“‘I love you, sweet pea,’ and of course that was the last time I spoke to her, September 3,” Angela Price said.
Over Labor Day weekend of 2021, morale was high for Kansas softball Price, then a sophomore from Greenwood, Arkansas, who always had a smile and an infectious aura around her.
On Monday, Sept. 6, Price walked Massachusetts Street in Lawrence with teammate and best friend Kasey Hamilton. The two were shopping as they often did in their free time.
“My roommate [Kaitlyn Gee] was calling Kasey,” Price recalled in an interview with Kansan. “And her car was on Bluetooth and she [Gee] was like, ‘hey, are you with AP [Angela Price]?’ And his voice was a little hoarse. I was like, ‘yeah, I’m right here’, like I just spoke. And she was like, ‘Okay, AP, like, you have to do this every time you park the car. I need you to call your sister.
Price knew something was wrong. At first she thought her dog was dead, but after she got home and called her sister, she immediately knew he was bigger than her beloved pet.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol responded to a motorcycle accident in Leflore County shortly after 7 p.m. according to KOKH-TV. Troopers said Price’s father died at the scene and his mother was in critical condition.
“I remember opening Kasey’s car door. We’re in his driveway, and I just lay down on the driveway; I was throwing up…I felt so helpless. I just lay there, and the next two hours was like a blackout moment. I guess I don’t really remember,” Price said with tears in his eyes.
Moments later, Price’s phone rang again. This time another familiar voice was on the other end – Kansas softball coach Jennifer McFalls. McFalls called to not only provide another layer of support for his player, but to ensure that Price would rejoin his family as soon as possible.
(Courtesy of Angela Price)
“It’s something I’ve never experienced as a coach, dealing with this tragic news and having to go through and, you know, spend this time with my player, but I didn’t want anywhere but to be there with her,” McFalls told Kansan.
Not only did she not want to be anywhere else, but she also went so far as to cancel two fall exhibition games in order to charter a bus for the entire staff and team to Poteau, Oklahoma, for the funeral. of Price’s father. Price exclaimed that there was no better feeling than walking into the building and seeing everyone there for her, including Nicole Corcoran, assistant director of sports administration and student-athlete welfare at the University of Kansas.
“That’s how I knew I was where I needed to be,” Price said of being a Jayhawk. “It spoke a lot about her [McFalls’] heart and where his priorities were, and that his players came first. She was very worried about me and wanted to make sure that not only was she there for me, but the whole team.”
At the time of this interview, Jeffrey Price had been gone for seven months, and Kansas softball was nearing the end of a long, sluggish season – winning in just two of three Big 12 Conference games. Looking back to February, and back even further, such as days after Price’s father passed away, Jayhawk softball began to take shape.
Individual adversity for Price forged an unbreakable bond between 20 special women. Family was everything, and McFalls didn’t just stand up for it – Jeffrey Price did. From start to finish, through thick and thin, Kansas was one, and it showed despite the numbers.
“That’s another reason why this KU softball team is so important to me because we’re very united,” Price said. “There’s just this chemistry in this team that’s unbeatable, and you know what’s impossible to coach, it’s just this bond that we all have. I mean, that’s all my dad m said growing up. And if I didn’t have that, I guarantee you right now I’d be home.
Beyond the team aspect, learning to live without a father figure is a huge adjustment. Price said the days go by where it doesn’t feel like real life, like he’s just a phone call away, but it’s not. Those are the easy days, but what about holidays, birthdays or big games?
However, a rainbow, near or far, reminds Price that his father is really just one step away.
“One of my dad’s co-workers who worked in the oil field sent me a picture of a double rainbow and said, ‘I know your dad is working with me today'” , Price said. “I was like, ‘wow, that’s so sweet, thank you.’ We had a game that day. Sure enough during our game, full double rainbow just over the pitch. I was just like, ‘oh my god, not only does he work with him like he was here watching me play softball.’
(Courtesy of Angela Price)
Now Price is 10 months away from one of the toughest days of his life. And Coach McFalls thinks she just needed some time and space to start regrouping.
“I know she didn’t want to just lay down and quit smoking and not keep working, I know that from her,” McFalls said. “I think she just needed to be pushed and prodded a bit and kicked. It’s like, ‘Come on, you can do it’ and reminded her that she has a life to live too.”