Two former Lady Tigers have their careers cut short
Charles Prince, Hartselle Enquirer
Everyone has dreams they hope to achieve. Dreams unfulfilled are not easy to deal with. Dreams cut short may be even harder to accept.
Two former Hartselle Lady Tiger softball players, Lindsay McClanahan and Cara Roberts, are dealing with careers cut short by the administration at Athens State.
On Saturday, May 22, the Athens State Lady Bears fell 1-0 to Brescia College of Kentucky in the NAIA national championship tournament. The loss eliminated Athens from the tournament-and effectively ended the softball careers of McClanahan and Roberts.
In October of 2003, Athens State president Jerry Bartlett decided to end the athletic program at the school due to budget cuts. Bartlett wrote the softball team a letter explaining his decision that the 2004 season would be the last for the softball team.
Athens decided to honor the scholarships for all players through 2005.
Softball coach Larry Keenum assembled the team and gave each member of the Lady Bears a copy of Bartlett's letter. The reaction of the players was shock.
"I knew my softball career would have to end sometime," Roberts said. "But I didn't know it would be so soon."
Roberts and McClanahan were both members of the 2000 state championship team at Hartselle. The first Lady Tigers' team to capture the crown. Roberts graduated in 2001 and McClanahan graduated in 2002 after helping Hartselle win a second state title that spring.
Roberts left Hartselle as one of the most productive hitters
ever to wear a Lady Tiger uniform.
She is third on the schools all-time list in career triples, third in doubles, second in career hits, fourth in career home runs and second in career RBIs with 149.
McClanahan was the career leader in wins as a pitcher for the Lady Tigers until Sabrina Roberts, no relation to Cara, broke McClanahan's old record of 58 this season with a total of 60.
McClanahan is still the all-time Hartselle leader in win percentage at .853 with a career 58-10 record.
McClanahan said that the experience at Athens was just like her playing days for the Lady Tigers.
"I'll really miss it here," McClanahan said. "My teammates and I really clicked. It was like high school were everyone treated you like family and you could joke around with them."
McClanahan, who is majoring in elementary education and hopes to be a teacher, started her college career at Jacksonville State University. She played there for a year and a half before transferring to Athens.
Roberts played at Shelton, State Community College after graduating from Hartselle. After two seasons at Shelton she signed with Athens and became a Lady Black Bear.
After learning of the program's demise, the girls were determined to make the season a memorable one.
"We had a lot of incentive for this season," McClanahan said. "We knew no one would be back, that Athens softball would end with us. We wanted to make the last year a good one." McClanahan won four games and saved two others this season as a relief pitcher while Roberts batted .325 with 15 RBIs.
Roberts is already missing the game she played most of her life.
"When I drive by a park and see girls playing, it's hard," Roberts said. "When I see pictures of softball in the paper or a college game on TV it really hits home that it's over for me."
Roberts, who is majoring in business management, had offers to transfer and continue playing, but she decided not to.
"Union College and Tennessee Wesleyan asked me to transfer," Roberts said. "But it would be 2006 before I would graduate if I transferred. I've only got one more year at Athens and I've still got my scholarship, so I decided to stay."
The end of the program has caused both to turn a little nostalgic.
"My whole life was softball," Roberts said. "It was so much fun to play, it was so relaxing. You don't have to worry about anything, just have fun and play. And that's all gone now."
"It hit me when our team walked off the field for the last time," McClanahan said. "I thought to myself, 'I guess the next time I put on a softball uniform it will be in a slow-pitch church league.' "