Taylor Clark remembers sitting glued to the TV as Alabama won the NCAA softball championship in 2012.
Not even in high school yet, Clark dreamed of one day playing for the Crimson Tide. And now, in a circuitous way, she will be.
The former Mechanicsburg standout shortstop, who earned All-Sentinel Player of the Year as a senior while batting .534, announced this week on Twitter she has transferred from Virginia Tech to SEC powerhouse Alabama.
“It took me a while to kind of decide that, ‘OK, transferring from Virginia Tech is my best decision,’” she told The Sentinel on Wednesday.
Clark committed to Virginia Tech as a high school sophomore in 2014 and thrived in her two years there, playing on the left side of the infield while batting .278 with 18 RBIs this spring as a sophomore.
But Scot Thomas was fired in May after 23 years on the job, the only coach the program had known. And when Pete D’Amour was hired, Clark felt the team shift in a way that no longer suited her.
“It just didn’t feel like home, like a family atmosphere,” said the rising junior, who stressed that she loved the school and her teammates.
She decided to transfer in mid-July and researched nearly every Division I program’s roster to narrow down squads in need of a shortstop or third baseman. She settled on more than 15 schools and emailed all of them.
But, in what she calls a “funny story,” she already had Tide coach Patrick Murphy’s number from when he had tried to recruit Clark as a freshman and sophomore with the Wildcats. So she shot him a text while Alabama was playing in Japan and was impressed by Murphy’s enthusiasm.
Clark now reflects back on her high school recruitment and realizes she may have rushed her decision, especially if Alabama was the dream school.
Still, with what she felt was more control over her future this time around, Clark visited four schools in total: Elon, Delaware and Lipscomb joining ‘Bama with offers for the junior’s services. She visited Tuscaloosa on Aug. 7-8 and officially committed Friday, she told The Sentinel.
And now she’ll get the family atmosphere again.
The team has a motto: Mudita. It’s a Sanskrit word and one of the Four Immeasurables in Buddhism that roughly translates to “unselfish joy, or joy in the good fortune of others,” according to thoughtco.com.
“It pretty much stands for being a competitive but selfless teammate,” Clark said. “That was really eye-opening to me.”
Clark heads to campus Thursday, continuing her accounting major, and she’ll compete for one of three open infield positions — third, short and second — after graduations hit a Tide team that went 36-20 (12-12 SEC) this spring and lost to Washington in the NCAA Seattle Super Regional under their coach of 20 years. She’ll wear the No. 9 once again, the same as her high school uniform, after donning 6 with the Hokies.
She’s eager to win a starting job (nothing was promised her), experience a higher-level of training and compete against one of the top conferences in college softball.
“I’m just looking to go down there and just compete and be the best teammate that I can be,” she said.
Alabama has one NCAA championship and 11 College World Series berths with Murphy in charge, including five regular season and five SEC Tournament titles.