Home Sports Local Sports A father and daughter’s love through softball

A father and daughter’s love through softball

J.T. Keith File Photo Roswell softball coach Art Sandoval hugs his daughter Sheyanne after her last high school game in 2017, a 5-1 loss to Alamogordo in a state semifinal game.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

It is impossible to tell the story of one without telling the story of the other. They are not joined at the hip, but emotionally and mentally, they are as close as a father and daughter can be. He raised her with tough love, and he loves her tough.

Former Roswell softball coach Art Sandoval loved his daughter, Sheyanne Sandoval from the first time he laid eyes on her. The first time he held her, he cried.

His eldest daughter, Sheyanne (Shey) picked up a bat naturally. At 6 months old, she grabbed a plastic bat and never let go. There were times when Art would watch a baseball game on TV, and Shey would be on his lap watching.

This only fueled her desire to be the best softball player she could be. Not only was softball an unspoken love between father and daughter, but it was an unbreakable bond between the two.

No matter how many doors were slammed at home by Shey, or how deafening the silence in the truck was on the way home after practices and games, Art figured one day his daughter would know how much he loved her, and he was only pushing her to be the best she could be. Art knew the potential in Shey, even if she didn’t see it in herself.

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As a coach, Art didn’t want people to think his daughter was playing because she was his daughter. In fact, he was harder on her than some of the other girls because, right or wrong, he expected more from her than other players on the team.

Art was not doing anything but preparing Shey for the day she would have to stand on her own and make it. That day would be when she would go off to college and fight for whatever she was to have in life and whatever she was to be.

Art was preparing Shey for the day he could not be there to protect her from life’s challenges.

The day when she would have to compete and go after what she wanted in life. He wanted to make sure she was able to stand on her own and make good decisions in life.

Art wanted to make sure that when that day came for her to have to stand up for herself, draw the line in the sand and have to kick some butt, she could do it and keep it moving.

He was hard on her because he knew that when she went to the next level in her life, college coaches didn’t have time to be warm, soft and fuzzy.

No, college coaches’ jobs are to win. Art knew that college athletic scholarships are not guaranteed and if she couldn’t get the job done, the coaches would find someone that can and will. He wanted to introduce her life in college sports as a business.

“My dad works with me a lot,” Shey Sandoval said. “If I’m struggling with something, my dad will work me out and help me. He prepared me well for college. He doesn’t yell as much now, as when I played for him.”

No, Art knew that winners don’t always win all the time, but he knew if Shey gave her best effort, competed day in and day out and had a winner’s attitude, she would be fine in life.

The one lasting memory Art had was of his daughter being distraught after losing to Alamogordo, 5-1, in the state semifinal game. Roswell had two games in one day, and it was too much to overcome. The Lady Coyotes had to come back and beat Bloomfield, 4-2 in nine innings — which was tough on the team — and then, two hours later play Alamogordo.

“Shey was crying,” Art said. “Shey told me ‘she loved me.’ I realized then it was over with. I would never get to coach her again on the softball field. At that moment as a father, I wanted to ease her pain. That loss summed up everything we had been together as father and daughter. All the times in the backyard, all the Sunday afternoon practices. All the times we would grab ice cream after working out. All the times I wanted to love on her just because she was my kid. It was over!”

“I was upset,” Shey Sandoval said, “because I knew it was the last time I would play for my dad. I was just taking it all in. I was pretty sad about it, I thought about my favorite win with him at Piedra Vista, and all my emotions just came out when we lost.”

After her career was over with at Roswell, Shey went to play at Trinidad State Junior College. In her freshman year, she started as a catcher and played at shortstop. As a freshman, she hit .313, with 46 hits and six home runs and ended up hitting the walk-off single to win regionals, 3-2.

“Going to Trinidad was one of the best things I’ve done,” Shey Sandoval said. “Coach Swazo prepared me for college softball.”

Not happy with her freshman year, she came home and went to work over the summer. As the team’s starting shortstop, she hit .460 with 64 hits and 13 home runs. Recruited by a lot of major colleges and Division I schools, Shey was looking for a place to play, and get the best education available.

“She was always athletically sound,” Trinidad State coach Steve Swazo said. “Shey just got stronger with us and hit the ball hard. One of the keys for her was, she was able to stay injury-free. I believe if she doesn’t get down on herself, she can have a very productive career at Oklahoma Baptist University. She’s her own worst critic.”

Shey chose Oklahoma Baptist University because the Bison offered everything she was looking for: education, playing top-level competition and good coaching. OBU will play the Oklahoma Sooners next year among other elite softball schools.

Bisons’ coach Sam Maples feels that Sheyanne is an essential part of the team’s early success in the conference this year (10-2 in conference, second in the GAC).

“She was the glue to our infield,” Oklahoma Baptist coach Sam Maples said. “In terms of vocal leadership and defensive skills. She brings confidence to our team on game day (that) we all crave, and you can’t help but notice her unwillingness to quit no matter the score. You love that as a coach, in fact, you need that from your players as a coach.”

Maples shared a story about Shey during one conference game. Maples passed by Shey in the dugout after the Bisons had scored a few runs on their way to a comeback win.

“‘Hope you’re ready for another series sweep Coach Sam,’ Shey said with a smirk. We were losing by six runs in the seventh inning, but Shey knew we would win. Shey loves to compete and our team follows suit.”

Shey had a great year defensively with a .938 fielding average, and only made three errors in 48 defensive opportunities.

Offensively, Shey was seeing the ball well, batting .324 while striking out twice. The highlight of her season was when she went 3-for-4 in a game this season. She is a team player and finds a way to get on base, she does whatever the team needs.

“I am grateful to her coach at Trinidad State, Steve Swazo,” Maples said, “for tipping me off about Shey early in the recruiting process. We were able to watch her compete and get to know the Sandoval family and knew we couldn’t miss her.”

Maples feels like Shey was what the team needed both on the field and off the field. In building the culture at OBU, Maples was looking for someone with a drive to win, to put in the extra work, and to encourage others to do the same.

“We hope to see Sandoval take the field in Bison gear for two more years along with many others,” Maples said.

Due to COVID-19, the Bisons’ season was cut short after 12 games, but their athletes will have an opportunity to gain back that year of eligibility.

“I feel like all of my coaches have pushed me to levels I didn’t know I had,” Shey said. “All my coaches believed in me, and all of them were hard on me because they knew I could take it. I feel like they push me to be the best me I can be.”

Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or sports@rdrnews.com.


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