Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

June 1, 2014

All-en the family

Allen siblings bound together by remarkable talent


Mineral Wells Index

By CLINT FOSTER

It doesn't happen often, but every once in a while an athletic family comes around that inspires everyone who sees them play.

In the NFL, Peyton and Eli Manning have combined for three Super Bowl championships in five appearances. Reggie Miller made his mark in the NBA in the 1990s, while his sister, Cheryl, put together a career that has led many to call her the greatest women's basketball player of all time. And the Molina brothers in Major League Baseball – Bengie, Yadier and Jose – have the distinction of being the only sibling trio in MLB history to each win a World Series ring.

Mineral Wells lays claim to its own athletic family, still in the midst of a meteoric rise, who have been wowing and inspiring all who've seen them, not only by their tremendous talent on the baseball and softball diamonds, but also by the strength of their character off the field.

Three siblings make up the incredible Allen family: Bryson, the oldest, Bethany, the middle child and only girl, and Braxton, the youngest.

They may be short in stature, but put a glove or a bat in their hands and each becomes an absolute giant.

By the numbers, each of the Allens was the best player on their respective teams this past season.

In his second and final season at Seward County Community College in Kansas, Bryson led his team in batting average (.430), on-base percentage (.530) and slugging (.772) while hitting 10 doubles, four triples and three home runs and knocking in 23 RBIs in just 23 games.

As a senior at Mineral Wells High School, Bethany captained the Lady Rams to their best season in school history and a second-straight area championship, all the while leading the team in batting average (.547), extra-base hits (26), stolen bases (37) and runs scored (76). She only struck out once all year. 

Her exploits have earned her a scholarship at Weatherford College, making her the second Allen to go on to play in college.

Not to be outdone, in his sophomore season Braxton helped the Rams to a District 6-3A championship season, leading the team in batting average (.457), OBP (.546), slugging (.728), RBIs (25) and extra-base hits (14). In addition to being the regular starter at catcher, he also cemented himself as one of Mineral Wells' best pitchers, posting team-bests in ERA (1.90), WHIP (1.15) and strikeouts (59) while posting a 6-1 record, including two historic, complete-game victories over Kennedale.

It's enough to make their father, retired Texas Highway Patrol Senior Trooper and former baseball player Garry Allen, extremely proud.

"Usually you have one that will do good, but to have all three of them do good, that's good for them," he said. "It's not for me, it's for them and what they get out of it. And what they get out of it is what they put in. They work harder than anybody I've ever seen. They're reaping the rewards of what they do. I'm blessed to have three that can go as far as they are."

GROWING UP ALLEN

With so much talent under one roof, it would stand to reason that every day growing up in the Allen household was a competition.

"We've been competitive in everything," Bryson said with a smile. "We could try to race to the fridge and be knocking each other down. It's been a lot of fun. We'd go out and play catch and if I throw hard, [Bethany was] trying to throw just as hard as I am and knock my hand off. It's little things like that that keep us closer together and gives us a bond that we'll always have.

"Not many people can go out and play with their brother and sister and have them be competitive with everything you do."

As the only girl in the equation, Bethany – affectionately called "BB" by her friends and family – said the competition has not only helped them all to be better, but also has helped her to hold her own, in particular.

"It made me tough," she said. "It helps me a lot. They're guys, so they're obviously tougher anyway, and they just push me to be better."

"Plus, she gets her way," Garry quipped, prompting a laugh from his kids. 

For Braxton, life has been a mission to try and be as good as his two older siblings.

"I've got a guy who's played all-state high school baseball, all-conference in college, BB's all-state in softball and now they're both playing in college," he said. "They're doing all these big things and I've got some really big shoes to fill. It's what I've been trying to do ever since I've been growing up. It's thanks to Bryson and BB that I am who I am today, and especially my parents. I wouldn't be anything if it wasn't for everyone in my family."

All three of the Allen kids came by baseball and softball quite naturally. 

Garry played baseball at Midwestern State and Ranger Junior College, even earning a tryout from the Chicago Cubs in Paris, Texas, before he decided to hang up his cleats and pursue a career in law enforcement. 

When his kids took a liking to the sport, Garry said he was more than happy to help them along.

"I kind of helped them out because that's how I got my school paid for, playing baseball," he said. "That's something I knew. But they picked up on it and took off with it. They were born with the athleticism and it came easier to them than most people, but they put the time in and did what they needed to do."

Each of the Allen siblings said they fell in love with the sport in their own way. For Bethany, she said it was when she discovered she was good at it while playing select ball in middle school with many of the girls who eventually became her high school teammates.

Braxton said his love affair began the moment he first picked up a baseball and he's been playing ever since he could walk. Bryson's story is much the same.

"Going out and playing catch everyday with this guy, here," he said, placing his hands on his dad's shoulders. "Once you have somebody that you have that bond with, like me and him going out and playing catch and hitting every day, it's something you can't replace. It's something you will always cherish for the rest of your life. 

"There's not many kids that can say, 'I played catch with my dad. I hit with him every day and spent all my time with him playing the game that we both love and both are pretty good at. It's stuff like that you don't forget and always hold on to. The good Lord above gave us great talent and skill, he just helped us perfect it."

Garry gave his kids essentially a second coach at home, helping them always to perfect their game. But sometimes, the kids joked, having that second coach wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

For a trio of kids that already hated to lose, they said coming home to a grumpy dad after a loss was never something they looked forward to. But still, they said they've grown to understand the value of those experiences.

"It's helped us handle a lot of things on and off the field," Bryson said. "To come home, especially if you're struggling in a certain spot, and have him to be like, 'Hey, I saw this during the game,' and we'd go out and work on it. Having somebody who's always there to help you is amazing in itself."

But when dad got to be too much, the Allen kids always had someone to turn to in times of trouble: their mother Robin. As Bryson put it, they had "the comforter" and "the enforcer."

"You've got to have both," Garry said.

UNITED THROUGH TRAGEDY

The Allen family was dealt a devastating loss last September when Robin died unexpectedly, rocking the entire Mineral Wells community.

The local fire chief, Allen was an absolutely beloved member of the community and a loving mother and wife to her family.

"She was like everybody's mom," Bethany said. "But we were lucky enough for her to be our mom."

"Anybody that needed any comfort, whatsoever, she was there to give it to them," Bryson said. "That's who my mom was."

Robin's comforting presence was vital to the Allen kids' development into the players and people they are today. 

"When we had a bad game we came home to her, we didn't come home to him," Bethany joked about her dad. "My mom didn't care whether we did bad or good, she was just happy we participated."

"Even if you thought you had a terrible game, she would always say, 'Honey, you did so great,'" Bryson said with a laugh. "Some things you'd struggle in, but when you came home to mom, she was always there to help. She was always there to pick you up, get you up off the ground and say, 'Everything's going to be OK. We're going to get through this.'"

"My mom was always the one to give you a hug after the game, even if you didn't want one," Braxton said with a smile. "It was always a fun car ride home, because you're talking to mom, but then [dad's] all mad and just driving, pointing out everything else, and mom's just like, 'You did fine.'"

The kids said it was their mother who instilled in them the importance of teamwork and putting others before themselves. To this day, no matter how good of a game an Allen has, the first people they give credit to are their teammates.

"She told us to never be negative in a game, always have your head up and pick everyone else up," Braxton said. "It's not all about you, it's about everybody else. You can't win a baseball game by yourself."

Since their mother's death, the Allens said they have been driven to perform at their best in her honor. Perhaps it's a major reason why their 2014 stats were so jaw-dropping.

"It's pushed us," Bethany said of the tragedy. "I play for her, because what she loved to do was watch us. It makes me play better and I obviously had a pretty good season, so I know she was there watching."

For Bryson, being so far from home when he heard the news of his mother's passing was particularly hard.

"The day I found out about everything, I was playing in an all-star showcase. My mom had texted me that morning and told me how proud she was and how much she loved me. To know that I still have that message today and can still go back and read it and see how proud we all three made her [is special].

"I always wanted to be right here with [my family], because I knew that's what they needed. I know I can't take my mom's place. She was above everybody else. She always did so much for us. I only wish I could do a tiny bit of what she did for [Braxton and Bethany]. It was tough being away, but I knew that I was also doing what my mom wanted me to do. I couldn't just drop everything, even if I wanted to. I knew that wasn't what she wanted. She wanted me to succeed in everything I do and live my life."

LOOKING FORWARD

For the first time in a while, each of the Allens will enter a distinctly different phase of their playing careers next season. As Braxton enters his first season as an upperclassman with Mineral Wells, Bethany will embark on her first year of college and Bryson will continue his career at one of a few four-year colleges he is choosing between.

At MWHS, each of them said they had the benefit of receiving fantastic coaching from people they also consider close friends. Now they are each on step closer to achieving their ultimate goals.

For Bethany, that is eventually transferring to a Division 1 university where she can finish her softball career and train to become a nurse anesthetist.

"I'm just really, really excited for college," she said. "That coach has so many contacts and she's already told me that she'll help me [transfer]. She had 10 girls transfer to big colleges [last year] and she has good connections and will help me get to where I want to go, because I want to keep playing."

As Bryson looks for his next college stop closer to home, his ultimate dream remains a chance to play in the MLB. Despite showing tremendous speed and power at the next level, the 5-foot-7, 150-pound player was passed over in the recent MLB draft for a teammate with less-impressive stats who stood 6-foot-1.

But Bryson refuses to let his height stop him. He draws inspiration from Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia who, despite standing 5-foot-8, has been a staple of the Sox's roster the past eight years and helped them win the World Series in 2007 and 2013.

"MLB has always been a dream for me," Bryson said. "We talk about it constantly. Sometimes you have to face reality, but overall if you still have that dream and you give it all you've got every day, who knows? You might end up there. I'll continue to pursue that dream until somebody high above tells me I can't.

"People always want to say, 'You're too little,' but look at Dustin Pedroia. I'm sure there were people who doubted him throughout his whole life, but it motivated him to be where he is today. It all depends on how much you care about the game and how much work and effort you're willing to put in to it. 

"It's like my dad says, we reap what we sow, and if you don't put any work into it, nothing good will happen."

Bryson has fielded phone calls from MLB scouts and, although it hasn't translated into draft interest yet, he knows that's something he can hang his hat on. He only hopes he can parlay that into increasing interest to get his shot at the pros one day.

"Just knowing that I got a phone call, at least I can say they were looking," he said. "I've just got to keep working hard and hope something great happens. But who knows? Something great could happen tomorrow or I could get hurt walking out the door. You just don't know. You've just got to have a great attitude about it, give it all you've got every single day and don't 'what if' yourself. That will eat you alive for the rest of your life."

Garry believes his son has what it takes to make the leap.

"He's got as good a chance as anybody else," he said. "There have been guys talking about him to his coaches already. Whether or not they'll pull the trigger and draft him, you don't know. I'm sure the size has something to do with it, they like bigger guys in the major leagues. But there's nothing they can do that he can't do."

Although he's still a long way away, the MLB is just as big of a dream for Braxton as it is for his older brother.

"That's a life goal for me, to make it there," he said. "Yeah, everybody keeps doubting me because I'm 5-foot-7. But I use that as motivation to move past them and prove them wrong. Anything's possible if you put your heart and soul into it. It's something I really want to do."

"Braxton's still young," Garry said. "He's got two more years to get better and improve. There's no doubt he could play at the next level. Whether he wants to or not, that's up to him."

Regardless of what the future holds, there is little doubt of the sheer impact that the games of baseball and softball have had on the Allen family's lives. Besides giving them a fun pass time that they've excelled at to the point of earning college scholarships, they said the game has also taught them a great deal about life.

"It's not just about the game, it's about life, too," Bryson said. "Sometimes in the game you'll have a good day, sometimes you'll have a bad day. It's the same way with life. Things might be going good or they might not. It's about how you respond to it.

"To know you played the great game of baseball, you know how much of an effect it has on your life."

"It's a game of highs and lows," Garry said. "It's probably one of the hardest games, because you don't try to be great, you try to be consistent."

And as far as this part of Texas goes, the Allen kids are among the most consistent you'll find anywhere. Perhaps Bethany put it best:

"We're just blessed," she said.

Blessed to excel at the game they love and blessed to impact the lives of others around them. The Allen family is truly one of a kind.