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MHS catcher wins Bryant-Jordan award

Catcher is a softball position that would suit someone who excels in the classroom.

You have the constant line of communication with the pitcher as well as keeping an eye on everything from home plate.

Intellectual prowess can factor heavily on the diamond, and Maplesville High School senior Heather Chambers would know. She was awarded the Bryant-Jordan Scholar Athlete Award at a ceremony along with 95 other athletes representing their regions in Birmingham on Monday.

An ESPN personality spoke to the recipients. They also attended a pre-reception engagement at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.

The award has special meaning to Chambers, whose father also won the award years ago. Along with her school guidance counselor, he encouraged her to apply for consideration. Weeks later, she received a letter in the mail informing her she would represent Maplesville and Chilton County.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” she said. “It was really neat. I was really excited.”

The award was created to recognize and honor Alabama students who have by ability and effort achieved a level of excellence in the areas of academics and athletics that is commensurate with their potential. The program also wants to encourage student-athletes to strive to achieve their personal goals.

Qualifications include a student’s grade point average, class standing and athletic performance. Membership to various school clubs as well as participation in community service also plays a role.

MHS softball coach Ashlie Harrison wasn’t surprised one bit by Chambers’ accolade.

“A lot of the girls look up to her,” Harrison said. “She’s been a leader for a long time. She works extremely hard. Receiving this award didn’t make her think she was better than anyone else. She sets a good example for kids in years to come and for the rest of the team. It shows how good of a leader she can be.”

MHS abides by the no-pass-no-play rule, where students must meet academic obligations before they can play any sport.

“They girls work hard in the classroom and on the field,” Harrison said. “If there are any problems in the classroom, they know and are held accountable for it. Athletes are even held to a higher standard. I think that’s a good thing.”

She said all seniors on the varsity squad will receive advanced diplomas this year.

A Tuscaloosa native who moved to Maplesville at 7 years old, Chambers relishes that leadership role on the field and at home.

“Winning this award is really important to me because I have to be a leader to my little brother and my younger teammates on the softball team,” Chambers said. “You’ve got have good grades to get into a good college.”

It seems Chambers’ grades are indeed good enough. She’ll enroll at Samford University on an academic scholarship.

She insists the dual role of scholar-athlete makes her a better student for several reasons.

“It pushes me to use my time wisely,” she said. “I get home at about 8 or 9 p.m., and it allows me to push myself harder. It teaches me to persevere through the last inning, and that’s the same way in the classroom where I push myself to meet deadlines.

Harrison said Chambers’ best position on the field is actually shortstop. As an eighth grader, she was asked to fill a void behind the plate, which she gladly did. Harrison said Chambers’ ability to see the field at shortstop immediately transferred to catcher, where the coach thinks Chambers is one of the best in the county.

“She might rather play another position, but she’s embraced catcher and been outstanding,” Harrison said.

Chambers is particularly excited about this season, it being her final as a Lady Devil. She began playing for Harrison as a seventh grader and has cherished every season since.

“I love my team,” she said. “This has been my favorite one. We work well together and push each other. There is never any fighting or drama.”

MHS next plays at Jemison High School on Thursday night.

The Bryant-Jordan Scholar Athlete program awards 96 scholarships annually to deserving high school seniors from schools that are members of the Alabama High School Athletic Association.