MIDLAND, Texas — Clarissa Estrada and Matthew Sandoval both grew up with a bat and ball in hand, with the goal of competing at the next level. They found themselves doing just that on the Midland College softball and baseball teams.
This is not the first time their paths have crossed. Both of their origin stories are set in their mutual hometown of Uvalde, Texas.
"Uvalde is an awesome place," Sandoval said. "Not just the people, but the community in general. Everyone just pulling for each other."
"You know, Uvalde is a small town, but it's very close," Estrada continued. "If you don't know someone, you know somebody who knows that person."
Both part of this community, that was thrust into the spotlight because of a tragedy that struck one year ago. Estrada was a senior in high school on a school trip at the time, and Sandoval was home from college on summer break.
Each had a different perspective on the events of that day.
"My friends that were at the school [Uvalde High School]... they'd send me pictures of the doors being boarded and then hiding and all this stuff, or like texting me, 'I'm scared,' and all this stuff," Estrada explained. "You know, getting those messages while you're at home whenever you should've been at the school is kind of gut wrenching."
"When I found out about the tragedy, I was actually in Uvalde, and I was just home for the summer," Sandoval said. "I just get a notification that my mom is on lockdown. She's a teacher there, a P.E. teacher at Uvalde Dual Language Academy. At first we didn't think much of it, it was just a lockdown, and then we just heard more and more and it just kept increasing in severity."
The Robb Elementary School shooting had put the city of Uvalde on the map. The tragic event forever connected to the small town.
"The biggest tragedy about it is that Uvalde is just this beautiful town with Concan, the Frio River right there and people seeing Uvalde as this, not the close group of people that is kind, loving and friendly," Sandoval said.
"Nobody knew where Uvalde was, and now we're only remembered because of that," Estrada explained. "It's kind of hard because I think the people that live in Uvalde... we really do take pride in living there."
These two student athletes carry the desire for Uvalde to be known for more to Midland College, showing the community another side of their hometown with every swing.
Their sports have been a way to honor Uvalde and the 21 lives lost a year ago.
"I know that a lot of those kids... they played sports, and being able to come to the next level and play, it's all for them," Estrada said.
"I wear number 21 on the baseball field, and it just means a lot more now," Sandoval explained. "Just knowing these families and just knowing the events that took place. Just playing for something bigger than myself and the sport of baseball."
Estrada and Sandoval may wear the name "Midland" on their jerseys on gameday, but they now play for Uvalde, their hometown.