The Play4Tay softball tournament was the brainchild of Taylor Filorimo, a Riverdale softball player who lost her battle with cancer in September 2012.
Last weekend was a bittersweet one for the Filorimo family and many others.
This was the first Play4Tay fast pitch softball tournament that daughter Taylor "Tay" Filorimo was not around to see.
A total of 57 teams from around the Southeast gathered at SportsCom and Starplex for the fourth annual event to benefit childhood cancer. It was also a chance to honor a friend and family member who had touched so many lives.
“This is the only way to give back to other people,” her visibly emotional father, J.D. Filorimo, said Saturday about the legacy his daughter has had in the community and around the world. “She was never concerned about herself. She always worried about other people.”
Four years ago, Tay, who was an avid softball player was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma, a rare form of kidney cancer as a 13-year-old. Most of the time, the cancer hits adult men older than 50.
There is currently no available cure or effective drug therapy.
That same year, Tay and her dad decided to hold a tournament to help raise money for childhood cancer. From that idea grew the Play4Tay event.
Since then, the amount of teams in it has grown from 14 to 57. Officials said they had to turn away teams because of the lack of space at the local softball complex.
This year was also the first year of the event without Tay.
You see, the Riverdale High School student passed away in September 2012 at the age of 16, but everyone involved with the tournament wanted to keep it alive in memory of her.
“Anybody who had the opportunity to meet Taylor knew that she was one of the most selfless people to be going through what she was going through, and I never heard her say anything that was selfish about what she was going through,” said Karen Clark, head of the Live4Tay Foundation. “She was always thinking about her teammates, her friends and other people while she was in the hospital, and what they and their families were going through.
"She wanted to make sure other people were happy, and they were taken care of. She wanted to help find a way to make sure other people did not have to go through the same thing her family was going through.”
Over the weekend, six champions were crowned in six age divisions.
The one with the biggest impact in Taylor’s life was the 18U division.
The team, which Taylor played for, the Angels, included a lot of her friends on that team. For them, the memory of losing Taylor still hurts almost a year later, but they still love playing softball in honor of her memory.
“She was our angel, and she was tough,” teammate Brooklyn Pendergrast said.
“This is her team, and she is still with us,” teammate Josie Messick said.
“She was strong, and she fought as hard as she could,” teammate Mattie Woodruff said. “She did not let cancer affect her at all. She just lived day by day, and she acted like nothing was wrong.”
“Every time, we would hang out, she would act like she was never in pain,” said Caroline Faulkner, another fellow teammate who was close with Taylor. “So, visiting her in the hospital, she would act like nothing was wrong with her. She was always goofing off and laughing with us. She would try so hard to keep a smile on her face no matter what.”
Last year, the Angels won the tournament over the Tennessee Elite 98 team, which included Taylor’s sister, Skylar Filorimo.
This year, both teams decided to come back and play in honor of their fallen friend. The Angels asked longtime coach Mark Messick to lead them one more time as they tried to heal from her loss.
Messick agreed. He had fond memories of coaching Tay growing up.
“She was my other daughter,” Messick said while holding back tears. “She was a leader on this team, and she was a game changer. She was the best one to coach on the team. She was the best two-strike hitter I have ever seen. It’s a hard spot to fill, but she is still with us in spirit. My girls play for her."
This year, the Angels finished runner-up in the 18U division, while the Tennessee Elite was third.
However, both teams agreed this weekend was about more than wins or losses; it was about remembering a lost friend and family member.
“She was strong, and she was amazing,” Skylar Filorimo said. “God put her on this earth for a reason.”