Categorized | Sports

Clif’s Note: TRA Softball standout celebrates college signing with others

By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Shelby Clifton Williams CollegeSoftball has many meaning to Jay Dee Clifton.
The sport has helped his older daughter Hannah become a standout at Covington earning a scholarship to Bethel. Now softball has pulled off the trick again last month when his younger daughter Shelby inked her letter of intent to Williams Baptist College in the Tipton-Rosemark Academy lobby.
The athletic endeavor has been a blessing to Jay Dee. But when he witnessed his Babygirl sign to join Head Coach Laura Tucker’s Lady Eagles, Jay realized what softball really means to him.
“This day means everything,” he said. “When you watch your child grow up playing softball and it becomes her life. To fulfill that dream of playing college softball it means everything.
“It’s about time,” Jay Dee continued. “We’ve got a great relationship from all the time we spent. So regardless of the investment, regardless she’s getting to play college softball, the investment paid because of the relationship we have.”
It was several relationships that assisted Shelby in reaching her goal of obtaining a college softball scholarship. Before her official signing, the youngest Clifton addressed the gathering.
“My dream has finally come true,” Shelby said. “I wanted to play in college and it’s finally here.
Everybody that was here, I got a chance to share my accomplishments with them. They’ve seen me grow since I was little. Just putting them in the spotlight and recognizing them was important.”
Shelby told her current Head Coach Johnie Sanfratello thanks for all the encouragement and belief in her skills allowing her to shine for the TRA Lady Rebels.
“Coach SanFran has been here since I’ve been here,” she said. “He pushes you to be the best you can be. He’s been a great leader. He knows what he’s talking about. Listening to him and he pushes you. And he just knows what he’s doing.”
Sanfratello’s gave Clifton the opportunity to have three solid seasons for the Lady Rebels hitting .465 and have a field percentage of .995. Shelby will enter her senior year as the primary catcher for the Lady Rebels.
She has been the team’s Defensive Player of the Year 2015-17. Shelby was named to the 2016 Division II West All-Tournament Team, 2016 and 2017 Division II West All District squad. And those same years she was All-State West Tennessee Division II. She has been named Best of the Preps as well the past two seasons. In her three years of prep action, Clifton has 10 home runs and 38 doubles.
“Unfortunately I did see this day coming,” Sanfratello said. “But I was hoping I would have about 8 years with her. I wish she could have come up as a fifth grader. But she’s going to be a tremendous loss because she could do everything. Everything we needed her to do, she could and she did it well. I hate that the day is here but I’m proud for her.
“She’s a great teammate,” he added. “She’s loud leader in that aspect. She’s had to grow up a lot there the past couple of years because I put a lot of pressure on her. I guess I hold her accountable for most of the mistakes we make as a team.”
Sanfratello said with his latest signee heading to Walnut Ridge, Ark., the word is spreading about the quality level of softball played at TRA.
“It’s an awesome day for our school and our program for them to know they can come over here,” he said. “We’re just a small private school. But we do have kids who can play at the next level. We’ve had them the past couple of years. But they choose not to.
“But this builds your program to know we’re competing for a State championship too,” Sanfratello continued. “We’ve been in the top 8 every year the past 4 years. We’ve got to keep that going. And stuff like this drives that.”
Driving is what Tucker did for a couple of hours to be a part of Shelby’s signing. The leader of the Lady Eagles has made that trip before to watch Shelby play.
“Shelby is a really hard worker,” Tucker noted. “And Shelby is a really great hitter. Pretty much every time I’ve seen her play she’s had a double or at least multiple doubles and runs in the game. Her defense is really good. Shelby is a talker on the field.
“She’s in charge on the field and everybody knows she’s there on the field,” Tucker added. “As well in the dugout, she’s a really great teammate. Cheering on her team. She works really hard, she does a lot of stuff on her own. There have been a lot of hours which have paid off.”
Shelby expressed her gratitude to her future coach for giving her a chance to live out her dream. It was an achievement she witnessed years ago in her own family with Hannah.
One of the biggest hugs Shelby received at her signing came from her proud sister.
“She was the one person I looked up to the most,” Shelby acknowledged. “I never thought I would look up to her as much as I have.”
Jay Dee said the moment of Déjà vu was very emotional.
“As a father, to have two girls end up having the opportunity to play college softball it’s pretty amazing,” he said.
When Jay Dee introduced softball to his daughters he wanted them to have a physical outlet, a chance to form lasting relationships and time to bond.
“We realized very early on it was about spending time together,” he said. “A lot of family struggle because they don’t spend time together. We spend a lot of our time together. It’s amazing”
Shelby realized with her signing it was validation for every cent, effort and time invested by her father.
“My Dad has pushed me from when I 5 years old to now and even more,” she recalled. “He has worked me and pushed me to do the best I can. He’s been everything, everything I can think of as a father.”
Sharing a her moment with so many, Shelby had a moment to thank the game that has provided her with so much.
“It’s a dream come true,” she concluded. “This is everything I’ve been waiting for. It’s like I won a gold medal. It’s everything I wanted.”

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