February 7, 2013 11:29:50 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Kasey Stanfield doesn't mind working overtime.
She also won't hesitate to haunt New Hope High School's Lady Trojan Field long after practice has ended to work on her game.
Being part of the "Fantastic Four" with classmates Lauren Holifield, her sister, Erin Stanfield, and Ashley Reed helped make the extra hours playing softball on Friday and Saturday nights so special.
All of those fantastic Friday and Saturday nights at Lady Trojan Field paid off Wednesday for Stanfield as she signed a scholarship to play softball at East Mississippi Community College in Scooba.
"It started when I was probably 5 years old when I picked up my first bat and I played T-Ball. Ever since that day I knew. There was no question what I wanted to do," Stanfield said. "From that point on, I knew if I wanted it it was up to me."
Stanfield's love for the game has made her a fixture in New Hope's slow- and fast-pitch softball teams for the better part of the past three seasons. Her ability to play catcher and to lay third base and her hitting skills helped her attract the attention of EMCC's coaches. Stanfield apparently also had an advocate working on her behalf: former New Hope High and EMCC sophomore Haley Tutor.
EMCC assistant coach Taryn Gray said Wednesday that Tutor recommended Stanfield to her and EMCC coach Kyndall White. She said the coaches contacted Stanfield and asked her to visit the school. Since then, she said the great reports have continued to come in about Stanfield.
"Just getting to know her and talking to her and talking to other people about her, her work ethic is going to be a big deal," Gray said. "At EMCC, we hold our work very high. If she keeps her work ethic up, she will fine.
Stanfield doesn't mind where she plays. She just wants to play. She said her maturation as a player comes from the fact she has an attitude that never allows her to take a day off.
"When you have a dream, you do what you have to do," Stanfield said. "I just worked really hard. I knew if I worked really hard it would come true."
Now Stanfield will take her skills just far enough away from home so she "has her space" and close enough so she can come back to see her family. She said she spoke with Tutor and heard her former teammate liked the new coaches and the new mentality they have brought to the program. Stanfield is confident she will fit right in because she values the opportunity to continue her softball career. She tries to show that passion every game she plays.
"I am not just playing for myself. I am playing for those little girls, too," Stanfield said. "They look up to me. I also play for the girls in the stands. They look at you and your attitude. I know they look up to me, and I want a little girl to think, 'I want to be just like her.' That definitely goes into how hard I work and my attitude. I just want to set a positive example for them so one day they see all the hard work will pay off one day and they can be there one day, too."
New Hope coach Tabitha Beard has watched Stanfield follow older players and become a leader of the younger ones. She said one of her fondest memories is driving by Lady Trojan Field at night and seeing the Stanfields, Holifield, and Reed playing the game they love. She agrees that Stanfield will fit in well at EMCC because she is all about hard work.
"It is always exciting because these are the girls who work their butts off every day," Beard said. "These are the girls that when you ride by the field on a Friday night or on a Saturday night they are hitting. They make their guy friends come with them to hit. It is exciting, it is sad, it is bittersweet. You never want to see them go. This was my first bunch here. I had them as seventh-graders. For them to leave, it is hard to imagine a day of softball at New Hope without them there. It is bittersweet, but I am definitely excited for her."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.