By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The 4th of July is typically a day of celebration for Candy Howard and Breck Beasley.
In addition to celebrating America’s Independence Day, Howard and Beasley have enjoyed the extra perk of wishing their daughter Taylor Beasley a happy birthday. Before Beasley turned 18 years old, she received a gift of being selected the 2016 Millington Star Female Athlete of the Year.
“It feels pretty good,” the Tipton-Rosemark Academy graduate said.
Beasley became the second Lady Rebel to win the honor in the 10-year history of the award joining Julanne McCommon (2012). Like McCommon, Beasley was a two-sport standout.
The Covington native grew up playing all types of sports like soccer and volleyball. By the time she reached the varsity level, Beasley settled on basketball and baseball.
“I played sports since I was really young,” she recalled. “I played for a lot of really good players along the way. And I got better.”
Beasley improved over the years in both sports playing for coaches like Joe Layton and Johnie Sanfratello in softball and Shari Armour and Keith Cox in basketball.
On the hardwood, Beasley shared the backcourt with teammates like Bethany Berger, Brooke Bridges, Virginia Moore and Brittany Hall just to name a few.
This past season Beasley and teammates paid tribute to the courageous fight of one of their guards Lauren Moody. The 15-year-old lost her battle against cancer in the middle of the season.
“We really did play for Lauren in every game,” Beasley said.
Beasley kept her team’s energy at a high level on the court. She was the second leading scorer on the team behind Ally Naifeh. The inside/outside combo paced the Lady Rebels throughout the basketball season.
While basketball didn’t produce championships for Beasley, softball was the time of year she shined more.
“I’ve played since I was really, really little,” she recalled. “Then I played travel ball every year. I had to miss out on a lot but it was worth it — all my friends’ birthdays and the middle school dances.”
The hard work and dedication to the sport paid off quickly for Beasley with the Lady Rebels. In her sophomore season under the leadership of Sanfratello, TRA captured the 2014 Division II-A State title.
“It was like the best week ever,” Beasley said. “I thought we would be back every year but we didn’t make it back.
“Last year I thought we had it,” she added. “We thought we had it and that was our problem. This year I question if we really cared enough to win.”
Beasley played with passion her four years of softball compiling solid career numbers in her 130 games. She batted .496 and had a .545 on-base percentage. She had 203 hits and drove in 68 runners. Meanwhile the girl who batted near the top of the lineup each game scored 173 runs.
Now Beasley is heading to The University of Memphis to major in Occupational Therapy. She might try to walk-on for the Lady Tigers.
Howard said if her daughter makes that decision, Memphis Softball will be lucky to have a Taylor Beasley in its program.
“She’s a team player,” she said. “She’s not an I-player. I don’t think she realizes she has God-given talent that can’t be coached. She’s so coachable. As good as she is. If you know she could take home rounding third, she will stop if that’s what her Coach told her to do.
“She has had a huge impact and younger players at our school striving to be like her and her fellow classmates,” Howard added.
Breck said those who are following his daughter at TRA should admire Taylor’s consistency above all.
“Whether up or down, winning or losing or ranked in the top 10 or ranked No. 500, she’s going to show up,” he said. “She’s not going to take off. She’s going to give 100 percent from buzzer to buzzer. She’s going to get in her teammate’s ears if they’re not doing it and motivate them to play at the same level she does.
“She’s made everybody around her better,” Breck continued. “She played about 1,500 travel ball, softball games. Most of them at a high-level. Being one of her coaches, people didn’t always know I was her dad. Every since she’s been 9 or 10 years old and switched from the right side of the plate to the left side, they would say, ‘You have to stop Taylor Beasley. You have to beat Taylor Beasley. If you’re going to beat that team, you have to beat her.’ It’s because of her drive if she was 6-years-old, 9-year-old or 14-years-old.”
Breck said dedication, love of the games and natural ability made Taylor special at TRA and the winner of the 2016 Star Female Athlete of the Year Award.
“She would come home from a three day, 40-hour softball tournament and want to get out in the yard and play ball,” he concluded. “You would wake up in the morning to a ball bouncing on the floor. She just loves to do it. She’s just a stud.”