Lady Tiger softball player Candace Blair has signed to play softball at East Georgia College. Blair signed her letter of intent Wednesday surrounded by her family, Tiger coaching staff members and fellow teammates at the Liberty County Recreation Office.
Blair was among the Lady Tigers’ heavy-hitters with 48 at-bats, 20 hits, three doubles, two triples, two homeruns, 11 RBIs and 23 runs scored during her senior season.
She finished the year with a .417 batting average.
And once she got on base, Lady Tiger coach Sharyl Eastlake said, there was no stopping her.
“She was a big homerun hitter, but her strong point is that if you can get her on base, she will score,” Eastlake said.
Blair said EGC Lady Bobcat coach Jordyn Nail plans to see how she plays in centerfield and the infield.
“I love centerfield, and this is like a dream come true,” Blair said. “Not everybody gets a chance to go to school and play sports, and I am happy that I get to do it.”
Blair’s father, Henry Blair, agrees it is a rare opportunity. As the boys’ ninth-grade basketball coach at Bradwell Institute, Blair said he knows the commitment it takes to play at the next level and the mindset required to make it on your own.
“Realistically, you have to be prepared and get used to being away (from family) and, second, you have to continue to maintain your grades,” he said. “Because her softball season happens in the spring, she is going to have to do the right thing all the way up to when the season starts and stay eligible to play.”
Henry Blair said his daughter is staying softball-ready by playing on three travel teams this summer and lifting weights at the gym. He said coach Nail seems impressed that Blair is being proactive in her training.
“It feels great to see that she is able to live out the first stage of her dream and play at the next level. … I just pray that she will make the best of this opportunity,” the athlete’s father said.
Blair’s mom, Andrea, said she has seen her daughter mature and grow, which makes her feel better about Blair venturing out on her own for college.
“To me it was pretty exciting to find out and to know that she did a lot of it on her own as far as contacting schools for tryouts. … I’m proud of her. A lot of people didn’t think she would be able to do it but she proved even me wrong,” she said.
Andrea Blair told her daughter to remain focused and “remember how hard it was to get to where you are.”
Blair will be greeted by a few familiar faces at EGC. Former Liberty County High School Lady Panther standout catcher Charlie Coursey is entering her second season with EGC’s softball team. Blair’s older brother, Jonathan, also is enrolled at EGC, where he will play on the Bobcats’ basketball team under coach Neil Bailey.
Blair’s sibling warned her to steer clear of peer pressure “and just try and do the best at what you do. We are going to have fun together, and I will be able to help her.”
Blair and Coursey were LCRD teammates. Additionally, they were members of the all-star lineup that took the state title last year and were runners up this season. Blair said knowing Coursey is at EGC put her at ease.
“I heard that Charlie plays on the team and she is an amazing player, and I thought at least I will know somebody on the team,” she said.
Delmar McIntyre, who has worked for the LCRD for four years, said he has seen the young athlete grow and progress throughout the years.
“They play in high school and then they come to us and hone their skills. … Watching them play throughout the high school years and then to see them go off to the next level is a blessing for me. You are just so happy to see them go on,” he said.
“She has a big heart and she will give 110 percent wherever the team and coach need her,” Eastlake said. “This is going to be a great learning experience for her. ... She was on the high school team for four years and playing with the same girls, so it is going to be a challenge learning the habits of a different coach, learning the traditions of the school and making new friends and studying. She will have a lot on her plate but I know she can do it. She has matured. She is ready for this. I’m excited for her, and she will add a lot to that team.”
Coach Jeff Eastlake said it’s all up to Blair now.
“Candace has a lot of ability to excel as long as Candace wants to excel,” he said.
Blair said she plans to study physical therapy at EGC.