Taylor Middlebrook's softball career could have ended when she was 6 years old. Over and over, she would strike out.
"I would always swing before the ball ever (got) there -- sometimes even before the pitcher released it. I just swung. It was because I couldn't see. They finally figured I needed glasses," Middlebrook explained.
Needless to say, Middlebrook narrowed her focus on softball and will be a player making a huge jump in the 2020 Hot 100 rankings this month.
Both parents were athletes -- Tyrone was a football player at the University Georgia and Marcia a basketball player. As Taylor grew older, she preferred playing catch outside over shooting hoops.
"Come on you gotta dribble with your left hand," Marcia would say.
"But I want to throw," Taylor replied. "When I wanted to play softball it kind of threw them off."
Naturally, Taylor looked to both parents as potential throwing partners, but that didn't end well.
"[Mom] is so scared to throw with me," she said. "Even when I was 8, she would be so scared. She would catch the ball to the side and then she would complain about how hard I throw. She doesn't throw with me. Not even when I started pitching when I was younger."
Dad took the competitiveness of throwing to a level that Taylor did not have a taste for, so she looked elsewhere. In the town of Douglasville, Georgia, Taylor acquired best friends who also played softball and they would play catch.
Neighborhood catch evolved quickly into competitive travel ball and Taylor soon realized that playing college ball could be a reality. During the Birmingham Thunderbolts 5-Star Exposure Showcase, she wowed coaches by hitting five bombs during the tournament. SEC schools began flocking to her games -- except for the one school she was looking for.
"Mississippi State was always my No. 1 school but they never came to watch me. I finally got to go to one of their camps which was last year and they saw me. I fell in love with the coaches and they fell in love with me. So the feelings were pretty mutual after that," Taylor said.
Beyond the verbal commitment, softball has changed Taylor's life.
Softball has taught me about dedication and commitment. Because if you stick with it through the end, a sense of accomplishment will be achieved and that works for me in all areas of my life: school, softball, and friendships.
Taylor MiddlebrookHometown: Douglasville, Georgia
Club Team: Birmingham Thunderbolts - Roberson
High School: Chapel Hill
Grad Year: 2020
Hot 100 Rank: No. 97
What do you like to do off the field? When I'm not playing softball, you can find me hanging out with my best friends at the mall or at the park.
What is the strongest part of your game? Fielding would be the strongest part of my game. Then it would be base-running. Fielding because I enjoy doing it. I can do it with my eyes closed. I enjoy it a lot.
Favorite Pump Up Song: 'Get Like Me' by David Banner
Dream Vacation: Puerto Rico
Dream Car: White Tesla
Dream Job: Physician's assistant
Favorite Book: To Kill A Mockingbird
Celebrity Crush: Chris Brown
Favorite Thing In The Closet: Michael Kors shoes
Describe yourself in one word on the field and off the field
On the field: Leader
Off the field: Cool
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