All in the family: From players to PA announcer, Fullers do it all for Lady Vikes

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 12, 2004

Warren Central eighth-grader Tiffany Fuller, left, gets a high-five from her sister, seventh-grader Mandy, during a Lady Vikes’ victory on Tuesday. The two sisters, along with junior Brittany Fuller, give the Lady Vikes a true family feeling. (Melanie Duncan ThortisThe Vicksburg Post)

[4/10/04]It’s 7 o’clock, do you know where your three daughters are, Rhea Fuller?

A good bet would be on Warren Central’s softball diamond, with Rhea himself not far behind.

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The Fullers have turned the Warren Central softball program into a true family affair with sisters Brittany, Tiffany and Mandy playing for the Lady Vikes, Rhea calling out the names as the public address announcer and Liz, the family matriarch, the devoted fan.

“I’ve had sisters on the same team, and I coached three sisters from the same family, but this is the first time that they’ve all been on the same team at the same time,” said WC coach Lucy Young, who will lead the Fullers and the rest of the Lady Vikes into the Class 5A state playoffs today against Ocean Springs. “They are grounded in softball, and have been playing for a long, long time.”

Both parents have softball backgrounds, but it was a decision Brittany made many years ago that led all of them down the path to softball.

“I had ballet for a little bit,” said Brittany, a junior and the team’s second pitcher. “I remember my dad asking me one day what will it be, softball or ballet? I knew (dad) would be disappointed if I picked ballet, so I picked softball.

“I think the other two were predestined to play because I had already started.”

That decision has led the sisters to hundreds of summer games, private lessons and camps. Softball in the Fuller household is a year-round activity, and is never limited to just games.

“We talk softball all the time,” said Tiffany, an eighth-grader and, as Young put it, the most natural outfielder she has.

Both Tiffany and Mandy, a seventh-grader, are still in junior high, and each day before practice or a game, Brittany will drive over to pick them up. One time, Mandy recalled, they almost didn’t make it.

“She looked down and her fuel light was on and she ran out of gas,” Mandy said with a chuckle. “But daddy came and got us, and brought us to the field.”

All three are keenly aware of Rhea in the pressbox. Leaning out one of the small windows, he announces starting lineups, then each player’s at bat.

“I like it because there are a lot of people who don’t have their parents watching them,” Mandy said.

All three know that they are being critiqued from above.

“Just the other night, I released too early on my rise ball and immediately my eyes shot up to the press box,” said Brittany, the everpresent wide smile occupying her face. “He was sitting there nodding at me like, Yeah. you know.'”

All three bring a different element to the game. Brittany plays outfield when she’s not pitching. Tiffany is fleet of foot and controls right field. Mandy is the Lady Vikes’ heir apparent at catcher.

“We complement each other so well,” Brittany said. “Tiffany and I like to play outfield, and Mandy is an awesome catcher.”

The Fullers will need to be on high alert this afternoon. Ocean Springs brings the state’s 15th-ranked squad into Lady Vikes field. With a 21-5 record, the Lady Hounds will provide a stiff test to the young Lady Vikes.

“We’ve heard that they have a really good pitcher,” Mandy said. “We’ll have to come out and play hard if we want to win.”

The Lady Vikes (10-8) will play a doubleheader today starting at 3 p.m. Two wins will advance either team to the second round of the playoffs. If the teams split, they’ll play a deciding third game on the Gulf Coast on Monday.

Either way, all three Fullers and their parents will return for another season with the Lady Vikes, something Young is looking forward to.

They know the game so well because of the way they were brought up,” Young said. “They’ve been around it for so long, they really know the game well.”