Sunday, February 21, 2010

UAH softball team takes tournament field wearing black

By Nancy Glasscock, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

The UAH softball team returned to competition Saturday at Wilson Morgan Park wearing black uniforms and blue ribbons in memory of victims of the campus shootings eight days earlier.

University of Alabama in Huntsville coach Les Stuedeman estimated 60 percent of the college’s softball players had been taught by professors involved in the tragedy. Of the UAH biology department’s 14 members, three were killed, three were wounded and a seventh was jailed.

Stuedeman described the mood on campus as “a lot of shock and disbelief,” and said sports can be a comfort to students after a tragedy.

“We’re lucky in a way because we have something else to focus on,” she said. “I’ve always seen athletics as a gift in times of sorrow because you have something else to put energy into that helps you cope.”

Saturday’s games were the team’s first since the Feb. 12 shootings. The school suspended athletic activities for a week after the tragedy.

Chris Jones, mother of Columbus State University third baseman Carrie Jones, said she hopes this weekend’s Charger Chillout allows UAH players to “break away emotionally.”

“You feel so badly for them because you know they’re struggling emotionally,” she said.

UAH sports information officials barred the school’s players from speaking to the media. Players’ parents said that while the shootings mentally hurt the team, players seemed emotionally strong and focused. Kevin Mackay said his daughter Abby, who plays third base, hadn’t expressed concern about school safety.

“You go to college to learn, to get a degree and gain employment,” said Kevin Mackay. “You can’t be afraid of that.”

Millie Johnson, whose daughters Kellie, a shortstop, and Krystal, a catcher, said Stuedeman encouraged the team with a heart-felt speech early last week.

“I still think it’s a great school,” Johnson said. “It was just one of those things that could happen anywhere, any time.”

UAH won all three of its games Saturday, defeating Barry 8-0, Ferris State 8-2 and Columbus State 6-5. The Chargers play two more games in the tournament Sunday.

UAH professor Amy Bishop is being held without bond on charges of capital murder and attempted murder in connection with the shootings.

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