IRVINE, Calif. — Taylor Dockins sat with her softball idol Jennie Finch in the visiting team’s dugout of Deanna Manning Stadium during the 2017 PGF All-American Game game Friday evening.
The two prayed together before Finch, the former collegiate All-American and Olympic gold medalist, departed for the airport and left words of encouragement for Dockins.
“God’s got you.”
By even sitting in the dugout Friday, Dockins was again defying expectations.
“The doctors told me last year it would take me two years to see the actual softball field and I proved them wrong obviously,” Dockins said. “So for me to be out here with these amazing athletes and to be out here pitching and actually playing, it was a dream come true.”
The game was a showcase of the country’s best players as they prepare to begin their collegiate careers and while the outcome had no meaning whatsoever it was important for Dockins to play.
After being diagnosed with liver cancer last summer, Dockins received surgery to remove part of her liver including a five-inch long tumor.
The doctors gave a timeline of two years for recovery post-surgery but it was defeated mightily by Dockins who not only returned to the field just months later for the Norco High School Cougars but turned in a dominant season.
Dockins was the 2016-17 American Family Insurance ALL-USA High School Player of the Year along with earning Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year honors and verbally committing to continue her softball career at Cal State Fullerton.
After the season however it was discovered that the cancer had returned after three tumors were found on Dockins’ liver.
But even the return of cancer couldn’t break Dockins’ spirit.
Dockins has kept a remarkably positive attitude through such a painful and stressful situation.
“I credit that to everyone,” Dockins said. “For me to be an inspiration to so many it really pushes me to get after it every single day and get out of bed.”
While it doesn’t come off on her face, Dockins admits that there are hard moments going through this process.
“But you just have to get through them and be positive and live life to the fullest every single day,” she said.
After being put on the liver transplant list earlier this month, news she received while at the ESPY awards in Los Angeles, Dockins is scheduled to beginning radiation treatment next Thursday.
Doctors hope the treatment will shrink the tumors enough to surgically remove her liver and replace it with a donor. The intention is for one treatment to be enough to prepare Dockins for surgery.
“It’s been a long process and getting a new liver put inside my body is definitely going to be a big surgery,” Dockins said. “But the best case is just getting it put in, my body accepting it, taking pills every single day, twenty of them which I am not looking forward [to], and just living life again.”
It’s a long road ahead for Dockins, which is why the game Friday evening was important.
For a few hours she was able to put all of the negativity and stress aside and focus on just one thing: the game she loves.
“For seven innings I’m not thinking about anything, only the softball,” Dockins said. “To have that getaway is really nice. It’s going to be tough this Thursday and it’s going to be tough this week thinking about it but this here is just part of living life day by day. I will cherish this forever.”
Dockins pitched a scoreless third inning for the West Coast All-Americans but was hitless in two trips to the plate.
2016-17 American Family Insurance ALL-USA High School second team member Chloe Romero from the Academy of Careers & Exploration of California started the game for the West in the circle and gave up five earned runs in two innings as the East beat the West 7-4.
Fellow American Family Insurance ALL-USA High School second team member Meghan Beaubien of St. Mary Catholic Central in Michigan mirrored Romero in the circle to start the game for the East and pitched two innings allowing a pair of earned runs.
The eventual transplant surgery will sideline Dockins for six months, according to her doctors. But if Dockins has proven one thing through her struggles, it’s she creates her own timelines of recovery.
The smart money is on her defying expectations one more time.
“Obviously I proved the two years wrong, so I’m hoping more on the line of 2-3 months,” she said.”
Cal State Fullerton has also been supportive of Dockins through the process.
“They’ve been amazing,” Dockins said. “We met with them last week and they were on board with everything. If we need to do online classes, if I need notes or tests or anything they will provide it for me while I’m in the hospital.”
The process Dockins is going through would break many weaker people. Some would find it difficult to even roll out of bed in the morning nevermind walk onto a softball field with the best in the country to compete.
But that’s what Taylor Dockins does.
“I have my tough days, there is no way around that,” she said. “But you only live once in your life and you have to make it the best. God chose this route for me and I just have to live it to the fullest. Anyone’s day to go can come tomorrow so I just have to keep living. You live once and you have to keep positive and keep fighting whatever it is you’re going through.”