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Decatur High graduate Shelley Stanley, right, with Samford teammate Brittany Simao (7). Stanley finished her senior season at Samford as the school’s all-time home run leader.
Photo courtesy of Samford University
Decatur High graduate Shelley Stanley, right, with Samford teammate Brittany Simao (7). Stanley finished her senior season at Samford as the school’s all-time home run leader.

A life beyond softball
Record-setting Samford career now finished, Stanley looks forward to other challenges in life

By Brooke Milam
bmilam@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

As far back as Shelley Stanley can remember, softball filled her summers.

From tournaments to workouts, she always had the next season in the back of her mind. There always was another game to play or more practice work to be done.

But this summer, the 21-year old Decatur High graduate has other priorities taking her attention. Her softball career has come to a close when she finished her senior season at Samford University this past spring.

Now she is focusing on a to-do list that includes preparing for a couple of business courses at Samford this fall, scuba diving, golf and just having some fun.

“She wanted to take this last chance to just be a regular college student for once because she’s never gotten to do that,” said her mother, Sandy Stanley. “It’s always been about softball.”

It’s a different kind of off-season for an athlete who had a record-setting career.

Stanley played her final game as a Lady Bulldogs player May 11 in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament, and she will graduate in December with a degree in marketing. She must complete her last two classes in her major and her final two elective courses.

Sandy Stanley said her daughter shed a few sentimental tears after her final game.

“She’s been playing ball all of these years and to think she’s not going to put on a uniform again — that was hard for her to think that part of her life is over,” Sandy Stanley said.

A four-year starter for Samford in right field who bats left-handed and throws right-handed, Stanley finished as the school’s all-time home run leader with 32. Her best single-season total came her junior year when she hit 10 home runs, which also set a school record.

“She probably doesn’t even remember all the awards and stuff that she’s gotten,” Sandy Stanley said with a laugh.

But her proud mother does: Stanley was second-team all-OVC in 2006. She also drew a single-season high 30 walks as a freshman. This season, she finished with Samford career highs in home runs (32), RBIs (113), and walks (91), receiving the Lady Bulldogs’ hitting award, voted upon by the team.

As a high school player for at Decatur, she was The Daily’s softball player of the year in 2002 and 2003. She also made all-state in basketball in 2001 and helped the Lady Red Raiders to the state basketball title in 2000.

She was part of four 20-win softball seasons at Samford and was team captain as a senior as the Lady Bulldogs set a school record for wins with a 31-23 mark under coach Beanie Ketcham.

Stanley’s senior season statistics included a team-leading 32 RBIs and a team-high 24 walks. Her .377 on-base percentage and 29 runs scored were also team-bests.

But Stanley isn’t caught up in the numbers. When asked about her career, she talked more about the people who have helped her achieve than the achievements themselves.

“I’m grateful for my parents and for (longtime supporters) Buddy and Carol Gregg — they’ve been almost all of my home games in high school and college and have always supported me,” she said.

“I look back and I’m happy and satisfied with my career. It ended well. I loved my teammates and I chose Samford because of the girls that I met on my recruiting visit. Now that it’s over I’ll miss all the time we spent together.”

It’s sure that Stanley won’t forget her career at Samford or her teammates. In addition to framing her jersey, the younger players gave Stanley a kitten as a parting gift from the program. “Gabby” just finished a stay at Stanley’s parents’ home in Decatur while Shelley and younger sister Suzanne went on a cruise.

Family vacations for the Stanleys have already changed without softball on the agenda. After splitting time in the past, dad Pat, mom Sandy and Shelley will join Suzanne, a sophomore-to-be on the Mississippi State golf team, at various events around the South.

Suzanne most recently competed in the Women’s Southern Golf Association Amateur Championship in Birmingham, and she has at least three more events scheduled this summer.

“Normally, every time we go anywhere there’s a ball involved,” Sandy Stanley said.

Shelley Stanley said that watching her sister play golf is something she’s missed in the past because of her own softball obligations. Now she’s looking to join her 19-year old sister on the course as a fan and a student.

“I want to learn to play golf. That’s the next thing I want to do because it’s a life-long sport,” she said. “It’s something fun for me and my sister to go do.”

But Shelley’s previous experience with the sport?

“None,” she said, laughing.

Stanley said it’s hard to leave softball behind, but she might be found on the softball field in the future. She said she wouldn’t be opposed to the idea of playing adult league softball after taking a year or so off.

She would like to use her marketing degree to stay as close to sports if possible. She said she knows she’ll be in Birmingham for the next year — she just signed a year-long lease for her apartment.

But even though her softball playing career has finished, she figures that she gained plenty from the sport, including lessons that she can continue to apply.

“Softball has really taught me that I can get along with anybody because I’ve had teammates from all over and all different personalities,” Stanley said. “And coaches, I can work for just about anybody. Being a team captain my senior year taught me a lot about leadership. I think all that will help me in the long run.

Shelley Stanley at a glance

  • The Daily’s softball player of the year as a junior in 2002 and senior in 2003 at Decatur High. Helped the Lady Red Raiders place third in Class 6A in 2002 and fourth in 2000.

  • Finished Samford career as the school’s all-time leader in home runs (32), RBIs (113) and walks (91).

  • Second-team all-Ohio Valley Conference as a junior in 2006.

  • Part of four straight 20-win seasons under coach Beanie Ketcham.

  • Team captain as a senior as the Lady Bulldogs set a school record for wins with a 31-23 mark.

  • Marketing major will graduate from Samford in December and is interested in sports marketing, among other areas of the field.

    Brooke Milam

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