At 15, Birmingham Thunderbolts shortstop Tallen Edwards already knows as much about running a business as many adults. She didn’t have to look far for a successful blueprint. Her father Larry is a private hitting instructor, while her mother Pam has owned a commercial cleaning business with her brother for the past 20 years.
About a year ago, Tallen decided to throw her hat in the entrepreneurial ring by giving softball lessons to young kids in the Moore, Oklahoma area, where she’s lived all her life. She primarily concentrates on defense, speed, agility, and the occasional hitting lesson. She currently works with about 10 kids and manages to fit them in around her own busy school and softball schedule.
“It’s a great experience, and I love doing it,” said Tallen, who just began her sophomore year at Southmoore High, where she plays fall ball. “The biggest thrill is seeing a kid that maybe started from scratch and over the years evolve and grow into the type of athlete they’ve always wanted to become.”
Coming different this szn👀 pic.twitter.com/daGanhjCMp— Tallen Edwards🤍 (@EdwardsTallen) March 6, 2020
The 5-foot-6 right-handed hitter possesses a maturity beyond her years. It began showing itself as early as age 10 when she filled in during a tournament with EC Bullets-Schnute’s 18U team. Her older sister Trenity, now 22, was a member of the squad at the time, so Pam and Larry drove Tallen to Georgia to join her. Tallen did well, although Schnute did not discover her age until after the game.
“Why didn’t you tell me she was only 10?” he asked Pam.
“I didn’t think you’d let her play,” Pam replied. “I wanted to let her show you she could.”
Schnute just shook his head in amazement.
“Wow,” was all he could manage to say.
That encounter eventually led to a regular spot on the Bullets, where Tallen helped capture a Triple Crown Nationals title. She played in the outfield before joining the Thunderbolts two seasons ago. It was always her dream to play the infield, particularly shortstop. Thunderbolts coach Rocky Thompson gave her that opportunity, rotating her between second, third, and short her first season.
This past year, Tallen became the regular shortstop.
“Going into this year, Larry and (Rocky) had a heart-to-heart,” explained Pam, a former shortstop at Oklahoma Baptist University. “Larry said, “Rocky, you’ve got to give her that opportunity to play shortstop”. I will say, he did that. He let her go out, work her butt off, and I feel like she proved herself.”
During her freshman year at Southmoore, Tallen was competing with a senior for the shortstop position. Head coach Jeff Small, who retired following the season, was alternating the two every other game. About 10 games into the season, Tallen approached Small before a game she was scheduled to sit out.
“If you want to win, give me the ball at shortstop,” Tallen said.
Some coaches might consider that a bit bold for a freshman, but not Small. He put her in that day, and Tallen has been the regular shortstop ever since. She made good on her promise, being named to the All-COAC Team and taking the SaberCats to regionals. She led the team in every offensive category except home runs, where she finished third. This season, she missed the first 19 games after spraining her ankle but has been cleared to return.
Tallen lives for the big moments. This summer, the Thunderbolts won both USA Gold Nationals and Atlanta Legacy. Tallen was selected to the All-Summer 18U Gold team.
In a game against the Wichita Mustangs during the Legacy tournament, the Thunderbolts trailed 1-0 in the bottom of the sixth when Tallen came to the plate. She sent the first pitch over the fence for a solo shot that tied the score, and the Bolts went on to win that game and advance. The homer was significant for another reason: it was Tallen’s first as a Thunderbolt.
Hit a bomb today to tie it 1-1 in the sixth, then my great team came right behind me and scored another run to win the game 1-2 😎 pic.twitter.com/frBuia80Qc— Tallen Edwards🤍 (@EdwardsTallen) July 11, 2020
“I literally cried going around the bases,” Tallen recalled. “To be in that moment and be able to help my team and get everyone fired up and back in the groove was something really special.”
During USA Nationals, Tallen batted .353 with a .395 on-base percentage, one home run, 13 RBI, and nine runs scored. But it was her stellar defense in two games against Arizona Hotshots that stood out. In the semifinals, the Hotshots had the bases loaded when Tallen fielded a chopper hit over the third baseman’s head. Without hesitation, she threw home to save a run that would have tied the game.
In the finals, Tallen robbed the Hotshots again when she snared a scorching grounder up the middle, did a 360, and nailed the runner.
My all time favorite play😛! pic.twitter.com/poalBoQMmZ— Tallen Edwards🤍 (@EdwardsTallen) August 6, 2020
“She was solid in the middle for us this year,” Thompson said. “She took away a lot of hits. Some of the (plays) go unnoticed because she just makes them look so easy.”
Since she was six years old, Tallen has had Alopecia, a condition that causes hair loss and currently has no cure. Although it poses few challenges playing sports, Tallen takes every opportunity to raise awareness for other young people with the condition who struggle with confidence.
“The hair, eyebrows, eyelashes… it’s a big thing for girls,” Pam explained. “I’m hoping Tallen can be an inspiration to girls who are depressed and upset about it.”
Tallen initially made a verbal commitment to Missouri in 2017. After the Tigers replaced head coach Ehren Earleywine later that year, she changed her commitment to Ole Miss. Following another coaching change that saw the Rebels hire former Minnesota coach Jamie Trachsel, Tallen again chose to reopen her options. The process has taught her a great deal, and she believes she will be more prepared next September when coaches will again be allowed to contact her.
Thank you Ole Miss. My journey begins again🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/o3cIIIMsqi— Tallen Edwards🤍 (@EdwardsTallen) August 6, 2020
“I honestly think the rule (the NCAA) made was the best decision,” Tallen said. “Obviously, I’ve been through it twice now. It gives kids a better shot to go where they really want.”
When she looks back on all the people who have helped her become the player and person she is today, Tallen can’t help but become emotional.
“I definitely have to give it to my family,” she said. “They’ve not only turned me into an amazing athlete but the type of person that doesn’t give up. I have to give it to the Man above as well, for the blessing, it’s been to be such a young kid and have the opportunities I’ve had…”
Her voice trails off as she chokes back tears.
“The people around me, my teammates and coaches,” she added. “Starting with Greg Schnute, Rocky, and my school ball coaches. They took a chance on somebody that’s young, and I’m blessed enough that I could prove (myself) to them.”