Last season, during their State Tournament run, the Paris Lady Eagles softball team may have had the best bench warmer in the state. While that may sound like a bit of an oxymoron, the truth is, the manager for the Lady Eagles is quite the athlete. There was one problem; she was only in the eighth grade. At age 14, Jayden Wells was not eligible to play for her local high school though she spends most of the year touring with the Tulsa Elite Arkansas 04 team based out of Little Rock.
Wells started playing softball at age 4, and though she is now a two-sport athlete, starting on the District Championship Junior Lady Eagle Basketball team, she wants nothing more than to play softball at the next level.
Most years, Wells starts her softball season in February and travels week in and week out for practices and tournaments. And these tournaments are not against your average teams. Most of the tournaments are invite only and located in major metropolitan areas. This year, with many of the older players also playing high school ball, Jayden got a later start in travel ball. They did get to play locally, in USA Select in Conway and Bentonville and they also traveled to Tulsa and Kansas City. This fall the team will make a couple of trips to Houston, one to Choctaw, Oklahoma, and then to Alabama for competition in front of a host of college coaches against a national field.
Tulsa Elite is simply an organization that helps pair athletes with teams, but this particular team is currently rated the highest in their classification in the region, landing 30th nationally.
When possible, Wells gets instruction from Razorback Assistant coach Yolanda “Yo” McRae. And while she is seen and receiving instruction from universities, players cannot commit to Division 1 schools until their junior year under recent changes to recruiting. Smaller universities, however, can have more contact with players, and Arkansas Tech has already met with Jayden and the family after she attended one of their camps. Oklahoma Christian and Three Rivers (Missouri) have also expressed significant interest.
Wells is listed as a middle infielder and catcher but has played in the outfield as well making her a utility player. Her skill set will fill in nicely with the vacancies left on the varsity Lady Eagle program. This season, Wells was the manager, lead cheerleader, dugout cleaner, and ball fetcher and while she never complained, she is waiting for her turn to don the Eagles uniform, and hopefully in 4 years, play on an even bigger stage. One thing is evident from watching Jayden, her teammates, parents, and coaches; they are not consumed with the game; instead they are united in their love of the great American pastime and are making memories they will never forget while establishing the character it takes to be a leader when the final season is over.