CALEDONIA — For Brooke Knoop, signing her name was easy.
The hard part came next.
The Caledonia High School senior already had scribbled her name onto the blank piece of paper laid out before her at Tuesday’s signing ceremony, which celebrated her choice to play softball at East Mississippi Community College.
“Are we done?” she asked.
No such luck. There were still photos to be taken.
“I was like, “‘OK, I’m just going to pretend like I’m still writing something,’” Knoop said.
So Knoop drew swirls and spirals around her signature for several seconds before being given the go-ahead to look up for yet more pictures.
“That’s Brooke,” Caledonia softball coach Andy Finch said.
The scene fit Knoop to a T as she battled nerves to commemorate signing with the Lions outside the Caledonia High library.
Knoop praised EMCC’s facilities on the Scooba campus and said she connected well with coaches Whitney Hawkins and Clair Goodson.
She became the second Caledonia senior to join the Lions’ softball team in a week. Teammate Madalyn Dvorak signed with EMCC on Thursday.
Finch said it will be good for the duo to join forces in Scooba.
‘It helps when you go to college and you have somebody that you know and that you can turn to and you can trust,” he said. “This is like starting over with middle school. You’re trying to find out who you are, where you belong.”
At Caledonia, Knoop has done her best to belong anywhere her coaches have put her. The same holds true on the American Dream travel team, coach Brad Thomas said.
“She’s outstanding,” Thomas said of Knoop. “She’s always had immaculate talent — strongest arm on the team, one of the fastest players we had.”
Knoop started in center field for her high school team as a freshman and manned the outfield for the Dream, but she harbored dreams of playing third base in travel ball. Initially, though, she struggled getting the ball across the diamond to first base.
That didn’t last long.
“I watched her work on zeroing in on that and really getting good at it,” Thomas said. “This past season, she was as good at third base as I’ve ever seen anybody play.”
Finch said Knoop went from a potential contributor off the bench to a starter to a mainstay in the lineup “within a week” during her freshman year at Caledonia. That was three years ago, and she’s only gotten better while remaining versatile.
“We’re looking for leadership from her to teach these younger girls how to play the outfield — how to play the infield, too,” Finch said.
Knoop said she’s been taking hitting lessons in the Tupelo area, trying to neutralize what she called her principal weakness. She said she struggled overall as a junior and hopes to rebound this spring in her final high school season.
“Last year wasn’t too good of a season for me, so I’m hoping to come back from that and do better than I’ve been doing,” she said.
Knoop thanked a “support system” of her family and friends for flanking her again Tuesday. She expressed particular gratitude to her mother Krystal Doty for financially supporting her career.
“I probably wouldn’t be here without my parents helping me out with the travel and all that,” Knoop said.
Soon, she’ll be on to EMCC, closing the book on a standout Caledonia career and becoming the Cavs’ next senior to take her next step.
“It’s good for Brooke,” Finch said. “It’s good for her family. It’s good for our program.”
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.