Tucson, AZ (KOLD) - "He's gonna be there," she said. "At every game."
"He" is Trish Park's guardian angel. Also known as Great Grandpa. Also known as her family's backbone, the man who helped mold Trish into a blossoming softball star. To hear her tell it, if it wasn't for Charles Vansant, there's a strong chance Trish wouldn't be wearing the cardinal and navy of Arizona.
"I always wanted to be number one in his eyes," said Trish. "He was so special to me."
Vansant was her mother's father, an Oklahoma transplant who found his way west to California. He brought with him a passion for baseball, a passion he shared with his sons, grandsons, and one particular great granddaughter. But their bond went deeper than just the love of a game. The two lived in connecting homes and as Trish grew up, Vansant was there to help her along the journey nearly every step of the way.
But of course, the journey included softball.
One day Trish caught sight of Vansant coaching her two cousins. The seed was planted.
"I would ask if I could pitch every opportunity I could get," said Trish. "Catch me grandpa! Catch me! He was like 'okay, let's go.'"
Trish was three-years-old.
On Monday February 9th, Trish turned 19 years old. That same day she was named the Pac-12 Softball Freshman of the Week after a stellar weekend debut. In the three game sweep over Oklahoma State, Trish hit .444 going 4 of 9 at the plate with 5 rbi and 3 runs. She hit a home run in her first collegiate at-bat. As a pitcher, Trish went 2-0 with a 1.80 era and 10 strikeouts in 13 innings pitched. Happy birthday indeed.
Great grandpa wasn't around to celebrate in person. There was no phone call. No email. That's because Vansant passed away February 11th, 2012 after 80 plus years of life. Still, Trish knows better then to let memories linger into sadness. After a long sigh she says...
"I love him so much so I know he's going to be watching over me."