By Thomas Sellers Jr.
For five years Whitney Horton poured her mind, body and softball soul into the Millington Lady Trojans.
Creating a winning and family culture with the black and gold, the time came for Horton to head back home to take an opportunity that would advanced her career and be near her relatives.
Leaving her family behind in Flag City meant saying goodbye to colleagues, friends and her players – including seven seniors in the Class of 2021.
Now all the hard work Horton has put in from the players to the development of the field at Miles Parks has been handed over to interim Head Coach Diego Reyes.
“It is a great situation to be in,” he declared. “With anything like this, anxiety, fear of the unknown is there. But my training and my background and my faith, truly my faith is walking me through this.”
Reyes played baseball in high school and took his skills to the next level; in the Navy playing competitive slow-pitch softball.
“My skills from high school I transferred to play softball and through that improving over a couple of years,” he noted. “I was able to make it to the Armed Forces World Series.”
When Reyes got the news he would take over the Lady Trojans he started to wrap his mind around the opportunity. He quickly realized his situation is similar to a moment in NFL history for the early 2000s.
“There are really some great pieces here,” he said. “Coach Whitney Horton is like Tony Dungy, she created a great team like he did with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. John Gruden inherited that team and won a Super Bowl.
“The same thing here,” he continued. “Whitney built this team with the four-year seniors. I just inherited. All I’m going to do is continue to build on it and I believe a lot of success is going to happen this year.”
A spiritual man, Reyes loves the fact he has seven seniors symbolizing the number of perfection. The Lady Trojans who will help Reyes with the transitioning process are 12th graders Ema-Leigh Stafford, Katilyn McDonald, Ann Howard, Ally Marona, Alexis Jordan, Erica Wright and captain Avery Smith.
“What I try to instill, I reminded them that last year COVID took away their season,” Reyes said. “As we were coming in completing the summer it was uncertain if school was going to start. So it did start.
“Of course sports was in question,” he added. “If we played how would we play sports. So we started in September and we’ve been going at it. And we get to February the start of the season and we found out Coach Whitney Horton was moving on to something she desire. What I emphasize to them, ‘You know you’re going to go through changes. If you’re able to face this is the type of adversity you must be able to persevere through. If you are able to persevere you’re going to be better for it.”
Reyes said in the beginning of the season he will operate by the KISS system and keep it simple. His job is to keep what Coach Horton started going in the right direction.
With a pair of solid arms and dependable bats throughout the lineup, Reyes said Millington can compete with the Covingtons, Bolivars, Haywoods and Ripleys in District 15-2A.
“I tell them you’re good enough to do it,” he concluded. “I had a conversation with them yesterday, ‘You’re ready.’ I wrote a statement on a piece of paper for them. ‘Are you tired of hearing the same thing about Millington and what Millington ain’t.’ It’s time to go claim it. Let’s go get it, let’s go win district.”