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Shepherd embraces teammates, process 3/28/22

Shepherd embraces teammates, process

By Kevin Taylor

Alma Schools 


Tyson Shepherd admits getting three hits and driving in three runs in the Airedales’ win over Booneville earlier this month is something he wasn’t sure would come to fruition. 


Two months ago, another wave of COVID-19 sent students home for a few days. The school wasn’t necessarily in dire straits, but after missing most of his sophomore season because of the COVID-19 lockdown, Shepherd was concerned. 


“It was a little dicey for a while in January,” he said. “As a group, it was hard because of COVID our sophomore season; we didn't get to see each other for a while.”


The Airedales won five games during Shepherd’s junior season, including the first two conference wins of his high school career. 


Alma opened a 5A-West play two weeks ago with a solid 7-1 win over Vilonia. Shepherd was front-row and center, too, driving in a pair of runs to help lead the team to its first conference-opening victory since the 2014 season.  


For Shepherd, being on the baseball diamond among friends isn’t anything he takes lightly. The Shepherds, Amanda, and Daniel moved to Springdale following the loss of their youngest child, Nathan. 


"My family felt like we needed to get away and get a fresh start," Shepherd said. "We moved to Springdale, and that's when I started playing baseball in the fifth grade. I played for one of the Express teams; it was kind of overwhelming. 


“But I stuck with it and moved back my seventh-grade year."


Nathan, who would have turned 16 two weeks ago (a day before Shepherd’s breakout performance against Vilonia), suffered from a rare disorder called Trisomy 13, a type of chromosome disorder characterized by having three copies of chromosome 13 in cells of the body, instead of the usual two copies.


Because of various life-threatening medical problems, many infants with Trisomy 13 do not survive past the first days or weeks of life.


“They (doctors) said he wouldn’t make it out of the hospital, and he made it six years,” Tyson Shepherd said. “It’s hard to say what you learned from it. 


“You learn how to be a better person and to love others while they’re here.”


Nearly 10 years later, Shepherd tugs at his No. 20 Airedales’ baseball jersey before jogging out to the right field. 


It’s baseball season. 


And, like Nathan and COVID, Shepherd has endured. 


So have his teammates. 


"I think it goes for anything in life,” he said. “If you're going to do something, you need to do it right. You need to put your all into it. I think that's what we're all doing. We're all respectful of the sport."


Shepherd said third-year head coach Brian Fry helped shape the program. After a painful freshman season that saw the team finish without a win, Alma has combined for nine wins the past two seasons.  


"We've put in the time and kept growing as a team," Shepherd said. "(But) he's improved the mentality of the program. We've improved in the little things that can make a difference over time."


“When you see Tyson and the other seniors enter the park together, leave together and go eat together, you know you're looking at a special bond between the players,” Fry said. “Each and every one of them has been instrumental in changing the culture and there is no way that would've happened if they didn't mesh well together.”


Alma resumes 5A-West play Tuesday against Siloam Springs. With 12 conference games left to play, the Airedales are very much in the thick of things. 


"We've just got to buckle down and get ready for those doubleheaders every week," Shepherd said. "It's tiring, but we have to stay healthy."


Shepherd, who can also give the team support out of the bullpen, plans to attend the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. 


"Being here is amazing," he said. "You have classes with your teammates, and it just gets us closer as a team."