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Photo by Todd Lester.
Mary Katherine Tedder deflects the spotlight any chance she gets, but there’s no denying that she is a powerful force on and off the softball field.
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Photo by Todd Lester.
Mary Katherine Tedder has signed to play at the University of Texas after her days at Spain Park High School are completed.
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Photo by Kyle Parmley.
One of teammate Caroline Parker’s favorite moments with Tedder was this embrace, after the Lady Jags clinched a state tournament berth.
Something is different about Mary Katherine Tedder.
There is a quiet intensity that burns deep inside, a competitiveness that drives her, an unwillingness to lose in anything, whether it is the softball state tournament or a ping-pong match with her coach.
Spain Park High School’s runner-up finish in the state softball tournament last season was a great accomplishment for the program, but the loss in the championship game was the “worst feeling in the world” for Tedder. Losing that trivial ping-pong match was not nearly as crushing, but it still bothered her.
That competitive fire burns like a blowtorch, especially in big moments. When the bases are loaded in the final inning, Tedder isn’t shaking at the knees or having a case of the sweaty palms.
“It’s just another opportunity to be great,” she said.
Those are the things one would expect to hear from a star.
She can, however, turn the pilot light off at a moment’s notice, transitioning into the type of teammate and friend who prompts peers to seek and enjoy her presence.
If urged, Tedder is the type to walk into a local restaurant and yell, “Welcome!” because she has been convinced that doing so will net her a free sandwich.
Tedder is the one of the main cogs in goofy videos the team makes and the instigator of spontaneous dancing.
She’s one of the players teammates run to after a big victory, particularly in last year’s regional tournament after Spain Park clinched a spot at the state tournament.
Those are not necessarily the things one would expect to hear from a star.
Dodging the spotlight
Tedder has played on Spain Park’s varsity team since she was in seventh grade. She has grown to be the main catalyst for the Lady Jags, playing shortstop and being the most feared presence in the middle of the lineup.
She has signed to play at the University of Texas for coach Connie Clark. She holds the Spain Park record with 20 home runs in a single season, set last year. She received countless postseason accolades and should be accustomed to the attention.
But when she walks into coach C.J. Hawkins’ classroom and sees a short article titled “Tedder named NFCA All-American” at the front of a standing file on Hawkins’ desk, she is not thrilled about it.
“I wish I wasn’t [displayed] first,” Tedder said.
When Tedder shows up for an interview, she wants to know what the topic is. When she is told she is the subject of the conversation — the subject that should be the easiest to discuss in-depth — she hesitantly continues. A series of questions about herself are met with muddied responses that display a desire to move on to a different point of discussion.
But when her teammates are mentioned — specifically the senior class — her face lights up. That answer is easy.
“My class has definitely been there through it all and been through a lot of different adversities through the years,” Tedder said. “We’ve learned from the past what to do and what not to do and to expect the unexpected when you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Even in a more relaxed state of mind, when the conversation comes back to her own accomplishments — whether it’s the NFCA All-American team or being named to the North-South All-Star team — she once again deflects the spotlight.
“God is blessing me, and I give all the glory to Him,” she said. “I don’t like being on the front, but when it does happen, I’m just grateful. It should be about the team.”
Not hollow words
Adults know how to guide their words to portray an image. An individual can always highlight strengths to influence perception. But a high school student’s peers typically expose and define the true mark and impact of a person.
“She’s one of the most fun people to be around. She could light up anyone’s day,” said Kendall Beth Sides, an Alabama signee and senior at Sumiton Christian School who is travel-ball teammates with Tedder on the Birmingham Bolts. “Every parent loves Mary Katherine because she’s so outgoing, and she’s honestly the one who will break out and dance in front of anyone.”
Her school teammates feel the same way.
“She’s one of the best teammates we have, and she’s always positive,” said Caroline Parker, one of Spain Park’s six seniors. “She’s always upbeat.”
There is a tendency for the most talented players to alienate themselves from teammates because of pride that creeps in. That has not happened in Spain Park’s dugout.
“It definitely helps that we’re not bitter towards her talent,” Parker said. “We want to be around her because she’s our friend. It helps that we’re all such good friends.”
One of Parker’s best moments through the years with Tedder was that clinching game of last year’s regional tournament. After the obligatory postgame handshakes were completed, Parker made a beeline for Tedder, and leapt into her waiting arms.
“That’s my favorite,” Parker said.
Tedder’s leadership also commands the respect of her teammates as well, because she practices what she preaches.
“You just have to be consistent in your behavior and do the right thing,” Hawkins said. “If you do the right thing and your example is what you say, it all lines up.”
However, there is a reason Spain Park has aspirations of returning to and winning the state tournament this season. That senior class that Tedder spoke so highly of — consisting of Parker, Jenna Olszewski, Julianna Cross, Mary Kate Teague and Hope Maddox — is bearing its fair share of the load as well.
“I’ve put a lot of responsibility on those six seniors to do their part. I’m not asking Tedder to be the only person, because you can’t have one. Everybody has to do their part,” Hawkins said.
A special talent
The story could stop there if Tedder was simply an average talent on the diamond. But she’s not.
The field house at Spain Park sits beyond the center-field fence, where Hawkins normally parks her minivan. She learned quickly that out there, it was not safe from the bombs Tedder hits.
In practice, when it’s time for Tedder to hit, three players walk to the van and stand guard.
“She’ll get into a rhythm, and she’ll just launch them onto the tennis courts, hit my van, hit the indoor facility,” Hawkins said.
Tedder has the pedigree. Her dad, Scott Tedder, is in the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame and had a career as a professional baseball player.
She excels at multiple sports, including cross-country, indoor track and formerly basketball. She’s an athlete so naturally talented, she would likely be extremely successful at any sport she chose.