By Gene Phelps
Special to the Gazette
Raelee Bell sat in her car prior to last week’s NEMSCA slow-pitch all-star softball game at Saltillo High School field … just soaking up the moment.
She was about to play in her first game since having surgery March 29 to repair the torn labrum in her left shoulder. She was injured during a collision with a teammate in East Union’s second fast-pitch game of the season.
“It hurts not playing, missing your senior year,” Bell said. “Just to get out here and play the field, it means a lot.”
Her father, Tim Bell, said Raelee’s goal was to play in the all-star game. The coach, Tupelo’s Dana Rhea, selected her not knowing if she would be cleared for action.
“Her goal was to run on that field, start in the game,” Tim Bell said. “This is exciting for us.”
Bell had surgery on her left shoulder (her catching arm). Her doctor cleared her to only play the field in the all-star game. She started and played all seven innings at second base.
Bell, who was named NEMSCA’s Player of the Year for helping lead the Lady Urchins to a state championship last fall, was not cleared to bat.
She told the Gazette she was “retiring” from athletics following the injury. A few months later that all changed. She signed to play softball this season with Northeast Mississippi Community College in Booneville.
Why the change of heart?
“I didn’t like going out the way I did. I didn’t like going out with an injury,” she said. “Northeast had been recruiting me since my 10th grade year. They were there the night I got hurt.
“When I decided I would play, I told them, ‘I should be playing.’ The next thing you know, I’m signing.”
From a rehab standpoint, Bell is working on strengthening her shoulder. The back of the shoulder, where most of the surgery work was done, is still healing.
“I’m glad it wasn’t my throwing arm,” she said. “I working now to get full movement in my catching arm.”
Ingomar teammates Gara Beth Self and Lauren Thompson singled and hit two home run apiece in the slow-pitch game. Self’s first shot was a two-run homer.
Another Lady Falcon, Carson Grisham, started in the outfield, but didn’t get a hit.
In the fast-pitch game, New Albany’s Savanna Johnson and Alexis Mayo played. Lady Bulldogs coach Evan Pounds and his staff coached one of the teams.
Johnson pitched two innings and singled.
East Union coach Josh Blythe was named NEMSCA’s Coach of the Year in slow-pitch after leading his team to a state title.