by Duane Cochran for FightingFalcons.com
Tough decisions are nothing new to Brittany Tallhamer. She's made a number of them in her relatively young life.
But the one she faced at the end of last spring was a real challenge for the former two-sport standout from Parkersburg South High School.
“I graduated last year with a degree in exercise physiology and at the time I really wasn't sure what I wanted to do,” said Tallhamer. “I had one more year of softball remaining if I wanted it, but there was also a part of me saying maybe it's time to end this and get on with the next chapter of my life. Athletics have been such a big part of my life since I was little, but academics are also very important to me too. Eventually I want to go to physical therapy school so I knew I had a tough choice to make and I seriously contemplated it for a while.”
Tallhamer found her answer during conversations with her late grandmother Donna Carder, who passed away this past November at the age of 75.
“I love my grandmother so much,” said Tallhamer. “She's had such a positive influence on my life and it's because of her that I decided to enroll in grad school and finish my final year of softball. We talked and she told me 'You know Britt you're always going to regret it if you don't play your last year of softball. Do your master's, play ball and everything will work out in the end.'
“I'm playing this season for her and I'm so happy I made the decision I did because I know she was right. I'm just sorry that she's not here to watch me play and enjoy it with me, but I know on some level she is here with me. Her photo is the background on my phone and before every game I take a long look at it before I pack it away. I also wore eye black patches with her initials on them as kind of a tribute to her. It's just been a way I can honor her and put some closure on tough loss in my life.”
Tallhamer came to Fairmont State in the fall of 2007 to play volleyball. She played libero and tallied 274 digs as a true freshman. After one season of exclusive volleyball, however, she found herself missing softball and after FSU's softball program inked her former high school teammate and good friend Abbey Wilson Tallhamer opted to try her hand at being a two-sport college athlete. A bout with mononucleosis cost her the entire 2008 volleyball season and in the spring of 2009 she opted to focus her attention exclusively on softball. Since then she's started close to 200 games for the Falcons, is a career .324 hitter and has 28 career doubles, 20 career home runs and 115 career RBI.
“I enjoyed both sports, but softball was always a little more fun for me and it seemed to come a little easier too,” she said. “After playing the 2009 season with softball I knew that's where I wanted to be.”
Tallhamer is FSU's regular first baseman and without question is the team leader both vocally and in terms of her outstanding organizational skills.
“I'll be honest with you I don't know what we're going to do without her next year,” said veteran FSU softball coach Rick Wade. “She's a special person and a special player. She's tough and demanding on herself and really everyone on this team. She sets high standards and does her best to live up to them. She's pretty much started every game she's played in for us. The only games she's missed is when she's been sick.
“Off the field she takes care of so many of the little important details that quite frankly I don't have time to take care of. I rely so much on her. The girls call her our team mom and that's really what she is. She takes care of everyone. She picks what uniforms we're wearing, she texts everyone and lets them know what time practice is, she gives advice to anyone who needs it on softball, academics and every day life problems. She really does it all for us and does it extremely well.”
Wilson, who along with Tallhamer, is the only other senior on FSU's roster agrees.
“Brittany is kind of the glue of our team,” said Wilson. “She's the one which makes us jell and keeps things organized and running smooth for us both on and off the field. If we're on the field and something bad happens she's the first person we all look to for what do we do next. Inevitably she has the answer. She'll be like 'It's all right let's keep it going or let's do this or that.' She has a calming effect on our team and yes she is the so-called mother or big sister to all of us. We rely on her a lot.
“One of the other interesting things about her is she's incredibly busy outside of softball with school and work. I think I'm busy, but she's worse than me. I honestly don't know how she does it, but she does and I really admire her for that.”
In addition to being one of the softball team's leaders, Tallhamer is working on her master's degree in exercise physiology, works as a graduate assistant 20 hours a week in FSU's Office of Institutional Research and works on the side as a personal trainer 10 to 20 hours a week.
She recently learned her master's thesis and project on vision eye training is going to be published. She'll be leaving for San Francisco at the end of May and beginning of June to present it.
As the Falcons wrap up the regular season and prepare for the annual West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Softball Tournament in Vienna near Tallhamer's hometown of Parkersburg she says she's experiencing a wealth of mixed emotions.
“I try not to think about my career coming to an end and just play, but that's tough to do,” she said. “I'm excited about my future. I have one more year of graduate school and I'm going to apply for physical therapy school in October which is something I really want to do.
“Softball, though, is something I'm going to miss. So many people have had such a positive influence on me from my coaches and teammates here to my mother and father (Julie and Randy Tallhamer). My dad coached me in summer ball and has really been the person who helped me develop into the player that I am. I can be struggling and he'll watch me, point out what I'm doing wrong and fix it just like that. He has always given me the positive reassurance that I need when I'm on the field. If it wasn't for him I wouldn't be where I am today.
“Then there's my mother who has also been very supportive of me and our entire team. She's the perfect mom. They call me the team mom, but that's really my mom. She's the team's hairdresser, the one who always brings us snacks in the dugout and the one always taking pictures of us. She treats everyone like it's her own kid. I'm very thankful for her. Even my brother Randy, who plays on the baseball team here at Fairmont but is redshirted this season because he tore his meniscus, has been very supportive of me. I feel bad for him because he's injured, but he's been able to come to more of my games this spring and I appreciate that.
“That's been a blessing for me. I've had a great experience here at Fairmont State both academically and athletically. Looking back I don't think I'd change a thing. I made some good choices.”