Before becoming the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's softball coach in 2001, Frank Reed started the fastpitch program at Chattanooga State and went 476-87 in 11 seasons with the Lady Tigers.
Before that, he had begun a highly successful run as a youth coach, and even while building the Chattanooga State program he continued coaching the Parker Eagles girls' team that stayed together for nine years and went 458-77 with one Amateur Softball Association national championship, an ASA runner-up finish and seven National Softball Association titles.
That Eagles team got together last Saturday, two days after Thanksgiving, at the UTC indoor practice facility at Warner Park. Players and their families — about 70 people in all — gathered to reminisce and express their thanks for each other, their achievements together and some family members along with their generous sponsor, Jim Parker, who no longer are alive. And they celebrated each other's accomplishments since they played together as the Eagles 20 years ago.
"It was a lot of fun," said Dana Reed Mull, Reed's daughter who has been a sensationally successful coach in her own right, with eight state titles, five GHSA second-place finishes and two thirds in her 15 seasons at Gordon Lee High School.
"It was neat to get to see everybody and see their families — I think we've got like 31 kids between like 12 girls," said Mull, who has two children.
She, Beth Alexander Edgar and Paige Cochrane Pickett finished their college careers playing for Reed at UTC, Cochrane after a year at Ole Miss and another year playing for Reed at Chattanooga State. She is married to Donald Pickett, who assisted Reed at both local colleges and has been the head coach at Northwestern State in Natchitoches, La., for a decade. They have two kids.
Donald grew up in Whitwell, so both he and Paige had reason to be in the area for Thanksgiving weekend.
"We were planning on coming in anyway, but luckily we were able to come to the reunion and see everybody," Paige said.
She did get to see some of her old teammates in September when she, Beth, Dana and Holly Speiser Collett were inducted into the East Ridge High School Hall of Fame, but "before that it had been years since I had seen most them," Paige said.
"But it's funny how you can be away from friends any length of time almost and pick right up, like you've never been apart. "I'm glad Denise (Reed's wife) and Frank — really Denise — took this on."
"It wouldn't have happened if not for her," Reed confirmed.
"Me and Mom kept talking about it for a while," Dana said. "She finally said let's do this, and we talked about the time. Thanksgiving weekend seemed like a good time."
All but one of the seven who were together all nine years made the reunion. The exception was Angela Brewer Johnson, whose husband is the head football coach at Cumberland County High in Crossville. They planned to come, Reed said, but Angela was hit with a stomach virus.
Collett and her cousin, Whitney Williams Fessler, were there. So were some players who came along after the original 10-under year as 9-year-olds. Ashley Sherman was one of those present.
Besides the UTC group, Bethany Roberts Price, Collett, Fessler, Ann Marie Piazza McBryar and LeeAnne Mongar Shurette played at Tennessee Tech, Erin Maas played at Lee and Bretney Jones Layne played at Chattanooga State.
"I've stayed in touch with most of them, but there were husbands and kids we haven't met," said Beth Edgar, who has three young sons involved in multiple sports. "Staying together that many years is uncommon, but pretty much everything about our group is uncommon. We played other sports together, too — we won two state softball championships and one volleyball state together at East Ridge High School.
"We got better together and grew together through the years."
Contact Ron Bush at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6291.