By Maren Angus
Joe and Rosie Cantillo have seen all three of their daughters leave their home in Southern California to play college softball across the county in the Southeastern Conference. Joe and Rosie also have never seen their daughters play a home game in the SEC.
Their eldest, Chelsea, played at Georgia (2005-09) and Taylor (“RT”) played at Ole Miss (2010-14). Brooke, the youngest is a freshman at Mississippi State.
Joe and Rosie finally made the trip to Oxford on a game day. Brooke is currently recovering from a knee injury and isn’t traveling with the team so she was able to travel with her parents to see her Bulldogs face their in-state rival, Ole Miss.
“I was in shock when I saw the intro video with my sister in it,” said Brooke. “One of my teammates was pointing at me and yelling ‘That’s her sister!’”
The Cantillo’s knew throughout their recruiting process that they wanted to see another part of the country and according to Rosie; the decision was easy for each of them.
“Our girls just love the South,” she said. “It’s just different from Orange County. There are sit down diners, people talk when they’re eating, there’s old Texaco stations. It’s like time slows down out here and I love it. My girls are simple and I think that’s why they feel so at home out here.”
After picking Brooke up from campus in Starkville, they drove to Oxford for the weekend series. Their first stop was dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings where they were shocked to see Taylor’s Chicago Bandits jersey framed on the wall.
“It was unreal. I watched her play my whole life and it just makes my heart happy to see how far she’s come and all of her accomplishments,” Brooke said. “I’m so proud of her.”
After that, the three went to see a mural of Taylor at the Gillom Sports Center on campus.
“Taylor is super modest so we didn’t know how well she was doing when she played at Ole Miss,” Rosie said. “Someone sent us a tweet about her jersey but we had no idea that her mural was in Gillom.(Sports Center).”
When Taylor returned home after graduation, she handed her mom a box of memorabilia from college. As Rosie dug through the box, she pulled out awards for Freshman All-SEC Honors, second-team All-SEC honors, First Team All-Region and various All-Tournament teams.
“Taylor doesn’t like to tell people about her awards because she feels like she’s bragging,” she said. “We didn’t even find out she was drafted by the Bandits from her, we heard it from other people.”
The weekend in Oxford was emotional for multiple reasons but for the Cantillo family in attendance, the tears were brought on because of an overwhelming sense of pride and gratitude.
“We love Georgia, we love Ole Miss and we love State,” said Rosie fighting back tears. “They have all given so much to our girls. We just love the SEC!”