Freshman has umpires asking ‘Who’s that girl?’

Whether they’re talking about her leadership in the game or the hard work that gets her there, her teammates, Fallon Howell and Katrina Bevans describe freshman Shantayah Allen as a driven, passionate girl with a love for sports and a strong work ethic.

Allen has been playing softball since she was 3 years old, earlier than most begin.

“Usually you would start around 4 or 5 [years old],” Allen said.

However, her aunt had a team of her own and needed more players. It wasn’t long after that she began to realize that sports were good for more than just fun and games.

“My parents have always had trouble together, and when I started playing sports I didn’t have to think about all of that,” Allen said. “It clears my mind, it makes me feel like I’m in a totally different place.”

Allen’s parents have been in and out of jail since she was little, and neither of them went to her games, so often no one would show up for her support.

“My dad said it was too embarrassing to go because my mom would always end up getting kicked out for yelling at the umps or arguing with other parents,” Allen said.

When her parents fought at home, Allen felt it was always over unimportant things, sometimes becoming violent with one another, causing Allen to have to move in with other family and friends and find her parental figure in her mom’s father.

“Me and my grandpa were really close, he was like my best friend,” Allen said. “He liked to give me money whenever I did good in my games. When he passed away last year, I couldn’t believe it. I kept wondering ‘Who’s gonna come to my games now?’ For a while after that my hitting was swampy. It took me a long time to come out of that.”

Once Allen figured out that her home life didn’t rule her head on the field, she began exploring other sports, such as basketball and track. Allen’s won hundreds of trophies from the time she first began softball. Her commitment is so extreme that she’s spent two summers playing on eight softball teams at a time, cutting that number down to five this coming up summer for health precautions. She’s played on over 57 teams including 50 softball teams, six basketball teams, and three track teams, and has made countless memories and friends to last her a lifetime, including her Wichita Falls League coach, Joe Dale.

“I met him about a year a half ago through a friend I was living with,” Allen said.

She was watching his team practice and decided she wanted to try out.

“I walked onto the field and asked the main coach, Tommy, and he told me to talk to Joe so I did. He said ‘We’ll see, go get in line,’ and hit me his hardest grounder. I missed it, so I had to run,” Allen said. “He began to like me when he saw my hitting and the way I ran bases.”

Dale’s judgment is constantly proved right by the umpires at their games.

“I’ve never told Tayah this because I’ve never wanted it to go to her head, but usually after every tournament the umpires come up to me and ask ‘Where did you get that girl? You know she’s Division I material, right? Olympic material, maybe.’ I tell them she’s like family,” Dale said. Division I is the highest level of intercollegiate sports approved by the National Collegiate Athletics Association in the United States.

“I’ve mainly got her lined up to play in front of Division II colleges since she’s a freshman, like Weatherford, Cameron, Carlton and a few others,” Dale said. “Next season I’ll have her play in front of colleges like OSU, OU, Texas Tech, University of Texas, and one of her choice.”

Being on five teams this summer, it’s no surprise that Allen won’t be making every practice.

“I actually don’t get to practice that often. The games are my practice,” Allen said.

During fall softball when Allen plays for the Demons, it’s even harder for her to make her Witchita Falls League practices, which isn’t very hard for Dale to understand.

“When Tayah plays for Duncan, that’s her priority,” Dale said. “We know that.”

As a freshman, Allen played varsity softball and basketball.

“It’s very hard for a freshman to make varsity,” Grant Givens, Allen’s basketball coach, said. “I think sometimes the varsity games move a little fast for most freshman, but she kept up quite well.”

He said he felt Allen deserved the spot because she put in work, so toward the end of the season she was able to suit up for a game, which was described as a well-earned spot by her coaches and teammates.

“She’s very focused. She’s always looking to get better and has a positive attitude,” Bevans said.

Another teammate, Howell, who’s shared softball, basketball and track with Allen this year, said that she admired Allen’s passion for sports, and that the way she can see Allen enjoying herself out there makes it easier for her to enjoy herself too.

“She just has to keep building from this point,” Howell said.