Imagine playing a sport practically all your life, and a month before your freshman year of college receiving news that the team you signed with is defunct.
Kayla Calvert, Pasadena sophomore, was originally going to play softball at Texarkana College for then-Head Coach Leslie Messina, but the athletic programs were eliminated due to financial problems.
“Offering players a roster spot makes a lot of their dreams come true, and then to have to take that away with such a short time to find another place to play is a horrible feeling,” said Messina, who came to KC last year to start the program.
Calvert’s next choice was Paris Junior College, but that did not pan out when the coach was fired.
Calvert began playing softball at age 5 but, quit because she did not like it. She then started back up at 8, because her parents wanted her to be involved.
Her coach, David Aguilar, changed her mind about softball.
Calvert was first baseman and a big hitter for her team, but Aguilar told her she should start pitching when she was 11.
“So then I became a pitcher, and I liked it,” Calvert said. “I was pretty good at it.”
Her high school sophomore year, Calvert was tried out and made the Texas Storm Fastpitch Softball Team.
Texas Storm is a nationally recognized fastpitch softball organization that competes in some of the most prestigious tournaments in the country and is in the 18-Gold, which is the highest division of softball. Their coaches are all experienced professionals and former college players.
Calvert’s team was coached by Larry Durham and Joe Wymer.
“In the softball world, you know who those coaches are,” Calvert said.
For the next three years Calvert’s life was filled with more softball than ever.
“[Texas Storm] was in summer and fall,” Calvert said. “The only break you got was when there was high school ball, so I pretty much played all year long.”
After working hard all her life to play college softball, she was giving up.
“I was really worried and starting to stress,” Calvert said. “I was like, ‘Well God, you better take it, because there’s nothing else I can do about it.’”
Calvert attended a church camp with other teens making the transition from high school to college and it was then that she got the answers she had been looking for.
One night Calvert was listening to a woman preach and the message seemed to be just what she needed.
“This lady was killing it,” Calvert said. “She said, ‘I know some of y’all are unsure [of the future], but I feel like someone is going to get a conviction and figure out where y’all are going and what you’re going to do in the next couple days.’”
Immediately after the service she received a long text message, which Calvert said was strange because there was no cell phone service at the camp, telling her Messina had found a place to coach and wanted her to come play for her.
“It was weird because right when I got out I had an answer,” Calvert said. “Someone saying you have a full ride somewhere, that’s really an 11:59 God.”
Messina said she saw Calvert pitch at a college showcase for high school players in Plano during her senior year and was impressed by her speed, movement and arm swings.
“When she visited I got to know her personally and liked her attitude,” Messina said.
After Texarkana’s program shut down, Messina was determined to find every player and incoming player a place to play and she did.
With Calvert’s second-choice school not working out, Messina wanted to offer her a place to play with people she already knew, because of the turmoil starting off her college career.
“I think Kayla and I developed a special bond through this process and it was hard on both of us,” Messina said.
Messina’s says Calvert’s leadership skills are showing this year.
“Her freshman year, she sat back and let others lead, but now she wants this year to be a great year and wants to help us get there every way she can,” Messina said. “Her positive attitude and good work ethic is evident to all this year.”
After everything she went through, Calvert is happy with the turnout.
“I didn’t know where I was going to go, and then Messina called me up and told me she found a place to coach at Kilgore, and she wanted me to come with her,” Calvert said. “It was kind of like a last-minute thing, but I’m glad I ended up here.”