By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Through the course of March and April, Millington Lady Trojans and Trojan faithful would make the pilgrimage to Miles Park multiple times.
But 2020 has not bee the typical spring for life, let alone for baseball and softball. The COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic has taken lives, the sense of normalcy and the conclusion of the senior year for all of the Class of 2020.
Here in Flag City, the 12th graders at Millington Central High School are enduring missing classes, a canceled prom and the absence of their daily routine.
For spring sports seniors, their final season of competition on the prep level is in jeopardy.
During this time of chaos, Millington coaches Colter Millican and Whitney Horton joined in with a new trend that started last week by high school coaches across America.
“Be the Light” was a tribute campaign with prep coaches turning on the stadium lights over baseball, softball, soccer and other spring athletic facilities at 8:20 p.m. (20:20 military time) for the seniors.
“Hopefully by the end of April we’re able to come back and replenish the rest of our season,” Horton said. “That’s why I heard about this going around, one of my assistants Mark Healy and of course my best friend here Debby Clifton let me know about it. So I reached out to Mr. Neal and let him know about it. Mr. Neal is all about the kids, the students, the athletes.
“He was more than happy to let me and Colter (Millican) do this for our kids,” she added. “We’re started this last night and we’re doing it tonight and tomorrow night to show our kids that we haven’t forgot about them and that we love them. We care about them and we’re here for them.”
Horton’s tribute is targeted to her senior duo of Jamiya Turner and Makalia Davenport. Millington’s “Be the Light” started April 8 and concluded two days later. The fields will be lit again at 8:20 p.m. or in military time 20:20 for 20 minutes to recognize and honor all of the Class of 2020 players, their teammates, coaches and community supporters.
Organizers encourage supporters to make posters and wear your Trojan gear. Take pictures and tag
It was a time for you and your family to drive by the field for a quick honk, scream as you drive by.
Thursday night of the three-day tribute, Davenport got a chance to step on the field at first base to talk with The Millington Star.
“Incredibly, I want to give my 110 percent every time I come here,” she said. “It’s really sad I can’t do that right now. Especially being a senior it means a lot to me because this is my last year. I might never be able to step out on a softball field. It kind of breaks my heart.”
Davenport said seeing the lights come on is bittersweet. She is humbled to know her coach is thinking about her but misses taking the field for games. The senior is already working in a medical facility and has also been humbled by COVID-19.
“It’s really sad,” she said. “We had really great expectations for this season. We hoped to start out strong and finish strong. But we got held up. Hopefully toward the end of all this we get to finish our season strong.
“We’ve seen very, very sick people,” Davenport added. “It seems like a million people coming in to get tested just to make sure everything is good. To see all those people go through that and stop working its really sad. It’s taken a toll on everybody around us.”
The toll of a typical April has been missed by Horton. The busiest time of her school year with teaching duties and running a softball team have been replaced with days of doubts.
“The kids are taking as well as they could,” she said. “They’re still staying positive. I send them workouts to do everyday. In our group chats, I make sure they’re keeping their arms in shape, they’re getting some good cuts in getting in some T-work keeping their bodies loose.
“Last year was my first full class that I had kids four years,’ Horton continued. “Makayla actually is part of my second group. Jamiya came in a little late being a transfer from old Haywood. I’ve had Makayla ever since she’s been a freshman. I’ve grown to become very good friends with her parents. I love her little brother Zane. He’s going to be a part of the baseball team next year.”
Horton’s family has extended each year of leading Lady Trojan Softball.
“It’s rough because these kids look forward to playing their senior year every single year,” she said. “They look forward to having their senior banner hung, that Senior Night and just getting out playing in front of their peers, teammates, family, their friends. In a snap of a finger it was all taken away from them.”
Horton’s thoughts as as coach automatically turned to her seniors Turner and Davenport.
“I love Makalia Davenport very much,” she said. “I love Jamiya Turner very much. They’ve been very vital to this program ever since they became a part of it. It’s hard on everybody but it’s definitely the hardest on those two. This was going to be the last time they got to come out and represent Millington.
“There’s a lot of people that say they want to be a part of something,” Horton added. “But only the strong survive to be a part of a team. They work hard and were ready for this year. I just can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done to better my program since I’ve been here. They’re always going to be welcome here no matter what the end of this season, or what the outcome may be. They’re always going to be a Lady Trojan and welcomed here as family.”
Davenport said Coach Horton is a part of her family and she misses the time away from her that she was counting on when the 2020 season started.
““It really means a lot because we know she gives her all for us and we want to give our all for her,” she said. “We can’t do that right now. So this means a lot to us. She’s like our No. 1 person in our lives.
“Where do I begin, she’s taught me many, many things like to be strong,” Davenport added. “Don’t take things to heart. There’s so many. She’s had a really huge impact on my life. She’s been there since the start. I don’t know where to begin.”
Horton said a person begins coaching to have success. But those who do it for years learn victories come in the impact on players.
“I know most people go into coaching, of course you want to win ball games, but you want to create lasting relationships,” she said. “I try to instill in my team, ‘You’re never guaranteed tomorrow. Whatever relationship it may be with your family or friends, your teammates, whatever relationship it may be make sure you end that day on a good note with whoever you’re talking to. Tomorrow is not promised.’ You never know when something you love will be taken away like these two seniors had done to them this year.”
Davenport said during these tough times, she has learned to be a light to those who are coming behind her like her underclassmen teammates.
“Every time you step on this field, you make this your home,” she concluded. “You don’t take your time here for granted. You’ve got to give your 110 percent every time you step on the field and play to the best of your ability and give your all no matter what.”