AP photo

Angela Price and her father. 

‘“I love you, sweet pea,’ and then sure enough that was the last time I talked to him, September 3,” Angela Price said. 

During Labor Day weekend of 2021, spirits were high for Kansas softball’s Price, the then-sophomore from Greenwood, Arkansas, who always had a smile and an infectious aura around her. 

On Monday, Sept. 6, Price cruised down Massachusetts Street in Lawrence with her teammate and best friend Kasey Hamilton. The two were going shopping as they would often do in their free time. 

“My roommate [Kaitlyn Gee] was calling Kasey,” Price recalled in an interview with the Kansan. “And her car was over the Bluetooth and she [Gee] was like, ‘hey, are you with AP [Angela Price]?’ And her voice was a little rattled. I was like, ‘yeah, I'm right here,’ like I just spoke up. And she was like, ‘okay, AP, like, you need to whenever y’all get the car parked. I need you to call your sister.’

Price knew something wasn’t right. At first she thought her dog had died, but after getting home and calling her sister, she instantly knew it was bigger than her beloved pet. 

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol responded to a motorcycle crash in Leflore County shortly after 7 p.m., according to KOKH-TV. Troopers pronounced Price’s father dead at the scene and her mother in critical condition.  

“I remember opening Kasey's car door. We're in her driveway, and I just laid on the driveway; I was throwing up... I felt so helpless. I just kind of laid there, and the next two hours was like a blackout moment. I guess I don't really remember,” Price said with tears in her eyes. 

A few moments later, Price’s phone rang again. This time, another familiar voice was on the other end — Kansas softball coach Jennifer McFalls. McFalls not only called to provide another layer of support for her player, but to make sure Price was going to get to her family as quickly as possible. 

(Courtesy of Angela Price) 

“It’s something I had never experienced as a coach, dealing with that tragic news and having to go over and, you know, spend that time with my player, but there was nowhere else I wanted to be except to be right there with her,” McFalls told the Kansan.

Not only did she not want to be anywhere else, but she also went to the extent of canceling two fall exhibition games in order to charter a bus for the entire staff and team to Poteau, Oklahoma, for Price’s father’s funeral. Price exclaimed that there was no better feeling than to walk into the building and see everybody there for her including Nicole Corcoran, deputy athletics director of administration and student-athlete well-being at the University of Kansas. 

“This is how I knew I was where I was supposed to be,” Price said referring to being a Jayhawk. “It spoke a lot about her [McFalls’] heart and where her priorities were, and that her players came first in that. She was very concerned about me and wanted to make sure that not only she was there for me, but the whole team." 

At the time of this interview, Jeffrey Price had been gone for seven months, and Kansas softball was nearing the end of a long and toilsome season – victorious in just two of a total three Big 12 Conference games. Looking back to February, and back even further such as days after the passing of Price’s father, Jayhawk softball began to take shape.  

Individual adversity for Price forged an unbreakable bond between 20 special women. Family was everything, and McFalls didn’t just advocate for it — Jeffrey Price did. From beginning to end, through thick and thin, Kansas was one, and it showed despite the numbers. 

“That's another reason why this KU softball team is so important to me because we're very close-knit,” Price said. “There's just this chemistry about this team that is unbeatable, and you know what it's uncoachable like it's just this link that we all have. I mean, that's everything my dad said to me growing up. And if I did not have that, I guarantee you right now I would be at home. 

Aside from the team aspect, learning to live without a father figure is a huge adjustment. Price said days go by where it doesn’t feel like real life, like he’s just a call away, but he’s not. Those are the easy days, but what about holidays, birthdays or big games?  

However a rainbow, near or far, reminds Price that her dad really is just a step away. 

“One of my dad's co-workers who worked in the oil field sent me a picture of a double rainbow and said ‘I know your dad is at work with me today,’” Price said. “I was like, ‘wow, that's so sweet, thank you.’ We had a game that day. Sure enough during our game, full double rainbow right over the field. I was just like, ‘oh my god, not only is he at work with him like he's here watching me play softball.'” 

(Courtesy of Angela Price)

Now, Price is 10 months removed from one of the toughest days of her life. And coach McFalls thinks she just needed a little bit of time and space in order to begin to regroup. 

“I know that she didn't want to just lay down and quit and not keep working, I do know that about her,” McFalls said. “I think she just needed to be poked and prodded a little bit and kicked around. It's like, ‘come on, you can do this,’ and reminded that she has a life to live too.”