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THURSDAY, JUNE 28, 2007
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Lauren Lindsey, 13, received this bat and autographed softball after cracking a homer over the right-field fence at The University of Alabama softball complex in Tuscaloosa at a softball camp last week. Lindsey will be a freshman at Austin High in the fall.
Daily photo by John Godbey
Lauren Lindsey, 13, received this bat and autographed softball after cracking a homer over the right-field fence at The University of Alabama softball complex in Tuscaloosa at a softball camp last week. Lindsey will be a freshman at Austin High in the fall.

Long ball Lauren
13-year-old Austin softball player wows coaches at Tide softball camp

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

It's not quite time for 13-year-old Lauren Lindsey to think about college, but she's sure The University of Alabama is her first choice.

And when she visited the Tuscaloosa campus last week for softball camp, she immediately knew she was a step ahead of the other campers.

"We always watched Alabama games, and my mom taught me the fight song when I was little and everything," Lindsey said, while displaying a tiny Alabama shirt she wore as a baby.

"The first thing they did at camp was teach us the fight song, and I was like 'Doesn't everyone know this already?' "

But that's not the only way Lindsey stood out from the crowd at the camp, which has included hundreds of players over the years.

On June 22, a week before her 14th birthday, Lindsey was able to do something that even many players years older and more experienced cannot claim. In addition to the thrill of playing softball at the UA softball complex, she hit a homer over the fence on the field she someday hopes to play on as a collegiate athlete.

According to camp directors, Lindsey, who bats left-handed, is the only 13-year-old to clear the right-field fence, 220 feet from home plate.

Lindsey said she hit the round-tripper off former Tide pitcher Stephanie VanBrakle, who in 2005 became Alabama's first-ever MVP from the SEC
tournament.

VanBrakle was a coach at the camp.

"I didn't realize what a big deal it was until the end of camp when they gave this big talk about how it had never been done before at camp," her mother Sheila Lindsey said.

"It was a major deal to them that she hit it over. They were so excited to see someone so young do something like that."

Sheila Lindsey and 10-year-old sister Carley, were there, while Lauren's dad, Jerry, got to experience the excitement when he called his wife's cell phone during the at-bat.

Alabama assistant coaches directing the camp on the showcase day were so shocked that they called head coach Patrick Murphy, who left for South Carolina during a midweek recruiting call.

As a reward for the poke, Lindsey was presented with a 34-ounce Easton Synergy bat, which is an ounce heavier than the bat she used to hit the homer. The bat is valued at $300.

“I think they did that because my bat is pretty worn out, and they were challenging me to get stronger so that I could use that one,” she said.

Alabama players retrieved and signed the prize ball for Lindsey as a souvenir. She also collected an autographed visor for the long ball.

“I was excited,” Lindsey said. “I’m going to keep it all and show everyone.”

Lindsey, who attended the camp for 10-year-olds through upcoming freshmen without any of her friends or teammates, was named the most valuable player at the camp.

Sheila Lindsey said her daughter called home every night, and she knew Lauren was doing well in the camp, but that she wasn’t expecting anything like the home-run shot she witnessed.

“To be so young and be able to do that,” Sheila Lindsey said, “that’s something she will always be able to remember.”

It’s not the first accomplishment the 6-foot-21/2 blonde has reached ahead of her time.

Lindsey, who will be a freshman at Austin High in the fall, played the majority of the season on the Lady Black Bears varsity team, starting at first base and batting clean-up.

Austin softball coach Butch Wright said he was told that most watching at the camp were surprised by Lindsey’s homer, but he wasn’t. He’d seen Lindsey’s advanced talent months ago, and knew she had special skills beyond her years.

“In junior varsity, she was dominating girls her age, and that’s when I knew she’d be up with me on the varsity soon,” said Wright, who has coached at Austin for eight years total during two tenures.

After speaking with her parents about the decision, Wright moved Lindsey up to varsity during spring break week and he said the Cedar Ridge middle schooler made an immediate impact.

“She wasn’t afraid, even when she first came up,” Wright said. “She helped us tremendously. She gave us power. You see it in her eyes that she really wants it she wants to play. And she learns really fast.”

Wright said for the most part, Lindsey “kept quiet” as she became Austin’s second-leading hitter with a .466 varsity batting average.

“But she knows she can play,” he added.

Wright said he expects she will open up next year as she brings experience to her freshman season, again ahead of many her age.

Lindsey, who was named to The Daily’s all-area honorable mention list, hit four home runs this season in junior varsity and varsity competition combined and also led Austin’s varsity in runs batted in.

Because she played some on the junior varsity, Lindsey was unsure of her RBI total, but Wright said he was sure it was a team-best and she batted in 22 runs in one weekend tournament alone.

Lindsey is already on the radar of Alabama’s coaching staff after her performances, and they’ve said they’ve already told her they hope to see her back next summer, when she will attend the week held for high schoolers.

“Oh yeah, I’m going back for sure,” she said.

And when the time comes to talk about college, it’s not just softball skills that will help Lindsey out. Her 4.0 grade point average also is something her parents are proud of.

“She works very hard at everything,” Sheila Lindsey said. “She’s very competitive. Even if its checkers, she going to win. She wants to do well.”

Sheila Lindsey said some of the traits that have made her daughter successful couldn’t be taught. Her height comes from her 6-foot-3 dad and 5-foot-11 mom, both Alabama alums.

“Height, that’s just a blessing, and the fact that she’s left-handed, those are just things that are God-given,” Sheila Lindsey said.

For now, Lindsey can settle back into the life of a student-athlete on summer break. This summer she’s playing for Tim Olinger’s 14-U Decatur Storm.

She also plans to start making trips to Tuscaloosa a couple of times a month to take pitching lessons from VanBrackle.

And even though word of Lindsey’s talent is out, her high school career is just about to begin.

A slew of coaches and players throughout the state can now attest to the fact that hers is a name to remember for years to come.

“The potential is there for her to play beyond high school,” Wright said.

“But we want to worry about high school right now. I’m proud to have her on our team.

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