Tamya Waiters

The Colony’s Tamya Waiters, right, takes a picture with James Madison pitcher Odicci Alexander.

When The Colony senior pitcher Tamya Waiters and her mother, Tammy, attended the 2021 Women’s College World Series, they were the only two fans in their seating area that wore James Madison shirts. Everyone else was donned in Oklahoma State gear.

Noticing that Tamya and Tammy were surrounded by nothing but Cowgirl fans, someone sitting in the Dukes’ cheering section walked over and asked the Waiters if they would like to come to the other side of USA Hall of Fame Stadium and sit with them.

The Waiters took that person up on their offer. After they took their seats in the James Madison cheering section, Tammy and Tamya began talking to other Dukes supporters. The conversation continued, and obviously, softball served as a good ice-breaker for everyone to get to know the Waiters family better, and vice-versa.

The Dukes’ supporters quickly warmed up to the Waiters family. The connection got so good that Tamya began to realize that she was talking to the aunt of James Madison pitcher Odicci Alexander.

"I had no idea,” Tamya said. “I was surprised that they had invited us over there, because the section was so exclusive with family and friends. But just seeing the small community gave them so much confidence. It was really awesome to see it and be a part of that."

Waiters had just completed her junior season at Lewisville. She saw limited playing time during her three years in a Farmers’ uniform, and actually pitched against The Colony her last game as a sophomore. That same year, she suffered a forearm injury. Luckily, it didn’t require surgery.

Following the season, Waiters transferred to The Colony for her senior year. But before she ever threw her first pitch for the Lady Cougars, she had already learned from some of the best to have ever played softball, including Alexander.

Alexander became a household name during the Dukes’ historic run to their first appearance in the Women’s College World Series. James Madison won the CAA Tournament, the Knoxville Regional and Columbia (Mo.) Super Regional with two wins over No. 8 Missouri.

To open the World Series, James Madison stunned No. 1 Oklahoma in the opening round. One day later, James Madison made it 2-0 against teams in the state of Oklahoma with a 2-1 victory over No. 5 Oklahoma State.

Alexander made a crucial play to preserve James Madison’s win over Oklahoma State. In the seventh inning, and the Dukes clinging to a 2-1 lead, Alexander fielded a bunt and made a diving tag on a Cowgirl base runner who sprinted towards home plate.

During the game, Alexander’s aunt, Joyce, asked Tamya if she would like to meet Odicci. And, of course, Tamya wasn’t about to turn down that offer, especially if meant meeting a role model.

Joyce told the Waiters family to meet her at James Madison’s team hotel in Oklahoma City. As soon as Tamya and Tammy arrived, they met Joyce. Joyce called Odicci, who made her way to the lobby and met Tamya in a closed-off section.

Seeing that Alexander was physically drained from the World Series, Tamya spent 30 minutes talking with Odicci. And Tamya had some words of encouragement for the James Madison star right-hander – “No matter what happens, keep fighting. We’re all looking up to you. No matter what you do, you’re doing great.”

"The first thing I noticed when I saw her is that she's kind of short,” Tamya said. “On TV, she looks so tall. We were almost the same height. The next thing I'm thinking is that this is so awesome.

“I hadn't really looked up to anyone in softball. But with her being black and being a pitcher, it almost felt like I was on the field whenever she pitched. Seeing her in person was like seeing a role model."

In October 2020, Waiters was one of five players from the Texas Rangers Youth Academy that were selected for the MLB’s Breakthrough Series in Vero Beach, Fla. The Breakthrough Series was developed in 2015 to provide instruction and mentorship for youth softball players across the country as they prepare for the college recruitment process.

There, Waiters refined both her physical and mental skills in the circle with instruction from softball legends like Alexander, Jennie Finch and Lauren Chamberlain.

Being a pitcher, Waiters appreciated the time that she got to work with Alexander and Finch. Waiters had a one-hour private pitching session with Finch. Finch instructed Waiters on her execution of the screwball and change-up.

"She's so competitive, but she also talked to us about the mentality of pitching,” Waiters said. “I got to have a mini-private pitching session with her for an hour. We talked about mechanics and stuff like that. It was great.”

All of those lessons served Waiters as she prepared for her first season with The Colony.

Going into the season, Waiters was one of the front-runners to earn the No. 1 spot in the pitching rotation, along with freshman Addison Dorsay. Juniors Kaitlyn Moeller and Sydney Young both saw time on the mound during the 2021 season, but The Colony’s coaching staff felt that a move to other positions on the field would serve them well.

That was a competition that Waiters eventually won, though Dorsay received some valuable time on the mound during tournaments and other games. But competition aside, it didn’t take Waiters long to figure out how much The Colony softball team had a family-like atmosphere.

“The girls were so welcoming,” she said. “Honestly, I was so surprised. The first day of school, one of the girls came up to me and was like, 'Are you Tamya?' I was like, 'Yeah,' and they all invited me to have lunch with them. They were really excited that I came."

The Lady Cougars were just as excited by how well Waiters performed on the mound. It was during The Colony’s 3-2 come-from-behind win over Sherman on March 22 that Waiters felt brought the team even closer.

“I felt like a fire lit under us,” she said.

After winning 12 of their final 13 regular-season games to finish in second place in District 10-5A, The Colony dispatched Frisco Reedy in two games in the bi-district round. Waiters hit the walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning to advance the Lady Cougars into the second round of the playoffs.

The Colony handled Creekview in the area round, posted a two-game sweep of Frisco Memorial in the regional quarterfinals before losing to Royse City in the regional semifinals – the deepest playoff run by the Lady Cougars since 2019, when they finished as a state semifinalist.

"It was nothing that I had expected,” Waiters said. “It was very hard. It was very draining, both physically and mentally. But we wanted it. We wanted to win the game, win the next round. The goal was obviously state, but I was so happy what we did. All of us are so proud of each other. I think that it made us closer."

For the season, she recorded 234 strikeouts and three no-hitters. Less than a month later, Waiters was named the DFW Fastpitch Association’s 5A player of the year.

“I was in total shock when I saw my name on there,” she said.

When Waiters thinks about her individual success this year, the Florida A&M signee looks back at some words of advice from Alexander.

“She said, 'Stay true to yourself and be you,'” Waiters said. “I think that's really helped me this year.”

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