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June 19, 2024

Special Day

ICC, MGCCC Honor Charles 

Before Doubleheader

By Andy Collier

Sports Editor, The Bolivar Bullet

On March 16 at Fulton, Miss., the softball doubleheader between the Itawamba Community Lady Indians and the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Lady Bulldogs proved to be a special day for former Delta State University Head Softball Coach Casey Charles. 

Charles, who was diagnosed with breast cancer last August, threw out the first pitch. The head coaches of the respective squads are people that are very near and dear to Charles’ heart. MGCCC Head Coach David Kuhn was Charles’ head coach when she was a player at DSU from 1999-2002, while Itawamba Head Coach Kelly Beth Earnest was an assistant coach under Charles last year at DSU.

Having a day where Charles could throw out the first pitch was something that Earnest had on her mind for quite sometime. 

“I respect and love Coach Charles so much,” said Earnest. “I was blessed that I was able to work with her for a year at Delta State. That year means a lot to me. She helped me really start my career. When I got back to Itawamba, I was thinking of ways to honor people that mean a lot to myself and the program at ICC. She’s one of those especially with her fight with breast cancer that she’s having, and I’ve just now been able to be around her during this fight.”

Charles was honored to have the opportunity to throw out the first pitch. 

“It was a great day,” said Charles. “Coach Earnest called me back in the fall and had this idea. i guess it was a breast cancer awareness game. The kids weren’t wearing all the pink and all that like some people do, but she wanted to have a game for me to be able to do that which I really appreciate it. She had the idea months ago, and I agreed to do it. I didn’t know until later that it was going to be against Gulf Coast which was super special with it being my old head coach.”

Charles was touched by how everyone payed tribute to her. 

“I went over there and showed up at the ball park,” said Charles. “Both teams were wearing the white shirt that said , ‘Can’t Beat Coach.’ That’s a little phrase Coach Earnest came up with. When I walked in the ball park, I was taken a little bit a back by it. Everyone had it one on. They were taking BP on the field for pregame. It was good. The kids were great. I know a lot of the players from both teams. They were wonderful. It was kind like a big family event.”

Charles was grateful for her time working with Earnest at DSU. 

“Coach Earnest is great,” said Charles. “She’s young and she’s bright. She has a good understanding of the game. She knows how to talk to people. She’s got some things to learn, and she knows that. That’s probably my favorite thing about her. She spends time studying the game and networking with people. She’s really good about that. She’s never met a stranger. I have a great relationship with her as well. I hope I’ve been as much help to her as she’s been to me. I’m proud for her and excited for her.”

Kuhn, who was the Head Softball Coach at DSU from 1999-2008, had Charles as a graduate assistant coach for two years at DSU. Kuhn has all the respect in the world for Charles.

“She was a great player and one of the best shortstops I’ve ever coached,” said Kuhn. “She loved competing and loved the program. She was a tremendous softball player for us and a tremendous voice there at Delta State coaching and working. She’s always had a great work ethic. She coached a little at North Alabama and came back as a head coach. I was proud of her and what she did. She bleeds green and white and loves Delta State and the Cleveland community. I just hate that’s she’s having to deal with this little setback right now dealing with this disease, but I’m hoping she can overcome it.”

Charles was happy to see Coach Kuhn again. 

“I love Coach Kuhn,” said Charles. “I’ve had a long time relationship with him since my playing days. I felt like he was a little emotional when he started talking on the loud speaker. He was glad to be there and that meant a lot to me. It was really nice of Coach Earnest to do that. It was a great day. I really enjoyed it and appreciated it. I was glad to be there that day and be a part of it.”

Charles said Kuhn played a huge role in her development as a coach and a person. 

“I think you could easily say you probably wouldn’t be where you are without certain people, and he’s one of those people for me,” said Charles. “He was my head coach, and I loved him. He was super tough. I learned so much from him about discipline, structure, order and a lot of things I still use today in my professional life.”

Earnest was impressed with Charles’ attitude and outlook during this time she’s been battling cancer. 

“She’s shown such confidence, courage and resilience while going though this time,” said Earnest. “I wanted to get a special day to honor her at ICC and thank her from me and the program for all that she’s done. It was a beautiful moment, and it happened to be the day with Coach Kuhn being there. Three Delta State coaches all together on one field to honor Coach Charles. It was a beautiful moment.” 

Even though Charles is not coaching, she teaches classes in the Health, Physical Education, and Recreation Department at DSU. 

Charles said life has been good as she’s gotten better every day.

“I’m staying busy,”  said Charles. “I have four classes and have 67 students. I’m staying busy and staying active. I’m trying to take care of myself. I feel good. My support system has been great.” 

Kuhn said the way Charles has been battling cancer has impacted him in a big way.

“She has really inspired me with what she’s going through health wise and through her treatments,” said Kuhn. “She has been amazing and inspired me to be tougher for sure.”