The average blink of an eye takes less than half a second. That’s the exact amount of time it took for everything to change for Taylor Becerra. In an instant, years of games, practices and memories were no longer bound for a storybook ending.
In Arizona State’s April 27 win over Stanford, Becerra dropped a perfect bunt in front of the plate at Boyd and Jill Smith Family Stadium in Palo Alto. Stanford’s catcher Montana Dixon rushed the throw, the only chance she had to get the speedy Becerra at first. The throw bounced past the first baseman and allowed Becerra to head to second.
The senior third baseman never made it to the free bag. Becerra took the turn many ballplayers had been taught when a throw went awry at first base, as she did though, her softball career unexpectedly ended. Agony filled in her face, carried back to the visitors dugout after she had laid on the ground for a few minutes. Becerra didn’t need a doctor, she knew.
“Considering I saw my knee sideways for a split second, I knew it was serious,” said Becerra reliving the moment. “I was kind of preparing myself for the worst, I didn’t get my hopes up. But as soon as I saw their doctor, he told me, ‘I have high suspicion it’s torn.’ I knew right away I had to prepare for the worst, but yeah, I knew by how it felt.”
Officially diagnosed as a torn ACL and partially torn MCL in her right knee, Becerra won’t be playing in ASU’s final home series against Cal this upcoming weekend. The hot corner for the Sun Devils will have a different full-time occupant for the first time in four years as the third baseman cleats won’t touch the bag again.
Stolen by a freak injury, the opportunity to play one last time at Alberta B. Farrington Softball Stadium is gone for Becerra. With a three-player senior class of Becerra, center fielder Morgan Howe and left fielder Skylar McCarty, ‘Club Farrington,’ had been prepared for Senior Day on Sunday since the start of the year. Banners of each senior and the trio together have flown over the bleachers all season.
McCarty, the only person a part of the ASU team that’s been with Becerra through every pitch (Howe transferred from Fresno State before her junior year and ASU head coach Trisha Ford and staff came in after Becerra and McCarty’s freshman year), spoke words filled with emotion. The left fielder’s eyes were quickly surrounded by red as the tears tried to come out.
“It sucks because me and Tay came in together, and now it’s just me. It sucks knowing that I won’t look at third base and see an original freshman with me,” McCarty said. “It didn’t hit me how emotional I was going to be until she sent the text and said, ‘I’m done.’ You don’t want to see anyone go through something like that, especially one of the original girls I came here with, it’s hard. It breaks my heart I won’t see her out there.”
The memories, the accolades collected, and the friendships created in Tempe will still be with Becerra on Sunday as her four-year Sun Devil career will be celebrated. The chance for a swan song walk-off hit or a game-ending double play has evaporated for her. Despite the harsh reality Becerra has been faced with, it doesn’t mean she can’t relish in the thankfulness from a program and its fans.
“I’m going to try my hardest not to be that emotional, but I don’t see that happening. Just taking a step back to realize how far we’ve all come,” Becerra said. “I think when I step back and look at the fans, my parents, my seniors and everyone around me with all the other girls, it just makes me feel thankful that this is where I ended up.”
Held up by crutches, a bulky knee brace strapped to her leg, Becerra won’t allow an event outside of her control to shatter her identity:
“There has to be some reason for this down the line,” Becerra said.
The personality the third baseman holds can be noticed after a few conversations with her. Howe and McCarty were vastly more upset speaking about the injury than the one who suffered it. They conveyed description of the person, not just their teammate, who will finish her career with 151 hits and a .303 average.
“For Taylor specifically, these things don’t happen to people like Taylor,” Howe said. “She’s strong and she’s been telling herself that. Whenever I talk to her about it, it’s the same type of thing that is said. I told Taylor last weekend after that happened, ‘Like look Tay, I’m playing for you, this shouldn’t have happened to you, just know, since I’m still here, these last few games are for you.’ — It’s really sad, it shouldn’t have happened to her. She’s the last person that deserves something like that to happen to her.”
Even on the Monday after ASU’s return from Stanford, McCarty and shortstop Jade Gortarez helped Becerra with simple errands that she needed to do that didn’t require assistance when she was fully healthy.
Becerra was told the date and time of her future surgery were her choice, a bright spot in a rather grim situation. She decided she’ll have one last road trip with her teammates to Oregon to finish the regular season and be with them until the end wherever they end up in postseason.
There’s zero regrets about her softball career. Shortly after the injury, ASU head coach Trisha Ford said that the first thing out of Becerra’s mouth was, ‘At least I was going 100 percent.’
And that’s where the love of the game came into play. Becerra’s devotion to softball outweighs the wretched incident that won’t allow her to finish what she started years ago.
“It’s given me everything,” said Becerra on the sport. “My teammates are my best friends, I’ve been able to travel around the country playing. Just so many opportunities just for a game, and I think that’s something not a lot of people get to do. So, I’m really lucky.”