When Tagen Reeves was 5 years old, he exhibited all the mannerisms of a professional baseball player. With a father who coached baseball, he took the game seriously.
In his first career at bat in T-ball, he put one foot in the batter’s box and looked at the third-base coach who was cheering him on. Tagen just shook his head, refusing to take his first swing. The coach called a time-out to talk to him and soon walked back to the dugout laughing. Tagen got up to the plate, looked at the coach, and this time got what he had been waiting for – an official hitting signal, just like the professional players get.
Thus began a multi-sport athletic career that has lasted more than 20 years.
Now, at 29, Tagen has become as much a member of the Department of Athletics as his father, head softball coach Bobby Reeves, since coming to ACU in 2010. Tagen’s role, however, has been more impactful across campus, reaching not only athletes from every sport but also students, faculty and staff. Even other coaches throughout the Lone Star and Southland conferences know him well.
What makes Tagen so popular is his enthusiasm, love for life and kindness toward everyone. These traits are biologically part of who he is. But they are also factors of a condition he’s had since he was born. As a special needs person, Tagen’s mind works differently.
“From the time Tagen was born, we had, like, seven or eight surgeries in the first two years of his life,” Bobby said. “His eyes were crossed, so we went in and cut the muscles to straighten his eyes out. He’s had tubes put in his ears about five times. He’d get a hole in his eardrum and they’d have to graft skin and close it.”
Tagen showed signs of slowness growing up, and was always accepted and loved exactly the way he was. However, his parents still constantly, and fruitlessly, searched for medical answers to his unknown condition.
“For the first five years of his life, we went to doctors to find out exactly what was wrong with him,” Bobby said. “One time, we went to Dallas, and they told us there was a guy in Minnesota they thought could tell us what was wrong with him since nobody had been able to tell us yet. But at that point, my wife and I looked at each other and said it didn’t make any difference. We were going to love him the way he was; even if they told us what was wrong, it wouldn’t change the way we feel.”
Tagen never acted as if he knew he was different growing up. He attended public school in Shallowater and went through the life skills program where he was taught how to wash clothes, count money, shop at the grocery store and do a little bit of reading. Tagen enjoyed school, but growing up in a family of coaches and athletes, he developed a passion for sports at a very young age.
He started with T-ball and peewee football and became very good, very fast. He eventually took his talents to the Special Olympics when he was 7. He has competed in baseball, basketball, golf, bowling, and track and field. Now he has dozens of gold, silver and bronze medals to his name – including last week’s gold medal in bowling – which makes him the most accomplished athlete in his family.
Sports has always been how Tagen has best expressed himself, fit in and encouraged others. With a genuine belief that all his athlete friends are his siblings, Tagen can have an inspiring effect just by walking into the training room and greeting somebody with a “Hey sissy!”
“Every time Tagen comes into the room, his face just lights up the whole world,” said Cara Hoover, junior catcher for ACU softball, “so whenever you’re having a bad day and he just comes up and tells you how much he loves you and gives you a big ol’ hug, it kind of just makes your day and makes you think of the world in a different perspective.”
Bobby said Tagen had equal popularity when he was at Texas Tech, Lubbock Christian, Harding University and Texas State while his father coached, but he never had the same kind of love, support and opportunity he’s had since coming to ACU.
For instance, Tagen has wanted to be a professional baseball player his entire life, and head baseball coach Britt Bonneau has helped him get as close to his goal as possible, which helps the team out in the process.
“He makes it known that he is a ball player and we must work hard every day to get better,” Bonneau said. “The ‘attitude, effort, everyday equals success’ saying is true with Tagen.”
Tagen gets to practice with the team every day. He throws bullpens with the pitchers, takes hitting practice and fields balls with the infielders and outfielders, and gets to sit in the dugout with the team during games.
“Anyone that knows Tagen knows that he is your friend from the first time you meet him. Our new guys every year get to experience what it is like to have a true friend once they meet him. Those players that take the time to play catch with him or hit with him have developed very close relationships with him,” Bonneau said.
When Tagen talks about ACU baseball, pride, and sometimes a little egotism, ring clear in his voice.
“I’m a college athlete,” he repeats two or three times with a huge grin.
He has been issued full team practice gear to wear on the field, but the prize moment of Tagen’s entire athletic career came in early October when the baseball team presented him with an official ACU baseball jersey, marking his legitimate entry into the ACU athletic ranks.
Now that he’s a real college athlete, Tagen said he’s waiting to get drafted to a major league baseball team. Until the day he actually gets to wear a Rangers jersey, though, he’ll continue to be an inspiration on campus as an example of selflessness, optimism and, most importantly, unwavering faith.
“I know Jesus is always there for me,” Tagen said. “I play for him, I help him out, always love him. And I read the Bible every day. And I pray and I sing about him and love him. I care about Jesus.”