Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Magruder softball team honors fallen comrade

Dugout will be dedicated to late graduate Nicole Lee

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Second-year Magruder softball coach Ed Hendrickson’s hair looks fine now. But it was a botched up mess a few weeks ago. That’s what happens when you put 17 teen-aged girls in charge of your hair cut; especially if their primary goal is to make you look as stupid as possible.

On April 19 Hendrickson gave his charges full control over his hair stylings as part of a fundraising deal he’d struck with them. The Magruder softball team’s season may have ended in Thursday’s 10-0 loss to Richard Montgomery. Though disappointed, the Colonels can now turn their full attention to another softball endeavor: the bullpen and bench area they’ve been working to build all season in memory of former two-year starting pitcher Nicole Lee. Lee, who was a freshman at Virginia Tech University, died Jan. 26 in a single-vehicle crash while she and four friends headed back to school from a ski trip. She was sitting in the passenger’s seat; the car struck a tree head on.

The Colonels are doing all the work on the project themselves and have worked to raise money through the season. Hendrickson told them if they raised $200 they could shave his head however they pleased. They in turn challenged him to match what they raised before he fixed it.

They raised $216.

The Colonels have also picked up sponsors to help them—through a connection, Home Depot is providing some materials necessary for the project. Magruder has raised more than $3000 through various fundraising activities, including a car wash and selling tee-shirts honoring Lee.

‘‘I own a tee-shirt company and I went back to work the next day and I forgot my hair looked the way it did and I was helping a customer and he just was looking at me so weird like he didn’t know what was going on,” Hendrickson said. ‘‘I didn’t even realize until after he left and I rubbed my hand across my hair and was like, ‘Oh.’ So I made a shirt that said, ‘‘My team raised $216 to make me look like this. Help me raise that to fix it.’ And I’d be at the bank or the store and people would hand me $5 or $10. I ended up raising an additional $260 that way.”

The official groundbreaking ceremony for the bench area was May 3. The Colonels have begun excavating the area, spending 30-45 minutes after practice every day digging into the hill along the first base line of the field. Hendrickson, his players and whomever else from the Magruder community willing to help, hope to have construction, which will include putting up a retaining wall, a plague, setting the bench into pavement on the hill, completed by the program’s inaugural Alumni game May 31. If they can’t make that deadline their ultimate deadline is Lee’s birthday, June 22.

The bullpen area, which Lee suggested for the team herself last year, was erected earlier this year. It’s functional but the Colonels are still making improvements—putting in a home plate and pitching rubbers, putting in the same mix used on the field. And they’ll build a memorial—they’ve taken the pitching rubbers Lee used and hope to make a sort of plaque in cement.

‘‘The day after Nicole passed away we were already talking about wanting to do something,” Hendrickson said. ‘‘When I took the job last year we took some satellite photos of the field and I asked the girls if they could have the ideal complex what would they want. And Nicole said she thought a bullpen. Somewhere the pitchers can go and get focused and warm up.”

The Colonels found inspiration in their former teammate and dedicated this season to her. Playing with immense enthusiasm and commitment to the team, the Colonels (8-7) notched their first winning season in three years.

‘‘Nicole was one of those girls who went 6 million miles an hour,” Hendrickson said. ‘‘We really emphasized this year taking advantage of each day, each opportunity and always giving 100 percent of your energy.”