Dean remembered

Published 12:02 am Saturday, March 24, 2012

The red ribbon is worn in memory of Kirsten L. Dean. | File photo

Lumpkin: (Kirsten) loved softball more than anything

Late in the spring of 2004, Kirsten L. Dean’s locker was easily recognized from the others in the hallway of Straughn Middle School.

Pasted on the bright metallic exterior were love notes from classmates, teammates and close friends, wishing for a speedy recovery from injuries Dean sustained in an auto accident only five days prior.

A few days later, on April 17, 2004, Dean died from her injuries, and one year later, the Kirsten L. Dean Memorial Softball Tournament was born.

To this day, teams from around the county still play in the tournament in Dean’s memory, her mother, Lee Lumpkin, said.

“(Kirsten) loved softball more than anything she had done,” Lumpkin said. “She cheered and did a lot of other things.”

Like many girls starting out playing softball, Dean had to play with the boys, Lumpkin said.

Dean started on Straughn’s varsity squad when she was in eighth grade, and wanted so badly to play under the lights, her mother said.

“They were getting ready to put the lights up at the stadium right at the time of the accident,” she said.

Lady Tigers coach Trent Taylor was Dean’s softball coach then, and when the tournament began in 2005, Ray Wilson took the helm.

Lumpkin said she talked with Taylor on Thursday about how great it is that the girls want to play for Kirsten, and that “they want to win.”

“It’s like they want to do it for us,” she said. “We’re lucky in the Straughn Community.”

To this day, Lumpkin said she still sees how much of an affect her daughter had on so many through her initials shown on many former and current students’ shirts.

“Kirsten made a lasting impression,” she said. “It’s inspiring to see the mark she left and the legacy that continues of the memory of what they heard about her.”

So today, eight years after the first pitch of the first KLD softball tournament, the first pitch will be slated for 8 a.m. between Straughn and Andalusia at SHS.

Lumpkin said she remembers the first tournament that was played in her daughter’s honor quite well.

She said she still gets emotional every year.

“She should’ve been on second base,” Lumpkin said about that day in 2005. “That was the position she loved to play more than anything.

“We had the lights (on at the field),” she said. “It was just like a big hole. She wasn’t there. Those girls wore the red ribbons. That was just a tough year.”

And even now, Straughn’s varsity softball team still wears the red ribbons in Dean’s honor and memory.

“I would really like to thank our coaches and community for continuing this in her honor,” Lumpkin said. “It means a lot to our family.

“Please, come out and support the girls and the girls from the other schools,” she said. “That means a lot to me as her mother, that they want to come back and play in this tournament.”