07/16/17 — Team USA represents Wayne County in fine style

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Team USA represents Wayne County in fine style

By Justin Hayes
Published in Sports on July 16, 2017 1:56 PM

Her voice, soft in register and laboring through a midsummer cough, furled hurriedly into a sigh -- but didn't break.

It's just tough to describe the transcendental.

Such was the well of  emotion navigated this week by former Charles B. Aycock ace Taylor Waddell, when asked to recall a standout moment from her recent mission trip to Belize, a second-world country in the corridor of Central America with first-world aspirations.  

"There was this little black girl, her name was Asani," Waddell recalled. "And I asked her if she had any brothers and sisters... and she said, 'we are all brothers and sisters in Christ,' and that literally... it was right in the middle of a game, and it makes my heart beat fast now... I think about it every day."

The human condition, it seems, even when displayed in pop-up moments, never ceases to amaze.

But to fully appreciate it, as she did with travel mates Allison Shingleton, Taylor Puetz and Georgia Parnell, well... that's another story.

Throttle down.

Perhaps that best describes how Parnell, the Lady Blues' diminutive, type-A second baseman, reacted when first hearing of the excursion from Team USA head coach Jerry Forbis.  

Her reply to his inquiry regarding the nine-day, 5,790-mile affair was one of pure excitement -- as in, please-let-me-fly-the-plane type of excitement -- a reaction that, in many ways, helped define the overriding spirit of the mission.  

"I wasn't nervous about the trip," she said. "Ever since he (head coach Jerry Forbis) asked me to go, I was like, yep -- let's go."

That's fitting, really, for a young lady who has been known to turn a garden-variety base hit into a standup double.  

Once on the ground -- and past a dodgy run-in with bed bugs --  the ensemble busied about the tasks of its itinerary, which called for the exploration of a different culture's many avenues.  

Moreover, people.  

Following breakfast each morning, the troupe would break into daily devotion, then strike out to parts unknown, half a world away from anything and everything that ever resembled a comfort zone.

Goodbye, Highway 55.

Hello, something called fry jacks.

Together, they adjusted, visiting  hospitals and local schools, praying for the sickly and giving away pricy softball gear -- their own, mind you -- to those in need.

Between its schedule of mission work and games, the outfit also visited a local radio station and appeared in a television spot -- which, quite naturally, morphed its visit into rock star mode.

As the colors of Old Glory went, so too did their ardent followers.

 "After we played our first game on Monday night... players (from opposing teams) kept traveling to see us," Forbis said with a smile.

"That was pretty cool."

After games, the team would loiter on the diamond, praying with its friendly foes and posing for pictures that assuredly  became keepsakes for the hosts.

And ultimately, that's why this worked.  

This version of Team USA -- drafted out of map dots like Eureka, Nahunta, Pikeville and such, was open to learning.

It was led by faith and trust, and didn't travel across the hemisphere to waste time staring at a phone or complaining about what was different.  

It wanted to work.

And it did so, wisely, with the understanding that life in the service of others costs little, but undoubtedly pays the most.