By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Dani Price was on the ultimate high as a 17-year-old Baylor softball camper in 2006, when the Humble Kingwood junior infielder won the camp “Glue” award and also accepted the call to follow Christ. “I remember I felt like I was on top of the world,” she said.
That feeling changed a few moments later when associate head coach Mark Lumley told her she might want to keep her options open, “they were no longer recruiting me,” Price said.
“It was hard, because this is where I wanted to come play. I loved it here,” she said. “I could really just see myself playing here.”
Painfully, that door shut, but another one opened seven years later when Price enrolled in the new sports ministry program at Truett Seminary and finally became a part of the Baylor softball program.
“I really can’t say enough about Coach (Glenn) Moore,” said Price, who is leaving after four years to take a full-time assistant coaching position at McNeese State, her alma mater. “He’s been like a father figure to me. You only get rewarded when people give you a chance. I emailed him out of the blue, and he remembered me from seven years earlier and said, ‘Hey, come by and say Hi.’ I don’t know what it was, but he gave me a chance.”
As important as the last four years were in developing her as a softball coach, though, Price’s lasting memory of Baylor is the place where she first learned about Jesus dying on the Christ for everyone.
“I remember standing there thinking, ‘Even me?’’’ she said. “It was just that little kid-like faith that said, ‘Wow, there’s a God who created me that loves me that much.’ . . . The night before, Coach Moore led a prayer, and that was the first time I had ever heard the gospel. It was June 21, I still remember the day. The whole thing talked about running the race. That made it athletic, and it was my language. And I was like ‘OK, this makes sense.’’’
At that point, she didn’t even own a Bible. Price borrowed the Gideon Bible from the hotel “just to fit in with everybody else,” Moore said.
It struck the Baylor head coach just how much Price had grown when he asked her to speak to a youth group earlier this year, and she jumped at the chance.
“I said, ‘Dang, Dani, a lot of people would have hem-hawed around and tried to get out of it,’’’ Moore said. “She jumped right on it. And she said, ‘Coach, I don’t like to speak in front of people on most subjects, but I can talk to anybody about Jesus.’
“That tells you how far her faith has grown from the time she came to Baylor as a camper, just wanting an opportunity to play here. And that’s what Baylor should be about. We’re not about bringing in every kid that’s got a solid foundation in Christ. We’re about bringing in whoever God sends us and trying to help mold them into being the person He wants them to be.”
When Price committed to play softball at McNeese State, she received a postcard from Lumley, saying, “Congratulations, so happy for you! I think you’re going to fit in great there.”
“I just remember thinking, ‘What good people,’’’ Price said. “That’s always been Lum to say, ‘Hey, I’m proud of you, love you. Even though you’re not with us, we’re still rooting for you.’’’
At McNeese, Price was a four-year starter (2009-12), hitting .231 with 35 extra-base hits, 89 RBI and a .950 fielding percentage. She was also named to the Southland Conference Commissioner’s Honor Roll four times and graduated in 2013, majoring in health and kinesiology and minoring in math.
“I had a couple teammates that went to FCA, and I went to church with them,” she said. “When someone’s walking the walk right beside you, you’re like, ‘Oh, OK, this is what I’m supposed to be doing.’ I didn’t really have that before.”
It was during her senior year at McNeese that her FCA director told her about then-athletic director Tommy McClelland visiting Baylor and meeting with Athletics Chaplain Wes Yeary about the new sports chaplaincy/ministry program at Truett Seminary.
“I was originally going to get my master’s in math, just because I’ve always had an analytical brain for math, so it’s kind of easy for me,” Price said. “That would have been miserable. Sports ministry combined the two things I loved the most.”
The circle complete, Price was finally getting a chance to go to Baylor, this time for seminary. By chance, she also reached out to Moore, who said the only role he could offer her at the time was as a student manager.
“I’m thinking there’s probably a zero chance that somebody that had played college softball would humble themselves and become a servant to those younger than her that were doing what she had already done,” Moore said.
Price jumped at the chance, “just getting my foot in the door,” with a chance to stick around the sport. “There were some nights where I would be doing laundry at 1 in the morning and thinking, ‘I did not think this is what it would be.’’
It was one of the best decisions she could have ever made. Price was part of the 2014 World Series team that upset Georgia in the Super Regional and rallied from a seven-run deficit to beat Kentucky, 8-7, in eight innings in the greatest comeback in the history of the WCWS.
The next year, when Pete Vamvakas left to take an assistant coaching position at Southern Miss, Moore gave Price the chance to step into an enhanced role as the volunteer assistant and first base coach.
"There are not many things in this world that I’m confident about. I have a lot of insecurities,” Price said. “But, the one thing that I feel extremely confident about is coaching this sport. It’s almost out of body, because I love it, it’s just natural. . . . I remember thinking, ‘I can do this. I don’t want you to have any doubt, because I really feel like this what I’m supposed to do.’’’
While “volunteer” was in her title, Dani was definitely a coach. She worked with the outfielders that first year, helping freshman Jessie Scroggins earn All-Big 12 Defensive Team honors.
“From the girls’ perspective, they had someone coming from washing their clothes and doing their laundry to trying to help them hit?” Price said. “The coolest part is building those relationships, that trust. I remember throwing batting practice to Ari (Hawkins), and she was struggling, and finally she said, ‘What am I doing?’ So, I was like, ‘All right, this is what I see. And if I were you, this is what I would try.’ I saw her try it, and I remember thinking, ‘This is cool.’’’
A third baseman herself, Price switched to coaching infield the last two years. She helped senior third baseman Sarah Smith earn first-team All-Big 12 and all-region honors last year, and then Lindsey Cargill snagged All-Big 12, all-region and second-team All-America honors this season after moving from the outfield to third base.
“Mark (Lumley) did something pretty phenomenal. He stepped down and let her coach the infield to help train her,” Moore said. “We had her coaching the outfield, but to help her become more of a complete coach, she wanted that opportunity. So, Mark moved back to the outfield – he can coach any position, anyway – but she moved to the infield and that helped her developing into a more well-rounded coach and improve her resume.”
That paid off when Price was formally introduced last Monday, June 26, as the new assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at McNeese State, joining head coach James Landeneau and former college roommate Katie Roux.
“It feels a little bit like going home,” she said, “because it’s my alma mater. When you come from a place you love so much, it’s so easy to want to go back and invest in it. It’s really hard to be excited, because I’m leaving this, but I really am super excited.”
The hard part was saying her goodbyes at Baylor. Eleven years to the day after she accepted Christ as a Baylor camper, 15 girls made that same decision on June 21. The next day, she shared her story in front of the whole group.
“Coach Moore gave me a really sweet introduction, while also saying goodbye,” said Price, who will graduate from seminary in August, “and I absolutely lost it. He hands me the microphone, and I’m just a blubbering mess in front of these campers. . . . It’s not what I was planning to say, but I just told the campers, ‘Surround yourself with people who love you and that you love, because that’s what makes everything worth it.’’’
Moore, who has Dani’s name written in his Bible – along with every other camper and player of his who have accepted Christ – said Price will be hard to replace. But, he is excited for her opportunity, and “I’m going to be a big fan of hers.”
“As I’ve told many people over the last six months,” Moore said, “we’re going to see her on TV one day as a head coach of a program. She’s that good.”