William Holmes remembers what happened last season when he lost his two pitchers on the Banquete High School junior varsity softball team - he turned to one of his best players.
That player was Celeste Velasquez, who, at the time, had only been a member of the JV team for one season. She had never pitched before, so Holmes began to teach her the fundamentals.
"I coached her for about a week, teaching her the basics," Holmes says, adding that Velasquez had planned to try out for varsity next year. "She picked it up real quick. She just had a natural ability."
Holmes smiles at the memory, which seems to soften the sadness he also feels after the sudden and tragic loss of one of his students. Velasquez, who lived in Robstown, was killed May 12 after a motorcycle she was riding on lost control and crashed three miles northwest of Banquete on County Road 91.
According to a Texas Department of Public Safety accident report, the motorcycle's brakes unexpectedly locked up, causing the driver, 26-year-old Richard Molina, to lose control. Velasquez was later pronounced dead at the scene, while Molina was transferred to CHRISTUS Spohn Memorial Hospital with head trauma.
Neither rider was wearing a helmet, according to the report.
Counselors from Orange Grove, Agua Dulce, Alice and Bishop, as well as clergy from Calallen, made their way to Banquete High School to help students deal with the Velasquez's death, says school counselor Alena Garza. But the students, she adds with a nod, have taken their own steps to honor their fallen classmate.
Outside the high school, a makeshift memorial made of Styrofoam cups spells out Velasquez's name. At her funeral on Saturday, Holmes and Velasquez's teammates wore their softball jerseys to pay homage to their fallen comrade. Velasquez's family, Holmes says, approved the decision, because they said that's what she would have wanted.
Holmes says he also presented Velasquez's mother with her daughter's jersey.
"We retired the No. 17 and I gave it to her mom at the funeral," Holmes says.
The mood is light as Garza and Holmes talk about their memories of Velasquez, but behind the good times, a hint of sadness manages to exude from the educators who knew her as a student.
"She seemed like she was very focused and prepared," Garza says. "She wasn't the kind to cut up in class. She was very mature for her grade level."
Holmes nods his head in agreement, then tells the story of a young man who told Holmes at Velasquez's funeral that he was going to drop out of school until Velasquez spoke to him. Her words, Holmes says with a fond smile, encouraged the young man to promise Saturday to finish his education.
"She had an impact on a lot of people," Holmes says.