'Ray' of hope hard to miss at Estancia

There is a definite home-field advantage for Estancia High junior Rachelle Reynolds in softball.

The Eagles moved varsity fields this year. They now play their games closer to Jim Scott Stadium, right next to the school weight room.

More people can see the Eagles' games now. One of them is Rachelle's mother, Raquel. Her father, Steven, is able to drive the family van all the way up to right behind the backstop.

It's special for Rachelle Reynolds, who everyone knows as "Ray," to have her mother in attendance. Usually she watches the game from the van.

"When she comes I always feel like I have to hit a home run for her, so I can show her how much it means to me that she's here," Ray said. "She likes to sleep during the day a lot, so I'm just glad she gets all the energy up to come and watch my games."

It's more of a privilege than one might think. In many ways life has been difficult for the Reynolds family. Raquel had a stroke when Ray was younger and has used a wheelchair. Ray said her mother, who has diabetes, goes to dialysis three times a week. She needs to wear an ostomy bag on her stomach to collect waste.

It has not gotten easier. Ray said her mother had both of her legs amputated last summer. In a couple of weeks, Raquel will need to get her middle finger amputated as well, due to lack of blood flow.

"She got gangrene in her legs because she has diabetes," Ray Reynolds said. "That was a pretty hard time. I missed a lot of softball for that … She came pretty close to passing away."

During the day, while Ray is at school, Steven cares for his wife. When he goes to work at a printing company around midnight, it is Ray's turn to care for her mother until her father returns at 7:30 a.m.

"I sleep with my mom," Ray Reynolds said. "If she needs me, she'll just wake me up, because I'm right next to her. She doesn't really sleep through the night a lot. She's always in pain, either because of her legs or her finger."

Estancia Coach Marcus Franco said Ray has had to mature fast. Softball is the easy part in her life right now.

Ray Reynolds, the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week, has certainly made the sport look easy for the Eagles. The first baseman, who usually bats clean-up, leads Estancia in most offensive categories. Coming into this week she had a .474 average and 26 RBIs, as well as three home runs.

Estancia (8-17, 3-5 in league) will miss the playoffs this year, but Ray, the team's only travel-ball player, has helped the Eagles improve. They beat cross-town rival Costa Mesa, 8-5, in an Orange Coast League game April 24.

Last year, Costa Mesa beat Estancia by mercy rule each time in league.

"I want to lead this team, be a leader, but it's hard because they have a lot of inexperience," Ray Reynolds said. "It does feel like a lot of responsibility, but a few of the girls are going to do travel-ball this year."

She said Estancia sophomore teammates Chloe Davis, Kelly Hinkle and Bryanna Vernon plan to try out for the Sharks with her. It makes Ray happy that the Eagles appear to be on the upswing.

For her, it's all about the team. Franco said she is one of the most coachable players he's ever had.

"She never shows up to practice with an attitude," Franco said. "She always shows up to practice ready to work. She buys into everything that we coach her. That's what hard a lot of times in this area, finding girls who want to buy into the higher level. Ray does that — she buys in. She's going to do great things at the next level; I know she is.

"She's one of those girls that as a coach, when you retire, you remember her for the rest of your life. She's just that special. I love her like a daughter."

Reynolds, who said she carries a 3.3 grade-point average, said she would love to play for a four-year college. On the softball field, she is determined. Corona del Mar senior Delaney Owen, who has played travel-ball with Ray in the past, said her friend doesn't let off-the-field problems get in her way.

"I think that softball's been a really good outlet for that," Owen said. "She definitely hasn't brought any of that onto the field; she doesn't let that get in her way. When we're at the games, she doesn't talk about it. I think that's a really strong thing to do. It's very easy to get down and feel bad for yourself, but she keeps it to herself and uses it as motivation. She's one of the strongest people I know."

Ray Reynolds said she doesn't talk about softball too much with her mother. All Raquel usually says to her daughter is to make sure that she hits the ball.

Nobody has to say that twice to Ray. She said her favorite movie has always been "Lean on Me." In the movie, Morgan Freeman's character is appointed the principal of an inner-city school that he wants to improve.

Both on and off the softball field, people lean on Ray. Yet the 16-year-old seemingly just takes it in stride. It is impressive to her teammates, like junior center fielder Leticia Ortega.

"She doesn't get her full sleep [because of caring for her mom], and she still has to do her homework and stuff," Ortega said. "And on top of that, she has softball. I think she's a really hard worker. She's really determined. I know she's aiming for a four-year college, and getting a scholarship, to help her and her family. And I know she wants to be a nurse, so she can help her mom more."

The Eagles have just one more home game left, the league finale against Costa Mesa on Thursday. Maybe the van will roll up behind home plate once again.

Maybe Raquel will sit in it, watching her daughter and knowing what a fine young woman she has become.

"It's been really hard," Ray Reynolds said. "I've had to give up a lot of stuff so I can be with her. I wasn't able to finish my travel-ball season last year. I had to stay home with my mom, so my dad could work. During the summer my dad's going to work in the daytime, so I'll be with my mom during the day.

"I miss a lot of softball, but I don't really mind ... I do it for her."


Twitter: @mjszabo


Rachelle Reynolds

Born: Aug. 6, 1995

Hometown: Costa Mesa

Height: 5 feet, 7 inches

Sport: Softball

Year: Junior

Coach: Marcus Franco

Favorite food: Mom's "sinigang" (Filipino soup)

Favorite movie: "Lean on Me"

Favorite athletic moment: Hitting a grand slam to right-center earlier this year against Costa Mesa.

Week in review: Reynolds was two for four with a double and two RBIs, helping the Eagles beat rival Costa Mesa, 8-5, in a league game April 24.

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