‘Pay it forward’: Softball team plays for special causes


Angela Moore

Freshman Lindsey Barr attempts to tag out a member of the University of Illinois Springfield team before she reaches her base during the March 25, game at the USI Softball Field. The infielder/catcher had two RBIs and scored two runs and a home run during the game.

The softball team decided to honor senior infielder Toni Braun’s grandmother, Vicki Tuggle, this year.

Tuggle became paralyzed   three years ago. Braun said she’s excited for Tuggle to see her play again.

“It’s cool to have a lot of family and friends and have a lot of people to come out for it,” Braun said.  “Before (Tuggle) got her disease, she came to almost all of my games.”

Ever since her diagnoses she’s been in a wheelchair. Having her come out next week is going to be a big deal, she said.

The softball team is dedicating its games April 2-3 to two special causes.

The team plans to honor Awareness Day on April 2, where players and coaches from USI and the University of Indianapolis will play for someone they know and love who has been affected by disease, illness, handicap or other causes.

Last year, the team dedicated its game to graduate assistant Brooke Harmening’s grandmother. At the time, Harmening was a senior pitcher.

“All of my teammates are close to my grandmother,” Braun said. ”She is very personable — very bubbly and talkative.”

Braun said she lives right next door to her grandmother, so when teammates visit, they have the opportunity to get to know her.

The coaches and players from each team will wear a colored ribbon representing the person they choose to honor.

Sophomore first baseman Marleah Fossett plans to honor her cousin, who has Down syndrome.

Fossett said this game means a lot to the team because they are playing for people.

“It’s going to be a tough game because we all have people we have lost or people who are sick,” Fossett said. “But, at the end of the day, we are giving them a good show.”

The second game’s theme is “Play for Kate.”

Kate Bruggenschmidt, who was a member of the local softball travel team The Bomb Squad, died last summer in an ATV accident at age 11.

Bruggenschmidt’s family will attend the game. Her younger sister Emma is throwing the first pitch.

Both teams will wear ribbons and green bracelets in her honor.

Head Coach Sue Kunkle said these games mean a lot to the team because the players are giving back to their community.

She said it is important to the girls on the team to “pay it forward.”

“I think a lot of it is very near and dear for a lot of us,” Kunkle said. “We are a very tight family and when our extended family is ill or passes, we are all affected by it. I think it is our way of being close together and giving back to our community.”