On a mission: Neal to continue softball in college
Published 8:46 am Monday, July 11, 2011
Recent T.R. Miller graduate and former T.R. Miller Lady Tiger softball player Natalie Neal always wanted to go to a small Christian college after high school and go into the mission field. Couple that with a growing passion for softball, and Neal now has a softball field in Tennessee as her mission field.
A lifelong resident of Brewton, Neal says she adores the town of Brewton and the people in it.
But while she loves Brewton, there is part of her that wanted to get out.
“I have always wanted to be in the mission field,” Neal said. “My favorite preacher is Jesse Duplantis. I enjoy preaching, teaching, singing, reading, fishing, hunting, working out, listening to people, and playing the guitar.”
Neal, the youngest child of Terrill and Patti Neal and younger sibling of an older brother, Stephen, and two older sisters, Rebekah and Katelin, Neal has played many sports, but always has loved the game of softball.
“I played volleyball, basketball, and softball at the YMCA level until I was old enough to play on the middle school teams,” Neal said. “I continued to play all three sports in high school, but I chose to not play basketball during my sophomore year. God gave me the ability to play softball, so I am going to take advantage of it. Being a kid, I needed to get involved in something, so I chose sports.”
Neal said when you’re excited about going to practice and playing games all the time, you must enjoy it.
“I like the idea that softball is a team effort,” she said. “One player is not going to win it all. At times, it requires one to be selfless in order for the team to be successful. Overall, it builds character.”
Her senior season, Neal decided to attend and was accepted at Union located in the Tennessee town of Jackson.
“It is a private, liberal arts, Christian university based on Southern Baptist principles,” Neal said. “Every year the enrollment has increased, and this past year has been the highest at about 4,200. The student-faculty ratio is 12:1. A few years ago, the campus was damaged by a tornado and, since then, things have been remodeled. I have always wanted to go to a small Christian college, and when I visited the campus, I noticed a difference in the atmosphere.”
Neal said the difference was that Union is not your typical university.
“The biggest thing that stuck out to me was the fact that it was so family oriented,” Neal said. “The faculty and students are so closely knit that it really makes you feel like you are just a part of the family. Everyone I talked to up there had such a heart for God and was so warm and kind. Union puts Christ first and offers students multiple opportunities to serve and worship the true God.”
After being accepted at Union and finishing her softball career at T.R. Miller and graduating a few weeks ago, Neal tried out for Union’s softball team and made it.
“The past few years have shown me my passion for softball, so I planned to play in college,” Neal said. “I prayed about it and knew that whatever God wanted was what I wanted. I guess God thought playing at Union wasn’t such a bad idea. I’m excited to be part of the team, and using the softball field as my mission field, allowing me to interact with many different people. I know softball will continue to strengthen, build, and shape my character.”
After making the team, Neal said she was shocked at first.
“But as it sunk in, I felt relieved to know that I can continue my passion for softball throughout my college years,” Neal said. “At this moment, I am unsure about the amount of scholarship money. Frankly, it doesn’t make a difference to me, as long as I am given a chance to be on the field.”
While her high school career is over and a college career about to begin, Neal said she enjoyed every moment and succeeded at meeting her goals for the year.
T.R. Miller finished the 2011 season with a 23-15 record and ranked No. 5 in the state in class 3A. The team advanced to the South Regionals in Gulf Shores before losing to area foe Excel.
Neal played in playing in 38games, having 101 AB, 21 runs, 56 hits, 36 RBIs, 10 doubles, six triples, five homeruns, seven stolen bases, 11 walks, 13 runs, an on base percentage of .541 and an average of .504.
“This great season was made more enjoyable because of my coaches and teammates,” Neal said. “I honestly could not have asked for more. I don’t care where we ended up, what seed we were ranked, or what our record was. We had athletes who could play ball. At times things didn’t go well, and other times everything seemed to go right. All the hard work paid off because the parents, fans, and entire team became a family. Some of my favorite memories of the season were our wins over Daphne and Excel, and our Greenville tournament success. Though the end result did not quite go our way, I know and believe that we all did our best and were a great team. Go Tigers.”