Chelsea Hall is now in her first year at Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina to study sports management. “Softball isn’t going to be there my whole life, but I’m really into sports,” she points out. “I want to do something with sports whether I’m playing or not.”
The MSR followed Hall and her teammates during Atlanta’s six-day trek to the 2013 Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) softball championship in Minneapolis. Here is her daily diary:
Hall is one of 12 RBI for RBI Scholarship recipients this year and was recognized at the opening banquet at the Twins stadium. She said she wasn’t expecting it: “I just told my story,” she noted.
Hall was among the four Atlanta players in the morning Workout Day at Neiman Field. She won the 60-yard dash. “It was really fun,” she noted. “I’m a little hurt right now, but I really pushed through to make sure that my team was at the top.”
She had a sore hamstring, “but it’s nothing really,” insisted Hall.
“She’ll do anything you ask her to do,” noted Atlanta Manager Richard Lee. “She don’t mind sharing positions or letting somebody else play. She definitely is a team player.”
Saturday — pool play, day one
Hall stole a base and scored her team’s first run in a loss to Hoboken (N.J.), and then the shortstop pitched in an 11-0 loss to Cleveland.
“She did a good job because we asked her to do something she really didn’t want to do,” commented Lee.
“I’m not a pitcher,” admitted Hall. “My team needed me, and I tried.”
The players later went to the Mall of America. “It was great,” reported Hall. “Last year we rushed around trying to get to all the stores. This year we took our time and walked around.” She purchased shoes.
Sunday — pool play, day two
Atlanta and Harrisburg (Pa.) were tied at four apiece; then Atlanta gave up three runs in the seventh inning at Neiman Field.
“We played well up to the last inning,” Hall bemoaned afterwards. “We aren’t as mad as we were yesterday — we all know we can do some things differently.
Then the team later went to Dunning in St. Paul, played Hawaii, and lost for the fourth time in two days.
“We fought hard but… We can do better,” Hall said.
“We have to keep our heads up high,” noted Lee.
Monday — pool play, day three
Hall said the team spent the previous evening at their hotel for “a little team bonding. We had a lot of fun, joking and stuff.”
The only game of the day featured two teams at Neiman with majority Black players, Atlanta and St. Louis.
“It was a great win,” said Hall after the 11-0 victory. “We were tired of losing.”
Tuesday — inter-league playoffs
Atlanta is missing two players, both pitchers, and has only 10 players in uniform, including their only remaining pitcher, LaKaylin Lee. This morning, as the fourth seed in the American League Central, they faced Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), the National League Central’s unbeaten top seed at Dunning.
Hall had a double, an RBI, and scored a run to defeat Santo Domingo 9-4. Then the team walked to the next diamond and defeated 3-2 the same Cleveland club that nearly scored a dozen runs on them just two days previous.
“I knew we had it as soon as we stepped on this field,” said Hall excitedly afterwards. “We are so excited to be going to the championship [to play Houston].”
Wednesday — Championship Game at Minnesota’s Jane Sage Cowles Stadium
(Continued from the “Another View” print edition)
Hall and her teammates arrived to the park in a loose mood. They took lots of pictures on the Gophers’ home softball field before warming up for the series’ final contest. They even asked this reporter to snap some shots on their phones for them as well.
Then the players’ mood turned focused: “Before we even came to the championship today, we said that we wanted this more than anybody else,” stated Hall.
Houston scored first, but Atlanta in their half of the first took the lead for good. Starting pitcher LaKaylin Lee got on base, then came home when Kayla Cato sent a two-run shot over the left field fence.
A U of M staffer later retrieved the ball and gave it to the Atlanta coaches for Cato. “That was a big hit, a great hit, [because] once they scored first, we rebounded and came back,” commented Manager Richard Lee.
However, with Atlanta now up 4-1 in the fourth, Danika Stevens tried to score from third but struck her head on the ground after being tagged out and briefly lay unconscious. Everyone collectively held their breath.
“It brought us more together,” admitted Hall as the team was now down to the nine players on the field. “We really wanted to do it for her.”
Stevens did regain consciousness, was carried off the field and taken to the hospital for observation.
“My concern was are we going to let that be a letdown for us or is that going to rise us up,” observed Lee. “I was the one who got too emotional when I came back to talk to them, and I broke down. But they said, ‘We got your back’ and patted me on the back.”
And his players did settle down, even after Houston scored two runs, one off a three-base throwing error after a bunt, to come within a run.
But they never scored again, as Atlanta shut them down 1-2-3 in the seventh inning and won 4-3. Then the victorious players celebrated together under the sunny Minnesota sky. They even doused their manager with a Gatorade bucket of water.
Hall went 2-for-3, her best day in the series, with one RBI and a stolen base, and she recorded her team’s final out with a pop fly catch near third base to clinch the title.
“When our teammate got hurt, it made us want it even more and to do it for her and take that trophy to the hospital to her. I saw her crying when they were taking her away, and she wanted to be in this game so bad,” Hall said afterwards.
One player even called or texted Thomas while standing on the field to give their fallen teammate the good news. (Thomas stayed in the hospital overnight for observation and left with her mother the following day.)
Atlanta became the last team standing as they completed a worst-to-first finish. Hall afterwards smiled from ear to ear after receiving her RBI championship watch, cap and T-shirt.
“We started with 12 [players], then down to 10, and now nine,” she noted. “It just showed you how much determination we had. We’ll be back next year.”
Special thanks to Chelsea Hall, her teammates Kendalyn Arceneaux, Tia Bolden, Kayla Cato, Amaris Gilchrease, LaKaylin Lee, Qiley Lewis, Nichole Lyday, Taylor Montgomery and Danika Stevens; and to Atlanta RBI Manager Richard Lee and his coaching staff for their generous cooperation and assistance in this report.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to [email protected]