When Hurricane Harvey hit the Rockport, Texas area on Friday August 26th, 2017, it caused $55 million in damages to its school district – contributing to the $125 billion worth of damage it did in total – and took out the town’s electricity for almost a month.
To top it off for Softball Factory alumni Mikey Dominguez, Siarah Galvan and Maddie Mann, their school, Rockport-Fulton High, was destroyed along with its softball and baseball fields, and suddenly their dream of playing their freshman season of softball together was nearly collateral damage.
Everything the trio of close friends and teammates had worked so long and hard for appeared completely out of reach, that was, until the town of Rockport and some familiar famous faces came together and showed everyone just what it meant to be “Rockport Strong”.
Dominguez, Galvan and Mann have known each other since the age of six and are currently in their seventh year of playing softball together. The passion the high school sophomores share for the sport has given them a special bond.
“We have always been such good friends,” Galvan, the team’s starting left-handed pitcher says. “But when we are out there on the field, it is a whole different level of friendship. We all have a great time and tear it up on the field.”
“I think what makes us so close is that we have the same drive and dedication,” adds starting catcher Dominguez. “Every weekend we would go to the field and get a good three to four hours of work in.”
Having played in both select ball and little league together growing up, the three dreamed of what it would be like to all be named starters for their freshman season at Rockport-Fulton High School, so when Hurricane Harvey slammed the peninsula of Rockport with flooding and winds peaking at 156 miles per hour, it was safe to say the outlook for their school’s 2018 season looked bleak. In fact, it was quickly sinking in that things would not be the same in Rockport for a little while.
“Hurricane Harvey was one of the scariest things my family has ever gone through while it was happening and dealing with the aftermath was more than I could have imagined it would be,” Ron Dominguez recalls. “My daughters were experiencing what it was like to take a bath with bottled water, not being able to get news and having to line up for their food.”
“One of the very first things we checked on was the softball field,” starting infielder Maddie Mann admits. “I was so devastated seeing both our sheds gone along with our batting cages, but I was hopeful.”
“It was very upsetting not knowing if our field was even going to still be there due to the hurricane,” Galvan says, echoing her friend’s concerns at the time. “When we were still evacuated there was so much tension and anxiety of not knowing if we would even come back to anything.”
Not only were the extremely poor field conditions a concern, but 25 percent of Rockport-Fulton’s student body was forced to transfer to different schools due to the destruction of the country’s biggest storm since Hurricane Katrina’s deadly path through the city of New Orleans in 2005. It became apparent that the team – if there would be a team at all – would not look how it had originally been pictured.
“After Harvey, I thought we wouldn’t come back to Rockport-Fulton High School,” Mikey Dominguez, whose bedroom had a tree crash through it during the storm, reveals. “It was definitely hard to deal with because everyone was going to different schools and some starters would not be coming back. I thought we wouldn’t have enough girls to even have a season. It was to the point where I didn’t even know if I was going to come back.”
Despite her fears of not playing in the spring with her friends, Dominguez kept working on her softball skills in her backyard, even with all the debris. She and her father also took video footage of the debris that littered the softball field that was like a second home to her and uploaded it to Youtube.
This team was not going down without a fight. Family members sprang into action to help clean up the school’s fields and donations started pouring in from people who had seen the Youtube video.
“It meant a lot knowing that our families were out there in the heat trying to keep our freshman season still going,” Galvan reflects. “It gave us hope that soon we would be able to still play and show our abilities.”
“It felt so heartwarming to know people went out there almost every day to help get the fields ready for us,” Dominguez adds.
Their families soon would not be the only ones helping to keep their freshman season alive.
Some well-known faces made some big donations to the students at Rockport-Fulton. Popular talk show host Ellen DeGeneres made a massive donation of $1 million for the school to rebuild its gym and baseball Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan donated $10,000 to the Rockport-Fulton Little League to assist Memorial Park with getting their fields ready for the upcoming baseball and softball seasons.
The kind gestures meant so much to everyone in the town.
“I was actually in shock and disbelief at first!” Mann exclaims. “But then I felt so grateful that we have such amazing people in our world that wanted to help us in our time of need.”
“Being a small town, it’s really hard getting noticed for events that take place here,” Dominguez explains. “For Ellen to reach out and help us means so much I can’t put it into words.”
With everyone’s generous donations and hard work, the Rockport-Fulton High School softball team was able to participate in the 2018 season. Hurricane Harvey caused a great deal of damage, but the team got through it and was even able to see the bright side of the circumstances.
“It was very emotional seeing our beautiful town look so awful and destroyed,” Galvan remembers. “But it made the community become united and very close with each other.”
Her father, Steven Galvan, shares his daughter’s positive point-of-view.
“Hurricane Harvey really shook our community, but as we say here in Rockport, we are ‘Rockport Strong’ and the whole community helped each other,” he shares. “It really brought this community even closer.”
With everything that had happened and the loss of some of the team’s starters, not much was expected from the 2018 Lady Pirates. That did not stop Dominguez, Galvan and Mann from having the freshman season they had been dreaming of.
The three Softball Factory Alumni went an impressive 26-4 on the season and were crowned district champions, all starting the championship game in their respective positions.
“Last season was definitely one for the books!” Dominguez says with excitement. “We were strong, confident and had each other’s backs. No one knew how good Siarah really was until it was too late.”
The breakout season truly was special for Galvan. The ace pitcher even credits Hurricane Harvey with how their season played out.
“It was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me,” she answers when asked how it felt to have the season the Lady Pirates did. “Our team was so pumped up and motivated to do our very best out there on the field for our town. Hurricane Harvey definitely had a big part in our success.”
“Our freshman season was so exciting!” Mann adds, also reflecting on the successful season that almost never was. “To play with my amazing teammates to starting at the position I love was a dream come true.”
Dominguez, Galvan and Mann have all participated in numerous Softball Factory events, most recently the 2019 Softball Factory All-America Pre-Season Tournament.
“Being in the All-America games together was super, fun especially since we were on opposing teams,” Mann says. “For me and Mikey, this was our second time [at the Pre-Season Tournament] so it was that much sweeter, we became two-time All-Americans.
I loved the event and just having an amazing team who went undefeated, winning the tournament was just awesome! Other than the amazing coaching staff, I would have to say the overall experience is my favorite thing about Softball Factory and that is why I come back for more events. You meet so many people and make these amazing friendships. You also get to work with amazing coaches who teach you so much.”
“To do something like that with Maddie and Siarah was so fun,” Dominguez agrees. We each loved being around different girls and watching each other play. The event was awesome! It was definitely worth it! Softball Factory always helps me build new friendships. I love all the new drills and tips I learn that I bring back to my team.”
Like her teammates, Galvan also continues to enjoy her time with Softball Factory and keeps coming back for more.
“It was so exciting to be able to share a really fun experience with such nice and fun people and I can’t wait for the next event to share with them.”
That next event will be the 2019 Atlanta Legacy Showcase in July.
“I look forward to playing with Mikey and Siarah on the same team at the Atlanta Legacy,” Mann shares. “We always play great together. So excited to share that experience with them, make more memories with them and with my other teammates as well. I am equally looking forward to working with the coaches and to seeing Coach CJ Browder! She has been a big supporter and its always great to be able to work with her.”
“I look forward to meeting new people again and competing together as a team,” says Galvan. “I also can’t wait to have a great time with amazing teammates.”
Whether it be at a Softball Factory event or on the field that almost kept the trio from playing their freshman season together, Dominguez, Galvan and Mann are so grateful to be able to continue to play the sport they live for.
“I love the competition of the sport, and how you can see yourself grow as a player,” Galvan chimes in. “The adrenaline that you get once you get a great hit, or once you’ve thrown a great pitch.”
Of course, having each other, is also why they love softball so much.
“I love how all of us can be ourselves around each other,” Dominguez says. “I love how competitive we are. When I step on that field, I feel like I belong here, and I’m meant to be on that field to compete.”