As an athlete, sometimes, there is so much more than the game.
Sometimes family, friends and community are far more powerful. That was evident Tuesday night at the Zephyrhills High School Softball field where more than 500 people turned out to support a student athlete after the recent untimely death of her father.
From fence to fence and corner to corner, softball fans, Little League softball and baseball players, their coaches and families showed their support for Bulldog second baseman Emma-Lei Buchanan and her family for the game played in memory of Darrell Buchanan.
The game became a fundraising event for the family as well as more than a dozen local businesses donated gift basket that were raffled off during the game.
“This was so much more than softball,” Emma-Lei said after the game. “This is showing my dad that I’m still going to play and everybody here is going to make sure I’m still playing.
The 7-1 loss to Wesley Chapel was overshadowed by the community rally around the Buchanan family, but on the field, Emma-Lei did have the Bulldogs’ lone RBI.
While she stood at her position in the infield or stood ready in the batters’ box, she saw the support of her community.
“To look around and see all these kids here is a great feeling,” Emma-Lei said. “It made me feel that I’m not alone in everything. It’s not just me and my family; it’s everybody being here for us.”
Zephyrhills head softball coach Kristen Dumont coordinated the fundraising efforts and sent out a social media invitation to the game to the community and the community answered.
“It’s great to see the community come out when there’s a family going through a hard time,” Dumont said. “Sometimes it’s not about winning or losing, but about coming together as a community.”
Zephyrhills Little League rescheduled all of its Tuesday night games and practices and urged its players and coaches to come out and support the Buchanan family.
“They shut it all down to be here and there were a lot of little softball and baseball players here,” Dumont said. “That was really special.”