When the Greenbrier High School Lady Wolfpack softball team was ousted from the state playoffs on Oct. 17, it marked the end of the road for Taylor DuPree, Brooke Mackelburg and Lee Anne Rees.
The next day, the three seniors gathered at the Lady Wolfpack’s field, donning their uniforms one last time. For the three who grew up together, eventually winning 117 games in four years at the school, it was an emotional time.
“Putting it back on, it’s like closure, kind of, but not at the same time, it’s like I’m in denial,” said catcher Lee Anne Rees, who had a catch in her voice.
Wearing the uniform brought it home for first baseman Brooke Mackelburg.
“Last night when we lost it didn’t feel like we were done, but now today after putting it back on, it finally feels real that it’s done,” Mackelburg said.
The three stressed the family atmosphere on the team, not just their friendship, and the love and respect they have for their head coach, Garrett Black.
“The bonds we’ve made are incredible and you can’t find a team of sisters like this anywhere else,” said shortstop Taylor DuPree. “That’s why I think it hurts the most. I’ve grown up with these girls from middle school and Lee Anne, we played baseball when we were little. It’s not just leaving Greenbrier, it’s leaving the girls and coach Black, who’s watched out for us on and off the field.”
Black was happy the girls embraced the high school experience to the full extent.
“That’s what I’m proud about with these girls is their loyalty not only to me, but to this school and their teammates,” said Black. “Over the summer, if there was ever (a conflict) with travel ball and Greenbrier High School, they always chose Greenbrier High School.”
While the trio agreed that travel ball helped keep skills up and was good exposure for college recruiters, it didn’t compare to playing for the Lady Wolfpack.
“There’s this picture of us last year when we were all in the same tournament and all on separate teams,” said Rees. ““Having to compete against your teammate, it’s just not what you want to have to do because you know you want the best for them,” interjected DuPree.
It made a difference on the field as well.
“I play so much better in high school ball than I do in travel ball because of the people around me,” said Rees. Mackelburg agreed. “Growing up with these two, they pushed me to do better. In travel ball my first baseman was good, but with Brooke, I know she’s always going to be there, she’ll catch my bad throws, and I don’t have to glance over and make obvious eye contact.”
The end of the season didn’t necessarily mark the end of their softball careers.
DuPree committed to the College of Charleston her sophomore year, Mackelburg committed to Berry College on Labor Day and while she hasn’t committed yet, Rees plans to play collegiately as well.
Even when they head off to college to pursue their different lives: Mackelburg to study nursing; Rees exercise science and DuPree forensic pathology, the bond they have formed in softball and in life will remain.
“Even when we’re separate and we come back together, it’s like we’ve never spent any time apart,” Mackelburg said.