Sports are emotional. Whether it’s the thrill and exhilaration felt in victory, or the disappointment felt in defeat, the range of feelings is wide. This past Sunday, April 7, the emotions were for a totally different reason, when the Oswego High School softball program officially retired coach Amanda Stanton’s number in a heartfelt memorial ceremony on the varsity field.
The rain, as well as tears, fell as the coaching staff and Athletic Director Darren Howard spoke. They recalled great stories of Stanton’s life and the impact Stanton left on the program.
The accomplishments ranged from things done on the field, to things done off it, too. Whether it was how Stanton turned a program that hadn’t won in two decades into a winning team in just her second year, or how she strived to better her players every day, it’s obvious she was the shining sun of the softball program in her three-year tenure.
“Retiring a jersey is something that is not taken lightly here at Oswego High School,” Howard said during his speech at the memorial service. “The coach or player’s impact has to be great.”
After Howard’s speech, two players unveiled a sign along the left field wall. The sign includes Stanton’s name and her number: 14.
Howard couldn’t contain his emotions any longer as the sign was was uncovered.
“If Amanda was here, she’d be calling me a big baby,” Howard said, smiling through tears.
The most emotional part of the afternoon was when the senior captains took the podium positioned just in front of the circle. Senior Rebecca Pieroni recalled the days following Stanton’s death during her speech.
Pieroni recalled the story of her and her teammates lying a cross full of softballs down, spelling out “Coach Stanton” at the site of the fatal hit and run accident. Pieroni remembered it as a dreary and cloudy day. Then, as they placed the cross, the cloud cover broke and the sun shined through.
Similarly, the memorial started out dreary and rainy. Then, out of nowhere, while players and community members talked and reflected, the sun broke through the clouds, gleaming upon the field. The average bystander may view this as, at most, symbolic – to the team, however, it served as a message from Stanton herself.
Pieroni smiled as she recalled the event.
“It’s small things like that,” she said. “Stanton shows us, ‘hey I’m still here. I’m still OK.’”
The community came out despite the rain to support the program in their time of need.
“There are really no words,” Sara Polensky, currently the head softball coach, said about the community’s support. “It’s really inspiring to see so many people come out and support in such a tragic time.”
The ceremony concluded with all the players walking the baseline from first to second. They then journeyed into shallow center field, where the number 14 was painted into the grass in orange, white and blue. Each player placed a white rose in a circle around the number. The varsity players then journeyed to the Stanton sign in left field, where they had one last moment with their coach.
“Today was more about closure for us,” Pieroni said. “Today really gave [closure] to all of us.”