Saturday, 07 March 2020 19:37

Softball team rallies around teammate following tragedy

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LAUREL HILL – At the end of Second Avenue in Laurel Hill, you’ll find the Lions Park baseball and softball fields surrounded by trees.

The fields are worn, the surrounding fence is damaged, and there are no bleachers or spectators in sight.  In fact, those unfamiliar with the area would be forgiven for thinking that Second Avenue simply stops at a dead end.

However, this hidden gem is home to the Carolina Titans, a travel softball program consisting primarily of middle school and high school freshmen players.  Participants include young ladies residing in Scotland, Richmond, Robeson, Cumberland, Lee and Harnett counties in North Carolina, as well as Marlboro County in South Carolina.

Unlike many similar programs, the Titans pride themselves on challenging high-caliber opponents – and beating many of them.  Even though most of their players are in middle school, they typically compete against high school-age teams, and recently took on the Lady Stingers of Florence Darlington Technical College.

That level of tenacity and dedication brings success and opportunity – and a huge opportunity fell into the gloves of the Titans. 

“We were invited to represent the USA at an international tournament in the Dominican Republic,” boasted Titans coach Robert Ramos in an exclusive interview with the Richmond Observer back in February.  “It’s a huge honor and it will be a great opportunity for them.”

The plan was to have several members of the Titans team up with players from Florida to represent the country against teams from around the world.  Part of the trip was to be dedicated to providing a clinic to help girls living in poverty stricken areas of the Dominican Republic learn and improve their softball skills. 

However, just a day after the interview with Ramos, everything changed.

“We lost one of our own,” Ramos explained in a follow-up interview.  “One of our players, Bailee Barfield, lost her mother a couple of days ago.  In fact, we are all going to the funeral home later today as a team.”

Jaime Barfield, 34, passed away following a head-on collision in Wagram in late February.  The loss, coupled with already lingering concerns about leaving the country amidst the recent health scare, led Ramos, team manager Angela Newton, and parents to reevaluate their plans.

The Titans, who have been incredible examples of skill, courage, teamwork and sportsmanship in adverse situations on the diamond, responded to the disappointing news with nothing less than character and compassion.

“I’m so proud of the way that these girls have responded,” Ramos continued.  “They rallied around Bailee instead of worrying about the trip.  These girls aren’t a team, they are a family.”

At a recent kickball tournament, which was intended to kick off their Dominican Republic trip fundraising efforts, several of the players, family members and supporters gathered at Lions Park for an afternoon of fun. 

The tournament was a comedy of errors with participants miscalculating their catches, stumbling between bases, mistiming throws, and missing the ball on the kick.  Each miscue was accompanied by childlike laughter that would bring a smile to anyone’s face.

The softball team met the adults in the first game and Barfield accompanied her team on the diamond.  After being defeated badly by their older opponents, the Titans raided the concession stand, congregated in a dugout, and laughed as the remaining teams competed.

It was a moment of pure joy when it was needed most.

The proceeds from the fundraiser were changed to meet the team’s current needs.  Some will be used to fund trips to tournaments this summer.  The rest was given to the Barfield family.

“We have a lot to be proud of,” Ramos concluded.  “These girls look out for one another.  All of these girls made the softball teams at their schools.  We are going to continue to work hard and have another great travel softball season.”

Last modified on Saturday, 07 March 2020 19:40