BELTON — With a stroke of the pen, Meredith Langford knew her life was changing forever.
In front of a gymnasium full of friends, family members, faculty and fans, the Belton senior signed a letter of intent to play softball at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor on Monday morning. Upon inking her signature, Langford experienced mixed emotions, knowing she was taking a giant leap toward a major turning point.
“(I’ve got) butterflies,” the shortstop said. “This is really happening, right now. I’m about to leave high school and live on my own. I’m nervous, but I’m ready for it to start. I’m ready to be a grown-up.”
Two other Lady Tigers secured their playing futures, as well, during the joint ceremony. Kirsten Whiteside committed to Texas Lutheran University, and Alex Wilson signed to play for Temple College.
“We’ve had multiple signings before, but to get them all up there at one time, it makes it a little more special for the school, the community and the kids,” Belton head coach Matt Blackburn said. “It kind of makes you feel like a proud parent when they are all three up there at the same time.”
While Blackburn enjoyed the moment, like Langford, Whiteside experienced a roller coaster of emotions immediately after putting pen to paper.
“It is bittersweet,” the infielder said. “I don’t want to leave my team, but at the same time, I’m ready to go, and I’m ready to move on in my life.”
Luckily for Langford and Wilson, who will each primarily play their natural positions after
extensively helping with pitching duties last season, they will not be moving too far away from their tight-knit team. In fact, location was a major reason why Langford decided to play for the Belton-based Crusaders.
“My family is here, and I hate being away from my family,” the 2012 all-district second-team selection said. “I was born and raised here, and I’d like to stay close to here. I get homesick real easily.”
Langford — a .292 careerhitter — joins a Division III program that went 26-17 overall last year and enters the 2013 season as the preseason favorite to win the American Southwest Conference West Division championship for a second consecutive year under third-year head coach Larry Hennig.
An all-district first-team selection as a junior, Wilson, a third baseman/pitcher, heads just north on Interstate 35 to Temple College, where she will play for the Lady Leopards, who are currently ranked No. 12 in NJCAA Division I after winning the conference tournament championship and making a trip to the national tournament last season.
“They have a good program,” said Wilson, who has 76 hits and 57 RBIs in 74 career games. “I think they are one of the best junior colleges out there, personally, and I really like the coach.”
Whiteside is making the longest trek to continue her career, transplanting to Seguin’s Texas Lutheran, where she will become an ASC rival of current teammate Langford.
It is a position she never truly imagined herself in until recently. Nevertheless, she intends to make the most of the opportunity.
“I’m in shock,” Whiteside said. “I never really thought I was going to be playing softball in college. … (But) I just kept thinking about it more and more because I don’t want to live life with regrets. I want to take chances while I have them because I won’t be able to go back and play softball if I don’t play it now.”
Contact Clay Whittington at email@example.com