Most elite athletes get into sports at an early age, and Malayna Tamborra is no exception. The Atlanta Vipers 05 pitcher and first baseman grew up with softball, even more so than most.
Malayna plays for her mom, Stacy Tamborra. Tamborra played college ball at Florida State, and after giving some lessons and working with a local team, she decided to dive into coaching. She bought the building for her business, Champions Fastpitch Academy, just months before Malayna was born.
While Tamborra encouraged her kids to play other sports, Malayna grew up watching the players her mom coached become great. Soon, she decided she wanted to be a great softball player, too. But greatness doesn’t come without dedication and hard work. Especially early on, Malayna learned to use what she had to be successful.
When batters step into the box against Makayla Huddleston, they don’t know what’s coming, but they do know each pitch will be precisely where Huddleston wants it to be. The meticulous righty dominates through control, something her coach Michael Danley of the Tennessee Mojo 2023 has seen since he started coaching Huddleston in 10U.
“The first time that I ever saw her she just absolutely wowed us. I mean threw it well, had great control, hit her spots, mixed speeds. She’s just got a great knack for getting people out,” he says.
Huddleston has continued to wow, leading the Mojo to the 10U 2016 PFG National Championship title and and then the 12U title two years later. Now as Fastpitch Network’s 15th ranked pitcher for the recruiting class of 2023 and the 28th ranked player overall, Huddleston believes she’s dominated in large part because she continues to hone the strengths her coach saw the first time he met her.
When asked to describe softball sensation Renae Cunningham in just two words, much like trying to hit her pitching, it becomes a tough task. Some may choose the words “Gentle Giant” given her stature and humility. Some may be more straightforward and use “Great Player”. Her head coach Cray Allen, of the Beverly Bandits – Allen, liked the words “Controlled, Calculated”.
“Her approach is always a calm one. It seems like the moment is never too big for her, which allows her teammates to feed off that quiet confidence,” said Allen. “The way she goes about her game is such a blessing in today’s world of highs and lows. She never gets rattled and stays calm and focused through each situation.”
In a day and age of the never ending selfie and self promotion, the way Cunningham carries herself on the field is refreshing. Even Cunningham admits, “I’m a pretty simple person.”
Not many young players are wise beyond their age to show a sense of loyalty in the modern era of sports. From the professional athlete to the youth player, migrating from team to team is not an uncommon occurrence. That was not the choice or case for McKaela Walker.
“One strength that she developed at a very young age was loyalty,” said Todd Mayfield, head coach of the East Cobb Bullets – Mayfield team. “She’s very loyal to her coaches, loyal to her teammates, and very loyal to the organization she plays for.”
Ava Brown had worked hard to become one of the top overall 2023 recruits, ranking No. 6 overall among Class of 2023 prospects for Fastpitch Network, and was looking forward to the summer season to continue to improve her game.
“It has always been my dream to not only play college softball, but to also represent my country,” said Brown.
The exposure at summer tournaments and showcases are what all the young softball players work for in hopes of getting seen by the college coaches who attend the events.