STARKVILLE – It’s Sunday morning after the Mississippi State football team just won their home opener against Memphis. The Bulldog softball team was there late into the night as the football team battled through the rain for a win.
While many other students in the dorms are sleeping in after braving the rain and the long delay, the freshmen on the softball team are up early for breakfast. Macy Graf is cooking and you don’t want to miss it.
“I really like to cook, so on the weekends when we’re free, I’ll make this Sunday breakfast for all the freshmen in the dorm,” Graff said. “They just say, ‘We want your food.’
The menu varies, but has previously included waffles, pancakes, bacon, eggs, avocado toast and fresh fruit. The dormitory corridor has a communal kitchen right in the middle between the male and female sections of the hall. Graf has a stove and oven, which he works with every morning.
“I’ve always grown up loving food and my grandmother actually owned a restaurant at home for a while,” she said. “She taught me the ins and outs of how to cook.”
Cooking was one of the earliest subjects, but Graff is the kind of person who always wants to learn. And that desire to learn was one of the reasons she chose Mississippi State in the recruiting process.
The decision to become a Bulldog came pretty quickly. She mentioned the school to her father, and he immediately endorsed MSU as the choice for the Aledo, Texas native.
“He’s always been a big supporter of what I want to do, so every time I said, ‘Dad, let’s go right now,’ we packed up that day and came here for a visit,” Graff said. “. We came on an official visit and he just fell in love with it, just like I did. It’s funny how some people say when you step on campus you just feel it. I felt it. I believe it. I got here, I felt it.”
She was even more impressed with her conversations with the Bulldog coaches, especially the head coach Josh Johnson.
“On the one hand, Josh is trying to learn a new language so he can understand what they’re doing,” she said. “He’s trying to understand how they teach softball in Japan, and I’ve never heard of a coach learning another language to learn more about the sport.”
She also appreciates the different perspectives that Johnson and the associate head coach Tyler Bratton bring to the table as former baseball players along with the head coach Samantha Rickets‘ gaming experience.
Graff continues to absorb new information. One of the earliest workouts she did in the batting cages after arriving in Starkville was something completely new.
“We’re doing different hand positions and using a cricket bat, which I’ve never used before,” she said. “It’s different, but it makes a lot of sense in how you change the angle of the club and get your elbow through the ball.”
For a player who one day hopes to become a coach, it’s no surprise that learning new techniques for the game or new ways to teach old concepts would be a huge draw. A sports administration major, Graff has already spent the summer teaching classes and helping the next generation grow.
Listening to her talk, she already sounds a bit like a coach today. One of her catchphrases was, “You can’t be her.” It’s an approach to comparison and self-confidence that many coaches would like to see in their players.
“You can’t compare yourself to other people on the field,” Graf said. “I will be as good as I am in my place. I can’t think, “Wow, I want to be her.” Okay, I can work harder to become like her, but I’ll never be her. You can be close to her. You can train just as hard as her, but you’ll never be her.”
But don’t mistake this mentality for a lack of drive or confidence. Graf also brings a lot of confidence to the table, enough to play one of the most important games of his career while knowing he’s not at his best.
In Game 2 of a three-game set in the state playoffs her junior year, Graf took a bad jumper to the face that broke her nose. She missed the rest of the game and the opposing team evened the series at three games. They had to return the next day for a decisive Game 3. Graf showed up with a pack of ice and led off with a triple to set the tone en route to victory.
“I covered my face in the middle of the inning, back and forth,” Graff said. “I had ice in the back of the arc, but I think that really forced me to focus more on the game and focus on the team, just because it could have been our last game.”
This is another recurring coaching message. Any game can be the end of someone’s career. Graff wants to see the next generation make the most of their opportunities and be fully prepared for them.
“In Year 1, I’m hoping to learn a lot of new information, a lot of new skill sets, a lot of new training and try to bring that back home and help the girls who are trying to get there as well,” she said. “I just want to be that person to another student athlete who says, ‘Wow, this really makes sense now,’ and I just want other people to develop their love for the game.”