Honoring a Legacy: ‘All For Alex’ Spirit Inspires MSU, SECTop Stories
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Before the bus departed for the stadium on Saturday, the Mississippi State softball team gathered at the hotel to review film.
Head coach Samantha Ricketts stepped to the front of the room to deliver a final message to the Bulldogs. Every game in the SEC is big, but their game against Tennessee in a few hours really did just mean more.
Mississippi State was playing to honor the legacy of Alex Wilcox, a member of the 2018 MSU team who inspired the nation with her courageous fight against ovarian cancer before she passed away in the summer of 2018.
From the Plains to Baton Rouge to Tuscaloosa, all 13 SEC programs joined together on Saturday to help raise awareness for ovarian cancer in the second annual “All For Alex” day.
Teams across the country wore teal uniforms and posted messages on social media. But it was especially personal for the Bulldogs.
They could feel Wilcox’s presence in the dugout. They could envision her screaming words of encouragement and celebrating every great play they made.
The inspiration helped carry MSU to an 8-3 win over Tennessee at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium to even the series.
The final score seemed like a bit of destiny. Wilcox wore No. 8. Her jersey was retired by MSU in 2018, making her the first female athlete in school history to receive the honor.
“If Alex was out here, she would be pounding everything and making sure we were having fun and have a smile on her face,” said MSU senior catcher Mia Davidson, whose home run in the third sparked the go-ahead scoring spree. “Knowing we get to do this for her is one of the most amazing feelings.”
Diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2015, Wilcox continued to play softball throughout her treatments and helped lead her high school team to multiple state championships.
Wilcox was one of the top recruits in the nation when she signed with MSU. She could pitch, hit, defend and run the bases. Even as chemotherapy sapped her energy and weakened her body, Wilcox never gave up her fight to play.
She appeared in eight games during her freshman season, collecting three hits in 15 at-bats. MSU rallied around Wilcox throughout the 2018 season with its “No One Fights Alone” campaign. Even when Wilcox wasn’t on the field, her fighting spirit permeated through the program.
“She talked a lot about how God’s plan for her was to be a light and a voice and to share her faith through her story and become so much more than just Alex the softball player,” Ricketts said. “Just the way she continued to be joyful and full of light and just loved her teammates and softball even through the battle is really what it was about.”
The Bulldogs have joined forces with LSU head coach Beth Torina to shine a spotlight on ovarian cancer. Torina’s mother, Betty Dieter, is an ovarian cancer survivor and LSU has held an annual Strikeout Ovarian Cancer Game since 2012.
Prior to their game on Saturday, LSU and Kentucky took part in the Geaux Teal Walk in Baton Rouge. Geaux Teal is an organization that raises awareness for women of all ages about the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer.
Geaux Teal has provided MSU’s program with symptom cards, wrist bands and other pamphlets they can share with others.
The SEC coaches corresponded via a group text on Saturday morning about what the day meant to them.
“When we look at our players, it is one of our own. Alex was sitting in those chairs a couple of years ago,” Ricketts said. “We are continuing to tell our players that they need to be advocates for your own health and these are the symptoms that women have every month. But understanding when they are persistent and something is not normal you have to go ask for help, whether that be from the trainer or a doctor.”
Ricketts takes heart in knowing how much this weekend means to Wilcox’s parents.
“Her dad told us that if All For Alex day or Geaux Teal games or Ovarian Awareness Games can help one young lady catch ovarian cancer sooner and we can save a life, it will be worth it,” Ricketts said. “He has mentioned that to us and it’s really what this has all turned into.”
Davidson is one of only three players left on the MSU roster that played with Wilcox either in college or travel ball. She had a special teal catching helmet designed that honors Wilcox. It’s filled with items that represent Wilcox, including her signature, butterflies and the No One Fights Alone slogan
Davidson could feel the extra energy circulating among the Bulldogs as they arrived at the field on Saturday. They wanted to win for Alex, but more importantly, they wanted to play with her spirit.
Seeing all the other programs in the SEC working together to keep Wilcox’s legacy alive was more than Davidson could fathom. They may be fierce competitors on the field, but they share a perspective on how lucky they are to be playing the game they all love.
“I am just at a loss for words,” Davidson said. “Everybody coming here and supporting what Alex stood for and who she was as a person is just unbelievable. I would like to thank every person today who wore teal. It’s just an honor.”