Remembering Alex Wilcox, One Year Later
Reminders are everywhere. There’s a mural in the clubhouse in teal and white. Her No. 8 is retired and hanging in the dugout. Players have tattoos, teal glove lacing, hair bows, bracelets and butterflies.
All of those things contribute to a legacy left behind far too soon.
It’s been one year since Alex Wilcox passed away from ovarian cancer, but she made an impact on the game and lives on through the actions of Mississippi State.
“We don’t want her name to be forgotten,” said associate head coach Samantha Ricketts in a phone interview with Softball America.
Since June 25, 2018, Mississippi State has made sure to honor and respect the impact Wilcox made on the university as a whole.
Her uniform was retired during halftime of a football game in the fall.
“It was bigger than any of us could’ve expected it to be,” said Ricketts. “She passed a year ago. It was the summer, it was right before the July 4th holiday, so our administration wanted to do something and it was just a bad time for all of it. It was summer, so the girls weren’t all there. We decided not to rush it and do it right so we decided to do it on a football weekend.”
Executive Senior Associate A.D./External Affairs Leah Beasley spearheaded the effort and brought the Wilcox family to Starkville, Miss. They sat in the Athletic Director’s box and rang the cowbell loudly and proudly.
“None of us knew what the football team was going to do out of the tunnel,” Ricketts reflected. “They were flying her, 'No One Fights Alone' flag, they all had teal on their helmets and at halftime, everyone held up a sign. It was just really awesome.”
Throughout the season, the Bulldogs were reminded that they were not alone in their grief. They continued to wear teal, but instead of doing so once a year, they wore their teal uniforms for each mid-week contest. Other programs on campus like baseball, golf and tennis also wore teal uniforms.
“That came from those coaches,” said Ricketts. “The tennis coach approached us and asked if we would be okay with them wearing teal. Soccer did a teal game, women’s tennis wore a teal jersey. Baseball wanted to do the same jerseys we did and then they were able to auction theirs off for a lot of money. Almost every sport did something and it kind of carried on through the fall and spring.”
That support showed what kind of impact Wilcox had on the Starkville, Miss. community in her couple of months on campus. It also showed how much trust her parents had in the university when they moved their daughter almost five hours away in the middle of her treatments.
“They knew how sick she was and they still allowed her to go off to college,” said Ricketts. “For them to do that, they just let her do what she wanted. That was always her dream, to room with O’Neil (Roberson) and play softball with her. They really let her live that dream.”
When Wilcox arrived on campus in the fall of 2017, she was strong despite going through radiation. She hit more home runs than teammate Mia Davidson. She was slated to be the starting right fielder and bat in the middle of the lineup before another tumor showed up in December.
“She was something,” recalled Ricketts.
Every day, the softball team is reminded of their teammate. Her locker is glassed in with a butterfly and a glove, but it’s up to the coaching staff to make the connection between Wilcox and the incoming class. The fall of 2018 saw nine new Mississippi State softball players in the form of freshmen and transfers.
According to Ricketts, Wilcox is never a taboo subject. They talk about her before practice, during meetings, in film sessions and tell stories about her regularly.
“I think they really embraced her,” said Ricketts. “Alyssa Loza chose her jersey No. 98 because of Alex. She wanted it to be nine people playing for No. 8 and she never even played with her.”
Ricketts, along with the rest of the Mississippi State coaching staff, is attending the Alex Wilcox Classic this week in Seminole County, Fla., sponsored by Legacy Event Management, the Birmingham Thunderbolts and Scenic City Showcases.
“She was such a great kid beyond softball,” remembered Ricketts. “She impacted her teammates and coaches, she came to practice every day with a smile and it was such a lesson to all of us. Today might be a bad day, but there’s Alex over there who had radiation this morning and is doing outfield drills. She just loved to be out there any chance she could. Her love for life and enjoyment for the people around her was something I got to see from her and something that I remember.”
The new incoming class will hear the stories about Wilcox. Mississippi State's players will wear teal every mid-week game. When they see butterflies on the field, they will know that their teammate is watching them and they will be reminded of her quote.
“Keep fighting and keep pushing every single day, don’t ever let anything slow you down."