Linden High School softball head coach Valerie Tauriello at the home of senior Ayanna Heyward, after dropping off a poster and jar of dirt from their home field for Senior Day.
By Gary Miller
Just because there has been no spring sports season is no reason not to have Senior Day. And since the Linden High School softball team can’t gather on the field, head coach Valerie Tauriello brought the field to them.
“I love to coach, and I love to spend my time developing student athletes and supporting them in all they wish to be,” Tauriello said. “This year was particularly difficult; my heart was breaking for my softball team and even more so for my seniors.”
To help ease her eight seniors’ pain of losing their final season, Tauriello visited each of their homes to drop off mementoes of their years as a Tiger. She enlisted help from her underclassmen to create a poster for each of the seniors, and she gave each a mason jar of dirt from their home field.
“These young women are amazing and they deserve to be celebrated for their commitment not only to the sport of softball but to the community of Linden,” Tauriello said. “I figured since they wouldn’t be able to set foot on our home field this season, why not bring a little piece of the field to them.”
Athletic Director Steven Viana said that all of the LHS spring coaches are working on a special tribute to their seniors who have missed out their final season. He praised Tauriello for her initiative in showing her players how much they are missed.
“She is an amazing coach and amazing person,” he said. “We were all heartbroken at the loss of our spring season, but this kind of celebration shows all our players that they are not forgotten and that they will always be part of the Linden Athletics family.”
Tauriello, who is also a physical education teacher at Soehl Middle School, went to the team’s home softball field at Memorial Park and individually filled each jar with dirt from what would have been that senior player’s position this season.
“These seniors not only made time to play softball, they spent countless hours volunteering their skills and dedicating their time to the community,” she said. “They are an incredible group of young women who deserve to be celebrated, and I’m truly saddened that they won’t get the senior year that they all hoped for.”
Each mason jar of dirt – with a little grass thrown in for the outfielders – has a home-plate-shaped tag attached that reads: “On this dirt you’ve literally left it all, blood, sweat and tears. You’ve made friendships that will always be part of you. You’ve fought side-by-side girls who can relate how bad you want to win. This dirt holds your laughter as tightly as it holds your frustration. Life goes on off this dirt, but nothing can compare to the feeling you get while standing on it. Each time you look at this jar of dirt, know in your heart what it stands for and remember these years and all the wonderful memories it holds.”
Tauriello let each of the seniors know when she would be coming so that she could make her special delivery while maintaining social distancing.
“It filled my heart with joy to see them smiling alongside their families,” she said. “Although their Senior Day was not what we wanted it to be I wanted to make sure somehow and someway that they felt special, because they are.”