As the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of high school spring sports, local seniors were faced with an abrupt ending to their high school careers. A group of these students were also athletes at the Texas Rangers MLB Youth Academy at Mercy Street Sports Complex, Presented by Toyota. This Rangers Academy Senior Spotlight series seeks to highlight those athletes who have worked on their craft at the Academy as they move into the next chapter in their lives.
Kylie Cox, W.W. Samuell High School
At the end of her sophomore year at W.W. Samuell High School, Kylie Cox was beginning to realize she wanted her softball career to last beyond high school.
“I started playing softball really late, so a lot of opportunities had already passed,” Cox said. “When I fell in love with the game, I knew I wanted to play as long as I could. I worked extremely hard every day, not only on the field, but in school, because I knew if I wanted to play in college, I had to have good grades and play good ball. That was my number one goal.”
Now, Cox is just months away from making that a reality, as she will head to Crowley’s Ridge College in Paragould, Ark., in the fall to major in sports management and play collegiate softball.
Cox maximized her time at the Academy, using recruiting websites to interact with college coaches. From there, she made a few trips to different colleges and camps, but she knew things were different when she got to Crowley’s Ridge.
“I got to go and stay overnight and see what it would be like to attend school there and play softball. I went on a few more visits, but none of them seemed as natural to me,” Cox said. “That’s when I knew that was where I wanted to commit.”
The outfielder is slated to play another season of RBI softball at the Academy this summer, but no matter how that season unfolds with uncertainties around COVID-19, Cox has made her mark at the Academy since her arrival in 2017 -- the Academy’s first season.
She earned a spot on the Jennie Finch Classic team that traveled to Cleveland as part of the All-Star break festivities last season.
Cox was also part of the first Rangers Youth Academy softball team to win a game at the RBI Southwest Regionals in Austin in 2019. That team advanced to the championship contest, thanks to Cox’s game saving catch in the semifinal.
“Any opportunity she had to come out to the Rangers Youth Academy to work on her defense and her swing, she would be out there, asking questions, being attentive and working as hard as anyone,” Texas Rangers Youth Academy director Juan Leonel Garciga recalled.
Her continued development earned the respect of the Rangers Academy staff, who selected her as the Rangers' representative for the Academy Youth of the Year in 2019.
“My favorite memory at the Academy was when I came to a normal day of practice and was awarded Youth of the Year and a trip to Game 4 of the World Series in Washington D.C.,” Cox recalled. “I was really emotional because I had worked so hard for so long and it was an honor to be able to represent my Youth Academy in such a big way.”
Like the rest of the 2020 graduating class, Cox is facing an unexpectedly abrupt transition out of her high school days.
“As someone who has worked extremely hard to get to the rewarding moments like the ones we get as seniors, in school and in softball, it is very hard to know that we will never get the traditional experience,” Cox said.
The captain of her W.W. Samuell squad, Cox is especially missing the opportunity to mentor the underclassmen.
“I always tell the younger girls on my team when they text me that I wish more than anything that I could have been able to finish out this year with them,” Cox said. “If there is anything that I am disappointed in missing out on, it would be the time I would have had with those girls, building bonds and seeing them grow in their softball skills and as people.”
Despite the cancellation of the high school season, she’s still working out at home and staying ready and in shape for the next time she can take the field.
“My goal for myself will always be to work hard even when no one is looking,” Cox said.
Add that to the lessons Cox has learned from the game, and it’s clear she has a bright future.
“The most important thing that I have learned from softball is that failure is a part of life. No one is perfect all the time and it’s not about how many times you fail, it’s about what you do after you have failed that determines who you are,” Cox said. “Since I’ve started playing softball, I have faced many challenges, and even at my lowest point I never gave up.”