In today’s episode of This Hits Different, Shelby Cassesse tells the story of the Stein family, which has helped turn around the Jeannette softball program while honoring their daughter.
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Wherever the Jeannette softball team goes, a jersey with the number 11 goes with them. It has hung in the dugout for almost all of their games over the last seven years, with the person who wore it at the center of their pre-game prayer.
“These girls, who most of them don't even know her, are wanting to continue to do it, too,” says Dody Stein.
It belonged to Scarlett Stein, Dody’s daughter, who was a standout softball player for the Jayhawks. She began as an all-star player on local baseball teams before transitioning to fast pitch.
“She enjoyed it,” says Tubby Stein, Scarlett’s father. “One day, the one coach asked who wanted to be a pitcher, and she raised her hand, and I was like, ‘oh no, I know nothing about it.’ I said, ‘I don't want to go through this.’ She's like, ‘I want to do it, dad.’”
Scarlett would have graduated as valedictorian from Jeannette in 2017, but one day that winter, she collapsed.
She was in the hospital for several days for tests, and it seemed she would be okay to go home.
But her mother Dody says the night before they were set to pick her up, they got a call.
She went into cardiac arrest and ended up passing away.
“It was just something maybe genetic, we don't know,” Dody says.
For Dody, her husband Tubby and youngest daughter Grace, coping with such a devastating loss was unbearable.
Throwing themselves into softball in honor of Scarlett has been a key part of their journey through grief.
“We had some really rough years, very rough years, but we're in a better place now, trying to help the Jeanette community and the girls,” Dody adds.
The Steins had been involved with coaching for years, but never for the school team. The opportunity came up a few times, but it finally felt right a few years ago. Tubby and Dody took the reins just before Grace entered high school.
“The first day of my first practice, I opened the garage door and her jersey was hanging there,” says Tubby.
Grace, now a freshman, is Jeannette's standout pitcher, wearing number 11 — just like her sister.
“She's definitely my biggest inspiration,” Grace says. “And every time I'm in the mound, I always think about her and I pray to her and ask her for me to do good.”
And the Jayhawks, who went a combined 2-31 in 2021 and 2022, just went 12-5, advancing to the WPIAL quarterfinals.
For the Stein family, there are few better ways to honor their sister and daughter, a fierce competitor who loved to win.
“We did really bad last year, and we definitely improved, so she would definitely be proud of our team,” Grace says.
Dody adds: “I think she'd be a big supporter. She'd be at every game. She'd be ecstatic. She'd be yelling at the girls and telling them what they're doing wrong and what they're doing right.
“She's one of our driving forces to do what we do.”