After T-ball, girls playing in the Marlow softball league advanced to machine-pitch and eventually to competitive games. Abbey pitched for the Rockies a year or two before starting middle school and playing for the MMS Outlaws.
But even at an early age—back in the days when her mom pulled a cap or helmet over her brown locks before she stepped up to bat—Abbey entertained thoughts of someday playing the game on the university level.
“I knew I wanted to play college ball when I was little,” she intimated.
Her dreams are coming true.
A few weeks ago, Abbey entered into a verbal agreement with Cameron University to play for the Aggies. To sweeten the arrangement, Cameron’s part of the bargain included a full-ride athletic scholarship.
In Oklahoma, a high school athlete cannot be officially recruited by a college or university until November of his or her senior year, Abbey explained, so for another year, she will not be able to sign an official letter of intent that is binding on both parties.
Either can back out of the deal before then, but Abbey is delighted with the offer.
She has also received offers from OU, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the University of North Texas, Ohio State and the University of Southern Mississippi. None, however, have offered comprehensive scholarships to defray all education-related expenses.
“I have always wanted to play Division 1 softball, but I was so excited when Coach DeLong offered me a full ride to play at Cameron that I cried,” said Abbey. “I couldn’t believe that I got offered a full ride. It may not be D1, but my school is paid for, and I am getting to play the sport that I love.
“It is close to home,” she continued, “so my parents and grandparents can come watch me play at home.”
“I’m more than happy with what I have right now. You very seldom see full rides in softball,” she enthused. “I was shocked when he (CU athletic director and head softball coach Rodney DeLong) told me ‘a full ride.’”
So it looks as if the lovely softball standout will be doing what she does best, and loves most, while furthering her education.
Softball on her mindIn a way, Abbey’s life is much like the planet earth—it revolves around a bright yellow ball—however, her sphere is only 11 or 12 inches in circumference.
“I have always enjoyed the game of softball,” she noted. “I have played basketball and soccer, but my heart was not in it like it is for softball.”
“I started taking pitching lessons when I was 8 from Stephanie Hines, then Jamie McCoy Roberts and finally Mike Pruitt, and I really loved to pitch,” she recalled. “But when Coach Miller started playing me at shortstop, I knew I wanted to play the infield.”
Taking practices, playing seasons and tournaments into consideration, the girl is involved in softball, in one way or another, almost year-round.
She played a major role in the Lady Outlaws’ successful season this year. They racked up an impressive record that landed them in the state playoffs. Individually, Abbey was named a 4A Canadian Valley All-Conference pick her freshman year.
Asked if Oklahoma’s heat and humidity ever bother her on the field, she replied, “I’m pretty used to it. I’ve never really been affected by the heat; I’ve always been out in it.”
She remembered that even as a child, she preferred to play outside, riding her bike or a toy tractor her parents had given her.
GametimeIn addition to the past six years of playing for the middle school and high school Lady Outlaws, she has been competing with Gametime Stars 97 Gold, an accomplished travel, or tournament, team based in Oklahoma City but composed of girls from throughout the state who are basically the same age as Abbey.
The Gametime program has several teams, and this is Abbey’s fourth year of involvement in the program, her third with Stars 97 Gold, for whom she plays shortstop and third base. This squad has made three national appearances. . .and garnered a national championship Abbey’s first year.
“I have been on many different teams but have found my home with the Gametime Stars,” she advised. “I really love it!”
Abbey’s athletic prowess has put a lot of miles on the family car. Besides six years of away games for the Lady Outlaws, Gametime has taken Abbey and her parents to Panama City and Orlando in Florida, as well as to California, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Colorado, Kansas and Texas.
Moreover, there’s another state in the offing. The Stars 97 qualified for next year’s nationals in Virginia.
Even Abbey’s practices are in Oklahoma City. And because she is committed to succeeding in her studies as well as on the field of play, at times she has had to do whatever was necessary to accomplish both.
For example, during the school year, she has done her homework on the trips to and from the practices in OKC, she said, with only the car’s interior light and a flashlight for illumination.
When you love something deeply enough, and want something badly enough, you improvise.
Through the years, she has honed her skills at various softball camps in such locations as Baylor University, OU, Texas A&M, the University of North Texas, and the University of Missouri.
Her near-obsession with the game can be seen in her choice of OU star player Lauren Chamberlain as her favorite athlete.
Chamberlain has been named a first-team All-American twice and this year was the national leader in homeruns, batting percentages and runs scored per game. In the process, she also broke eight OU softball records.
Abbey also indicated that the people she admires most are her Gametime coach, Rusty Fisher, and her head coach at Marlow High, Brian Miller.
Another of her role models is Marlow native Sydney Shannon, who played right field while attending Texas A&M. Abbey indicated that Shannon has been “someone I looked up to, because I wanted to be as good as she was.”
Love and supportBesides the mileage, Abbey’s family has been really supportive of her interest in the sport. And since they are not wealthy people, much of this backing has demanded some sacrifice.
To begin with, they have been generous with two of the most important things parents can give their children—time and encouragement. Then there are the expenses for gas, food, lodging and the fees associated with tournaments and camps.
“If it weren’t for the sacrifices my parents have made, I would not have been able to play travel ball,” Abbey stressed. “They have given up so much so that I could fulfill my dreams.”
Her grandparents, Jerry and Judy Warren of Marlow, attend as many of her games as they can. “They don’t miss very many,” she said, adding that her younger sister Fallon wears some of her old jerseys.
Off the fieldAbbey Nicole Warren slid into homeplate for the first time on January 25, 1997, in Duncan. A few years later, Mark and Angelia introduced a new player to the Warren team, their younger daughter Fallon, who is now a seventh-grader at MMS.
Mark Warren is a welder for Wilco Machine, and Angelia is an ABA therapist based in Lawton and Chickasha.
All of Abbey’s grandparents—Danny and Paula Wehunt and the Warrens—live here in Marlow.
Scholastically, Abbey carries a 3.8 GPA and so far, has an ACT score of 21. Her best subject is math, but her favorite is chemistry.
She has been inducted into the United States Achievement Academy for excellence in math and English, and she has also been named an All-American Scholar.
Abbey is a member of R.A.K. (Random Acts of Kindness), bleacher creatures and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
When she’s not busy with homework or softball, she enjoys hunting, fishing, texting and “sleeping when I get the chance,” she confided. She also follows OU and Texas softball on TV.
A Christian, Abbey attends the First Baptist Church and is active in the youth group.
The end gameAbbey has a true “homerun” future in store for her. She plans to earn a bachelor of science at Cameron, then she’ll likely transfer to the OU School of Medicine for a second degree, this one in orthodontics.
As far as softball is concerned, she thinks she may someday coach the game.
And “later on down the road, after college and I get all that stuff done,” her plans will include marriage and a family, she said.