COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The last weekend of softball was like a family reunion for the Prestons. Texas A&M hosted Mizzou for a three-game series - a school just 30 minutes away from their hometown: Centralia, Missouri.
Both of Madison Preston's parents and sisters attended the in-state school, but when the senior pitcher took the field for A&M, she had an entire support system wearing maroon and white.
Prior to this year, Preston had played softball for three seasons; two of those were at Alabama (2018/19) with another at Arizona State (2020).
On July 16th, 2021, the sport took a backseat for Madison. That day, she gave birth to her daughter, Kendri, and began the new adventure of motherhood.
"Obviously, a baby changes your life completely," she said. "I feel like I adjusted well. I just worked and I hung out with Kendri and it was awesome."
After being away from softball for two years, Madison picked up motivation to pitch once again.
"I felt like I just had to take a chance," she said. "My family said they would make it possible and I was like, 'OK, let's do it.'"
"Softball was over for us," her mother, Missie, explained. "This just relit the fire and all the competition and everything. It's been great."
Madison practiced by pitching with her dad, who also coaches softball. While she contemplated a return, there was no debate over who her next head coach would be.
"When I was thinking about coming back, I was like, 'well, I have to play for her,'" she said, referring to Trisha Ford, her previous coach at Arizona State. "I feel like she helped me really love softball again and made me believe that I was good enough to compete at a high level."
When Ford learned of Preston's plans, she wasn't sure what to make of it at first. Eventually, the two decided they would keep in touch periodically to track her progress.
"We had a lot of talks of like - 'have you been throwing?' You know, those types of things," Ford said. "I knew if anybody could do it, she could do it."
Preston originally planned to reenroll at Arizona State, but things changed thanks to the coaching carousel. Last June, Ford shocked the softball world - and the Prestons - after accepting the head coaching job at Texas A&M. While Madison mapped out a way to join the roster, Missie decided to join her.
"It was kind of scary, honestly," the new grandmother said. "I was like, 'How are we going to work this?' and, 'You can't take her by yourself.'"
As Madison adjusted to new teammates throughout the season, Kendri also began to find her home at Davis Diamond. It didn't take her long to become a favorite in the clubhouse.
"I was nervous coming in because I was like, 'Man, I feel like they're going to be like, 'What's the mom doing here?''" Madison said with a laugh. "Honestly, they were so cool and they were so excited to meet Kendri."
While the youngest Preston has killed it in the stands, Madison is closing out a career season. Her 2.51 ERA is the best she's ever had. With postseason play looming, Preston is only 9 strikeouts away from another career-best in that category.
"She's just more mature. Little things don't bother her," Ford said of Preston's improvement. "She just doesn't have any distractions. She doesn't time to have distractions: She has Kendri, she has school, and she has softball."
"It feels super-rewarding for me to see Madison step up and be able to handle her classes, practice, Kendri - everything all at once," her mother Missie said. "I'm super proud of her for the mom that she's become."
"I hope that it just teaches her that honestly, you can do anything," Madison said when asked about what lessons she hopes Kendri can learn from her journey. "It doesn't matter who is against you. It really just matters who is for you and the most important person is yourself. As long as you believe in yourself and you know that it's possible then do it."