Chattanooga State Softball - Two Queens Of Diamonds

Jeffries, Stephens Ready for Hall of Fame

Friday, June 6, 2014 - by B.B. Branton

Two decades ago, Chattanooga State All-American third baseman Barbara Stephens could hit just about anything thrown at her; curveball, riser, fastball, changeup, inside or outside.

Known as a left-handed Mike Schmidt, she batted .420 and .450 in two seasons (1994, 1996) under then Chatt State coach Frank Reed (Now at UTC) and will enter the college’s sports hall of fame with former All-American teammate Kristi Jeffries Campbell next week.

Yet today, life has thrown a wicked curve at the 40-year-old nurse in the form of a rare lung disease, but she stands in there ready to take as many swings as necessary to beat the odds.

“I was given two months to live four years ago, but with lots of prayer, having the Lord’s hand on my life and good doctors to help I am still alive,” said Stephens who was earned 12 varsity letters in three sports (softball, basketball, track and field) at Ringgold High School in the early 1990s.

Stephens had a tumor just below her heart removed in 2012, but today she has 17 tumors in her body, including one on her spine which hinders her ability to walk well, as she looks for a medical cure.

“There is medicine to slow the growth of the current tumors and keep new ones from forming in my body, but side effects due to my pancreatitis keeps me from taking it in large doses,” said Stephens who makes a visit to Vanderbilt Hospital every three months for a checkup.

“At this point, there isn’t a cure for the cancer I have, but hopefully I can find the proper medicine to help me live another 20 years or so.

“I know that Jesus Christ has a purpose for me in all this and I rely on His strength to get me through.”

Hall of Fame Career: While she struggles with life’s problems, Chattanooga State looks to brighten up her day next Friday as the college will showcase her career on the diamond as part of the 2014 hall of fame dinner at the Walden Club. She is one of five former athletes in this year’s HOF class.

Class of 2014: Tennis: Barbara Stephens (1994, ’96) and Kristi Jeffries Campbell (1993-94); Tennis: Jessica St. John Graff (1997-99) and Ana Alejandra Gomez DeLo’pez (1997-98); Baseball: Jim Plumlee (1976-78).

Hall of Fame Dinner: Ticket reservations ($50 per seat) can be made by calling the Chattanooga State Foundation at 423/697-2656. Today (Friday) is the last day for dinner reservations.

 “Having been selected for the hall of fame and going in the same year with Kristi means a lot to me as I want to be able to leave some type of softball legacy at the college which gave me a chance to play college softball,” said Stephens.

The Path to Chatt State:

Born a year apart in the early 1970s, the two future Tiger All-Americans took different paths to Chattanooga State.

Jeffries was good at the game early on thanks to the backyard coaching from grandfather W.C. Benton and she honed her skills on manicured fields nationwide playing 12 years (age 7-18) and in three national tournaments (one tourney MVP award) for the Frost Falcons.

Jeffries is one of six teammates who were together all 12 years joining Baylor School and UTC star Amy Robertson, J.C. Tucker (La. Tech), Stephanie Frost, Shannon Sneed and Candice Clark.

“I am dedicating my hall of fame award next week to my grandfather who got me started in softball, saw that I had a talent for the game early on and attended so many of my games throughout my career,” said Jeffries who looked to baseball hall of fame shortstop Ozzie Smith as her model on how to play the game.

Asked if she could do the Ozzie Smith back flips, she said with a laugh, “I wish.”

Stephens was raised in the Black Stock community of Ringgold and became a sold hitter by playing with the boys in the neighborhood.

“After my brothers and I lost too many baseballs in the cornfield next to our property, my dad said if I could consistently hit rocks with a stick then I could hit a softball with a bat and he was right,” said Stephens whose brother Bill played a few years in the Los Angeles Dodgers and Montreal Expos organization.

 “When I was 14 the local Dixie Boys Baseball team needed a player so I made the lineup and was an all-star that year.”

Coach Frank Reed Comments

Kristi Jeffries – “Kristi was the perfect number three batter in the lineup … she was an excellent slap hitter who could bunt and also drive the ball in the alleys …and steal a base for you … in the field she had the quickness to get to the ball in the hole between short and third and had the arm to make the throw to first.”

Barbara Stephens – “Barbara was the big, power left-handed hitter who was in the cleanup spot and could really drive the ball.”

Tribute to north Georgia Slow Pitch Players:  “Barbara was one of those north Georgia players who had played slow pitch in high school, but had to learn how to play fast pitch in college.

“I believe I had seven north Georgia kids on the teams with Barbara who played their hearts out.

“We spent many an early morning taking batting practice in the hallways of the athletic building before school to learn the proper swing technique and in the long run it all paid off,” said coach Reed who gives credit to Jim Frost and Jim Parker for being a supporter of his program at Chattanooga State and to the Chattanooga area softball program overall.

“I am sure there are more than a few dents in those classroom doors from our early morning batting practices,” he said with a laugh.

contact B.B. Branton at william.branton@comcast.net


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