Miami Herald

With great speed and power, MDC softball player overcomes horrific family tragedy


Bahamas native Atayva Fowler was just 8 years old when she lost her father to an incredibly violent murder.

That trauma caused her grades to suffer, and she went from an “A” to a “C” student.

“For years, I didn’t know how to cope with that,” Fowler said. “I struggled in different ways.”

Fowler finally got back on track six years later. That’s when her grandmothe­r, Mildred Smith-Chea, suggested she try softball.

“It was a way for me to let go of everything I was feeling,” Fowler said. “Softball was a positive outlet.

“In the culture I grew up in, it’s easy to turn to negative things for comfort and relief, but God gave me something else.

“I never thought that the day that I picked up a softball glove would be the day I never wanted to put it down.”

However, because Fowler got a late start in softball, she got cut in her first attempt at making her high school team.

Rather than quit, she practiced every day.

“The softball field became my best friend,” Fowler said. “Softball was all I wanted to do — from the time the bell rang to dismiss school until my mom was done with work for the day.”

Months of hard work paid off, and, by the next year, Fowler did more than just make the team. She was named the starting shortstop and team captain.

Fowler’s blazing speed and effortless power drew the attention of a U.S. high school coach, Keena Davis. After that first season, Fowler was offered a scholarshi­p to play for Davis at Life Prep Academy — a private, internatio­nal boarding school in Wichita, Kansas.

“My mind was blown,” Fowler said of the scholarshi­p offer. “I told my mom [Latitia Lyston], and she was sad and happy at the same time.

“Every time I go home, she cries.”

At Life Prep, Fowler met teacher Candice Parks, who taught her sign language. But it was more than that as Parks became a highly influentia­l person in Fowler’s life.

“The first day I met her, she said, ‘You should come to church with me,’ ” said Fowler, who was not a church-goer at that time. “From then, my walk with God not only got deeper, but He also opened doors for me in ways I couldn’t imagine.”

Parks helped Fowler get baptized in a ceremony that her mother was able to live-stream back in Nassau.

“Atayva transforme­d in front of me,” said Parks, who became Fowler’s host mom for her senior year of high school. “It was amazing to watch her fully commit to Christ.”

Fowler said her belief in God has finally brought her some sense of peace in relation to the murder of her father, Teron “Limey” Fowler, on July 18, 2011.

Fowler said her father had been a drug dealer. Published reports indicate that in 2006, at the age of 33, Teron Fowler was convicted on drug charges in Miami.

He was finally released in early 2011.

“My father had changed [for the better] while in prison,” Atavya Fowler said. “But the damage had been done. Certain people were out to get him.”

Tragically, she got only seven months with her father after his release before he was shot multiple times while in his car. Teron Fowler’s body was found, beyond recognitio­n, inside his burning car, and it took four months for officials to confirm it was him.

A tragedy like that would have crushed most kids — or even adults.

But Atayva Fowler — armed with her faith in God — has forged ahead, earning a softball scholarshi­p to Miami Dade College,

where she is a freshman outfielder majoring in computer animation.

Fowler said she got her MDC scholarshi­p through hard work.

“I trained with my high school baseball team, with my high school softball team and on my own,” she said. “By my senior year, I began getting noticed by some college coaches.

“When it was time to consider my options, I just prayed to God to order my steps, and it led me to Miami Dade. So here I am — an island girl turned collegiate athlete.”

A 5-6, 147-pounder, Fowler is the fastest player on the MDC team, according to coach Gina De Aguero.

“She’s athletic and a strong kid,” De Aguero said. “She’s coachable.

She sends me videos of the extra work she puts in, and I love that as a coach. She just needs to fine-tune her game.”

Speaking of strong and fast, Fowler is good friends with perhaps the most famous ballplayer from The Bahamas, Marlins infielder Jazz Chisholm Jr.

But the biggest ballplayin­g influence on Fowler has been her cousin, center fielder Chavez Young, 25, who played Triple-A baseball for the Toronto Blue Jays last season and has since been traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was Young, in fact, who recommende­d Fowler to De Aguero.

Among her other talents, Fowler customizes sneakers for athletes such as Young and also Harold Ramirez of the Tampa Bay Rays.

“I made a pair for Chavez that was all glitter,” Fowler said. “I had glitter everywhere for weeks.”

All that glitter is fitting. If Fowler fulfills her potential, she has a dazzling future in softball and beyond.

 ?? Courtesy of Miami Dade College ?? Atayva Fowler’s father was murdered when she was only 8 years old. But she turned her pain into determinat­ion and is now the starting shortstop at Miami Dade College.
Courtesy of Miami Dade College Atayva Fowler’s father was murdered when she was only 8 years old. But she turned her pain into determinat­ion and is now the starting shortstop at Miami Dade College.
 ?? ?? Atayva Fowler
Atayva Fowler

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