This is the third in a series of question-and-answer sessions with Lexington softball players. Henry Clay sophomore Taetum Crawford spoke with the Herald-Leader this week.
Q: What is your history with softball?
TC: I’ve grown up around the game and played since I was wee little. My great-grandma Lane actually kind of started it in Louisville and brought it down to Lexington, and they were actually a big part in building it in Lexington. My mom actually part of the team that helped build the softball field at Station. So it’s kind of always been ingrained in me. I’ve always loved this sport. My favorite part’s always been the baserunning, so I learned to hit just so I could get on.
Q: Why do you like baserunning so much?
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TC: There’s so much that’s a part of it. There’s such a mental aspect to it. You have to be able to see and read the pitch immediately so that you can know if you’re going or not. It’s a split second and you’ve got to decide in that moment, ‘Oh is it gonna taper down just a little bit to where this catcher’s weak at? Is it gonna come inside? Is it gonna come outside?’ You’ve gotta read all this at first base at an awkward angle and be able to read it. Once you can read it you can steal on it, but you have to know the catcher’s arm. There’s just so much strategy involved just in the simple act of going base to base. I love the strategy of the game.
Q: When did you pick up on the importance of that?
TC: Immediately. My mom always emphasized it. She encouraged me to slide when I first started the sport. Most girls, they start to learn as they go along but she didn’t even have to teach me to slide, I just went. I’ve always noticed that. Where I’ve been in a lot of advanced programs, I’ve learned to see strategies and everything to make it more fun. I immediately latched onto it. I’m like, ‘Oh, this is awesome, I can put my academics into a sport and combine it all together.’ The nerd in me was just like, ‘Go for it’ and figured it out right there.
Q: Academics sound important to you. Are you a pretty good student?
TC: I enjoy the classroom for the most part. I really love my math and science classes. My biggest problem is I sometimes don’t prioritize the homework because I’m thinking, ‘Oh, I know this stuff, why do I have to do the homework on it?’ And so I’ll have a high A in the test category and in my homework it’s a bit ‘Eh,’ so it averages out. But usually my parents get on me and are like, ‘Taetum, you have to do the homework whether you like it or not. We went through the same thing when we were your age.’ I’m like, ‘All right.’ (laughing). And so I do the homework and get it turned in on time and get the grade back up. I’ve got quite a few colleges looking at me for academics and only a couple for softball.
Q: What schools are looking at you academically?
TC: A lot of them are smaller schools I’ve not heard of. A couple in Philadelphia. Centre College. I’ve recently started getting stuff from Alabama and their medical program. Evansville is one that’s looking at me for softball and academics.
Q: Your coach, Tim McCoy, is a math teacher. Do you have him for any classes?
TC: No. He teaches geometry and a couple other classes. I took geometry in middle school so I didn’t have much chance of getting him unless I specifically decided to take one of his classes.
Q: Do you two ever nerd out on the field?
TC: I do. I do all the time (laughing). Ask anyone on the team and they’ll say, ‘Yeah, Taetum’s a nerd.’ I love anything to do with academia, nerding, completely geeking out. One of my friends, Abby, on the team, she will nerd out with me a little bit because she’s in the Academy (Henry Clay’s Liberal Arts Academy) with me. But I’m probably the biggest nerd on the team with everything.
Q: Have you been that way since you were little?
TC: Oh yeah, always. They would be talking about something in the sport and I would be like, ‘But did you know, that like because of this physics aspect and this, this is what happens. The centrifugal force and the motion and that because of the way the muscles work, this is why you’re able to do that.’ They always look at me and are just like (scrunches her face and starts shaking in her head). I’m just like, ‘It’s true, it’s true.’ (laughing)
Q: Do you think having that much interest in that side of it helps you play?
TC: I think it actually helps a lot. Cause like I said, when you’re on the base you have to be able to know what pitch is coming, and if you watch the pitcher enough, you can see how, if she’s maybe throwing a changeup, she’s going to be a bit slower in this drawback. You’re going to see different muscles tense. When you’re looking at the catcher throwing, you can sometimes know if they’re gonna fake throw or not, so you can read that because of which muscles in their arm they’re going with and see the intensity they go with compared to what they normally do. And you also can see, like reading the facial expression of a player, whether or not they’re gonna tag here and you can see where the ball’s coming based on how the player is standing at second. So like shortstop, if they’re standing like this (moves to the left, looks up) then they’re not expecting the ball anytime soon, but if they’re standing here (moves to the right, more focused stance) they’re more likely expecting the ball to come, and it’s probably gonna be right here (motions to the shortstop’s left hand) and you’re really gonna have to go around them to get to the bag.
Q: What would you say about your time at Henry Clay so far?
TC: It’s been a rollercoaster but it’s been, honestly, a really great growing experience. It’s taught me to grow as a person. I may not have been able to grow as much as I could as a player underneath better coaching, but where I’m having to deal with a lot of adversity between coaches and stuff like that because of how we’re constantly changing coaches right now, it really has helped me to grow and say, ‘Okay, patience.’ Instead of getting fired up and fiery about it, why don’t we take a step back and calm down? ‘Well, why don’t we talk to the head coach and see if we can get him to work things out’ instead of just stepping up and saying something right here, right now, and trying to take a more diplomatic approach instead of my usual, ‘I’m stepping up, I’m doing something now.’ (I’m) taking the more calm approach to stuff, which has helped a lot out of softball. Just learning to have patience with people I don’t like, learning to take criticism and learn from it instead of just crumbling under it like I may have when I was younger.
Q: Tell me more about your great grandma.
TC: She grew up in Louisville. We sometimes joke that the woman won’t die because she is such a fighter. She has gone through everything. Just, for instance, just a few years back she had like 10 percent of her heart working. Literally had almost nothing in her body working. They were like, ‘She doesn’t even have five years to live.’ And then 10 years later she’s almost completely back to completely healthy. The doctors didn’t really do anything. They were like, ‘How the heck did this happen?’ And she joked, ‘You can’t get rid of me that easily.’ Just last year she fell and broke her back and sat there in the floor until my nana went over to check on her and is like, ‘You broke your back, why are you not telling anyone this?’ and took her to the doctor and she was back to a full bill of health. They’re like, ‘Oh, she could die,’ and she’s like, ‘Nope.’
She’s kind of drilled that into her family. My nana was a heck of a third baseman when she played, my mom was a centerfielder and a catcher when she played. She instilled that there’s no crying in softball, you finish the play. Really, to where we all want to fight for whatever we can with the game. She installed that into all of her kids, and she had a whole slew of ’em, but they all played a sport, and if they didn’t come home dirty then they didn’t play hard enough. It’s really cool to see where that started and working its way down.
Week one: Katie Hurley (Bryan Station)
Week three: Taetum Crawford (Henry Clay)