LINDEN, NJ - Linden High School's head softball coach has proven how important her graduating seniors are by finding a creative way to celebrate them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Coach Valerie Tauriello celebrated her graduating seniors who couldn't set foot on the field by hand-picking dirt from each of their playing positions and bottling it, so they could have it forever.

Each mason jar of dirt – with a little grass thrown in for the outfielders – has a home-plate-shaped tag attached that reads: “On this dirt you’ve literally left it all, blood, sweat and tears. You’ve made friendships that will always be part of you. You’ve fought side-by-side girls who can relate how bad you want to win. This dirt holds your laughter as tightly as it holds your frustration. Life goes on off this dirt, but nothing can compare to the feeling you get while standing on it. Each time you look at this jar of dirt, know in your heart what it stands for and remember these years and all the wonderful memories it holds.”

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Tauriello couldn't have been happier to provide the gesture for her players.

“I love to coach, and I love to spend my time developing student athletes and supporting them in all they wish to be,” Tauriello said. “This year was particularly difficult; my heart was breaking for my softball team and even more so for my seniors.”

The coach made sure she abided by all social distancing recommendations and managed to deliver the mason jars and senior day posters to all of her seniors on what would have been their senior day. 

“These young women are amazing, and they deserve to be celebrated for their commitment not only to the sport of softball but to the community of Linden,” Tauriello said. “I figured since they wouldn’t be able to set foot on our home field this season, why not bring a little piece of the field to them.”

Athletic Director Steven Viana said that all of the LHS spring coaches are working on a special tribute to their seniors who have missed out their final season. He praised Tauriello for her initiative in showing her players how much they are missed.

“She is an amazing coach and amazing person,” he said. “We were all heartbroken at the loss of our spring season, but this kind of celebration shows all our players that they are not forgotten and that they will always be part of the Linden Athletics family.”

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