITHS STATION, Ala. – For the Smiths Station High School softball team, home field felt anything but. Everywhere the team looked, they saw destruction in the form of mangled bleachers to fallen scoreboards to bent backstops. In the more than ten days since tornadoes tore through Smiths Station, the softball team has faced uncertainty about the upcoming season.
“We were devastated,” senior first baseman Catie Martin said. “Our two locker rooms that we just finished were completely gone. We were all very sad. There were plenty of tears shed that day.”
A once-treasured field succumbed to tragedy, as severe weather handed the team a loss before their season even began.
However, the team is grateful for the outpouring of support from family, friends and others in the Smiths Station and Lee County communities.
“Auburn and Central High Schools sent equipment,” head coach Matt Stonebreaker said. “Those are two rival schools in the area. But when it comes down to it, we’re all in this together.”
Wednesday, ten Smiths Station athletes celebrated National Signing Day, including three softball players (Savannah Bussey: CVCC, Gabie LeFranc: Birmingham Southern, and Abigail Webb: Anderson University). But the high school also celebrated an unexpected surprise. Academy Sports + Outdoors donated new equipment for the baseball and softball teams, as well as a $500 gift card and an exclusive league night on behalf of the business.
The company hopes their generosity will make the team feel more at home on their home field.
“Playing in front of our friends and family, I know it makes us a little more excited,” Martin said. “It may be a little more pressure, but it’s good pressure.”
Coach Stonebreaker explains that coaches from all over the state of Alabama contacted him when they learned of the tragic circumstances storms left in their wake.
“The Saturday of the tornado, I had countless calls and texts from coaches all over the state,” Stonebreaker said. “We had coaches from other states telling us they’d load buses right now and bring our kids to help out if needed.”
Coach Stonebreaker says the storm is constantly teaching his team valuable lessons, such as sticking together, selflessness and overcoming adversity.
“Should there ever come a time when others are in need, we’ll answer the bell too.”
The softball team had been using a community field in Smiths Station to practice. They are scheduled to play their first games of the season against Opelika and Dothan February 20.