Northwood Alumna, Tara Tigner, to be inducted into the Midland County Sports Hall of Fame Saturday, May 9, 2015 at Dow Diamond.See the full article on Midland Daily News
When it comes to softball talent, Tara Tigner has always had the natural ability. But when it comes to her tough-as-nails, ultra-competitive approach to the game, she developed that fighting spirit courtesy of her family.
“As far back as I can remember, (softball has) always kind of come easy to me,” said Tigner. “And luckily, I had two older brothers who never took it easy on us (girls). We had to be good to compete with them.”
Good she was. And compete she did.
So much so, in fact, that Tigner went on to become one of the most accomplished and productive softball players in both Coleman High School and Northwood University history.
“She was fun to watch,” said former NU coach Suzanne Brown, who coached Tigner from 1997-2000. “She could run. She could steal. She could bunt. She could hit missiles. She had a tremendous arm. And she would do anything to stop the ball. … She was a tremendous athlete.”
During her four-year prep career at Coleman, Tigner led the Comets to four straight Jack Pine Conference championships and three regional titles. During that span, she earned all-conference and all-district honors all four years and all-region honors three times.
Following her senior season of 1996, she was named All-State and made the Daily News Dream Team. Meanwhile, she also helped Coleman’s girls’ basketball team win both conference and district championships as a sophomore in 1994.
Tigner said that her fondest memory of her prep softball career was traveling to Alpena to play in a tournament consisting mostly of Class A and B teams and winning the championship.
“A lot of us on that team had been playing together since we were seven or eight years old, and we had great chemistry,” she noted. “It felt great to go up there as a Class C team and whip up on some Class A and B teams.”
Tigner went on to enjoy a fabulous collegiate career at Northwood, rewriting the school record book in the process. She was a two-time team captain and a big part of the Timberwolves’ winningest stretches.
Tigner still ranks first in NU history in runs scored (150), second in hits (210) and doubles (39), and third in games played (203), home runs (16), stolen bases (52), and total bases (320) for a career. She was twice named All-GLIAC, and she was inducted into the Northwood Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012.
According to Brown, she used Tigner as a shortstop, second-baseman, and catcher — and Tigner excelled at everything she did on the field.
“You knew from the time she walked onto the field that you had a tremendous athlete,” Brown said. “ … She was probably one of the best athletes I’ve ever coached in my lifetime. She would run through a brick wall for you and was very loyal. Even though I pushed her and pushed her and pushed her, she kept getting up and going after it.
“ … I was on her a lot, because I knew what I had, and I knew what she would develop into,” Brown added. “ … We pulled every ounce of ability out of her.”
Tigner said she thoroughly enjoyed her collegiate experience, particularly playing in Florida during the Timberwolves’ annual spring trip and also playing for two weeks in the Netherlands for a USA travel team in 1997.
“College was just always fun,” she said, adding of the trip to Europe, “ … It was a great experience. I got to play with a lot of other (good players), including some from Arkansas and Oklahoma. It was quite neat.”
Perhaps Tigner’s favorite memory from her collegiate career, though, came against her former Coleman teammate, Nadine Crowl, who’s also in the Midland County Sports Hall of Fame.
“One of my best memories was hitting a home run off of Nadine when she was at Ferris (State),” Tigner said with a chuckle. “It was always a battle (when we faced each other). She was trying to strike me out, and I was trying to hit a home run off of her.”
Brown recalled that standing too close in the third-base coach’s box eventually became a risky proposition when the hard-hitting Tigner was at the plate.
“By her junior year, I could no longer stand near the front of the coach’s box. I had to go to the edge of the outfield grass,” Brown said. “She would just hit rockets (down the third-base line), just rockets.
“I know sometimes she would wait for an inside pitch and try to knock me out of there,” Brown added with a laugh. “ … I cannot praise her enough. She’s just a tremendous athlete, a tremendous softball player, and a tremendous person. You cannot meet a nicer person. She’d give you the shirt off her back.”
In 2002, Tigner was invited to participate at the Olympic tryouts in Chula Vista, Calif., and she continues to play ASA softball in Midland, where she has won state championships in both women’s slowpitch and coed.
Asked about what initially drew her to softball, Tigner replied, “Just the competitiveness.”
“I’m a very competitive person, and all of my friends were (playing softball when we were young), and we were all good at it, so that just made it fun,” she noted. “Just wanting to get better, always competing and trying to beat each other, just made it fun.
“We grew up in a time of no computers, so you either went outside and played or you stayed inside and did nothing,” she added. “And we were always outside playing.”
Tigner, 36, works as a supervisor in supply distribution for MidMichigan Medical Center-Midland. She admitted to being “shocked” to learn that she had been elected to the Midland County Sports Hall of Fame.
“It made me feel humble. It was just humbling, it really was,” she said. “It’s a great honor to have.”
Brown said that Tigner’s status as one of the all-time softball greats in Midland County is assured.
“I think (she’s) right at the top (among all the players I’ve coached),” Brown said. “I’ve been blessed to coach a lot of great athletes, and she is one of them at the top.”
The Midland County Sports Hall of Fame induction banquet will be held at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 9 at Dow Diamond.
Tickets can be purchased through the City of Midland Parks and Recreation Office, 4811 N. Saginaw Road, or online at www.cityofmidlandmi.gov/halloffame
Tickets are $30 each and are available in person during office hours, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.