Every time Paul VI senior second baseman Dallas Urban takes the infield, she sees her father behind the backstop.
But her dad, Jeff Urban, isn’t there anymore. He died suddenly of a heart attack in November, at the age of 54.
Before Urban steps into the batter’s box, she says a prayer and points her purple-and-white XENO bat up to the sky.
“He has the best seat in the house now,” Urban said. “I just know he’ll be at every single one of my games now and be able to see me play throughout my whole life.”
Urban said she felt like jumping out of her stepfather’s Ford truck when she learned that her father had died as she and her family were leaving an exhibition basketball game between Temple and Jefferson at the Liacouras Center.
But Urban didn’t only lose her father within the past year. She also lost a grandfather last August, and a grandmother last week.
“I can’t physically see them right now, but I know all of them are watching over me,” Urban said. “They wouldn’t want to see me give up and not take each day as a challenge. They want to see me fight through this.”
Urban is batting .414 and notched her 90th career hit in an 8-4 loss to Washington Township on Monday. Her goal is to reach the 100-hit mark this season like her sister, Breck, who now plays shortstop at Jefferson, did in her high school career.
“Lately she’s been killing it,” Breck said. “It’s nice seeing her being able to follow my footsteps.”
Dallas will join her next season on Jefferson’s softball team. The two have been an infield duo together since they started playing together on the South Jersey Gators, a youth softball club in Haddon Township.
Jeff Urban helped coach Dallas, Breck and their other sister, Hunter, on the youth-league squad with Dawn Mader, who is the Paul VI coach.
“He always came to the games,” Mader said. “He was always there, so for her not to have him there, it’s a big deal when you’re young like that.”
Senior first baseman Cali Kraemer said she tries to keep Urban in good spirits throughout games. After she flied out to center field Monday, Kraemer could feel her frustration in the dugout. Kraemer said she told Urban that her father would have been proud of the well-hit ball, even though she didn’t get on base.
“We always tell her when she gets a hit like, ‘That one was for Jeff,’ ” Kraemer said. “We all encourage her to play for her dad.”
Urban honors her father every game. Before Paul IV’s pitcher takes the mound, Urban and her teammates gather around the pitcher’s circle. Urban then writes “Dad” with a heart next to it in the dirt and huddles with her team. Paul VI ends the huddle with “For Jeff!” And the team takes the field.
She plans to sprinkle some of her father’s ashes on Paul VI’s field before the season is over.
“That field, I’m always going to remember my dad standing there and watching me play,” Urban said. “He was one of my biggest supporters.”