There are times when high school softball takes on much greater meaning than just wins and losses.
The impact that can be made on the field between first and third base can have far-reaching results.
The Silverdale Lady Seahawks found that out in a profound way last spring.
Rachel Gamble was an outstanding player for East Hamilton and graduated in 2014 before continuing her softball career at Motlow State. Along the way, Rachel played travel ball during the summer with the Frost Falcons where Silverdale coach Tim Couch first got to know her.
Couch and Mike Gamble, Rachel’s father, worked together and became really good friends as did their wives.
But a heartbreaking and unexplained situation took place last April that totally rocked the Gamble and Couch families and the Lady Seahawk softball team.
Rachel developed an infection that quickly created a life-threatening situation. Her life ended less than 48 hours later, leaving everyone who knew her in a state of shock.
Couch shared this story with his team and they began daily prayer for Mike and his wife Susan and the rest of Rachel’s family. It was a devastating loss as Rachel was an only child.
Right about the same time, Silverdale advanced to the state tournament in Murfreesboro. Tim reached out to Mike in a loving and kind way and asked if Mike would share a few thoughts with the Lady Seahawks before they left for Murfreesboro.
As anyone might imagine, it was one of the most difficult challenges that Mike had ever faced, but he agreed to talk to Tim’s team. No doubt, it was an emotional experience for all involved, but it was also an important step for Mike in the slow healing process as he continued his grieving while sharing his thoughts on prayer, faith and softball.
The Silverdale girls all wore ribbons in their hair with Rachel’s initials on them. This promising young lady wasn’t present in person, but she was there in spirit.
The Lady Seahawks lost to Tipton-Rosemark by a 9-2 in the quarterfinal round, but they battled back through the losers bracket for another shot at the Lady Rebels. Silverdale won the second game by a 3-1 final, forcing the if-necessary game in the double-elimination tournament.
It was another incredible performance as Silverdale posted a 6-4 victory in the state-title clinching game.
Not only did one of those hair ribbons get attached to the state championship plaque, the Silverdale girls made a unanimous decision to have Rachel’s initials included on their championship rings.
And now, as the 2019 softball season begins, the Lady Seahawks are still remembering a beautiful young lady whose life was taken in its prime.
Since that time, the Rachel Gamble Memorial Fund has been created to make scholarships available for deserving students who want to attend FCA and other youth camps while also assisting folks in the homeless community.
This weekend, a softball tournament will be played to raise funds for this foundation. Called “Runs For Rachel,” 11 teams will gather at the Summit in Collegedale on Friday and Saturday.
Teams in this year’s event include East Hamilton, Baylor, Central, Chattanooga Christian, Hixson, GPS, Soddy Daisy, Howard, Ooltewah, Marion County and host Silverdale.
Two games will be played at East Hamilton on Friday afternoon between the Lady Hurricanes and Central at 4 p.m. and then with Baylor at 5:30. There will be a brief presentation between games as more information about the foundation is shared.
Couch is just glad that his team has a chance to help further the cause.
“We just want to continue supporting Mike and Susan. Mike has come to a lot of our games, but our girls came up with this idea as we just want to honor Rachel’s memory. Softball was a huge part of her life and we just want to help keep her name out there,” Couch said early this week before his daily activities at the school began.
“We’re just the host team as this isn’t a benefit for the Silverdale softball team. Over 100 volunteers have become part of this event. We have 11 teams this year, but hope to have more in the future.
“This is more than a softball tournament. It’s about faith and being there for people when they need you most. This is a great way to honor Rachel as it’s all about her and her family. I can’t begin to imagine what they’ve gone through.
“Life is short and can be totally unfair at times. This has really been a tough experience for everyone, but we just want to continue offering our love and support for Mike and Susan. We’re hoping for good weather and a great weekend of competition to help a foundation that helps people in need,” Couch concluded.
For those folks interesting in making a contribution, you can send your check to the Rachel Gamble Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 28381, Chattanooga, 37424.
A complete schedule of games and times for Friday and Saturday can be found on this website under Baseball/Softball Schedule.
(email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)