Over a high school career, it's hard for a student-athlete to even start in an athletic event or take AP courses before his or her junior year.
East Carter's Montana Fouts, however, isn't your normal student-athlete, whether it be with her performance inside or outside the circle.
That's clear with the Lady Raiders' 21-0 record to start the year, which is the best in 16th Region history.
However, the person who is Montana Fouts has been proven by the latest gesture the sophomore has taken to honor the individuals who serve our country.
The 6-1 blue-chip pitcher has worked together with her father, East Carter assistant coach Tim Fouts, to raise a dollar per strikeout for the Wounded Warriors.
For the individuals who know her best, such as Derek Calhoun, that's no surprise.
“I think that donating to Wounded Warriors is an outstanding gesture, especially for a girl at Montana's age,” Calhoun said. “A lot of people at her age probably wouldn't think about helping out former soldiers that we really need to be behind, and I think it's an excellent idea.”
Montana's travel ball coach, Eddy Ketlehut, concurs.
“From a team standpoint, there's no selfish bone in Montana's body, which is rare for how good she is,” Ketlehut said. “She's just a thoughtful individual. I've never heard her talk about herself, ever. Most kids in her situation are more apt to talk about how good they are. She's more worried about her teammates or other individuals than about anything she's going to receive”
As for Tim Fouts, that's just the way his daughter has been wired throughout her life.
“You couldn't ask for a better kid as far as academics are concerned,” Tim said. “She's a really good student. The one thing about Montana is that she's never cared about what anybody else was doing from a training standpoint. She only cared about what she was doing. Montana had a goal to play in the Southeastern Conference with Alabama, play high level softball, and get a scholarship to do so, and she did that. She still has a lot a goals to set. Her work ethic's just unbelievable.”
According to Ketlehut, the idea came after the Foutses talked to the Wounded Warriors in Atlanta while Montana played for and Tim coached theBeverly Bandits travel team .
“Tim was talking to one of the Wounded Warriors, and I think Montana was really touched by how people were affected,” Ketlehut recalls. “It was a huge gesture to decide to come up with the idea of raising funds through striking out batters, but it speaks volumes to the type of person that she is.”
Thus, the dollar-per-strikeout idea was born.
“I wanted to do this because I feel like this doesn't get enough attention as it deserves,” Montana said. “There are many things out there that need our attention, but this one stood out because I felt that I could really make a difference for these men and women who are risking everything for us so that we can live our lives. If it wasn't for them and everything they have done and are doing, we couldn't do the things that we love to do.”
While Fouts is genuine off the softball field, the Alabama commit is a gamer and the ultimate competitor when it comes to game time.
“I am a very competitive player,” Montana said. “I love winning very much, but I hate losing even more than I love winning.”
That's proven in the numbers she has put up over the course of a career that has a real possibility of going down as one of the state's all-time best by the time Fouts' high school days end.
Since her sixth grade year, Fouts has been a fixture on East Carter's high school team and proved herself as a talent that has never been seen before in the 16th Region.
Before her freshman year even began, Fouts had already accumulated a 30-5 overall record with a blistering 0.42 ERA while striking out 333 batters in 231 and one-thirds innings while recording a total of 21 shutouts.
That sample size by itself? Simply unprecedented for a middle school player playing against high school competition, which is why Fouts was courted by every Division I program in the country before choosing to commit to Alabama just over two months into her freshman year.
However, as crazy as those statistics sound, she's only become a more complete, well-rounded softball player.
Through East Carter's first 21 games, Fouts has started and won all 17 of her contests on the mound while striking out an amazing 255 batters in just over a half of a season. Her ERA is 0.13.
“The poise that she shows on the mound is incredible,” Calhoun said. “But she wants that game ball. She wants in the big games, and we're going to let her have the ball. She's earned that right to be able to get out there on that mound and go win us a ball game.”
It's a combination of Fouts' abilities on and off of the mound that have had businesses clamoring to help donate.
According to Tim, businesses such as Grayson Sporting Goods, Simply The Best, Stamper's Carpets, All-American Graphics, Tres Hermanos Nunez, and All That Bloomz are a few of the businesses that either match the dollar per strikeout or choose to make their own donation.
“The Wounded Warrior project has made me a student ambassador for them, so I can do a dollar per every strike out I get this season,” Montana said.
“Some businesses are donating a certain amount and others are participating in the dollar per strikeout,” Tim said. “Montana's happy with either one, as long as we can get people to be aware that the Wounded Warriors are out there.”
While it's clear that Montana Fouts is a once-in-a-lifetime talent, her actions off the playing surface are more special than the talent she possesses on the softball field.
“Montana's the full package,” Calhoun said. “A lot of people associate her success with her pitching, but she's a very good fielder, a very good defensive player, and she's a very good student-athlete. She takes Advanced Placement courses and doesn't take any light classes; just an outstanding student, and is just a well-rounded student for East Carter in general.”
“It's been a lot of fun to watch what's going on,” Tim said. “I never dreamed that when she was 10 years old or that when she was 13, she would have a choice to go anywhere in the country to play collegiate softball. It's nice for her to go through her entire high school career and know where she's going to go to college so that she can focus on preparing herself as a student-athlete rather than worrying about where she's going to go to school. She's doing such a great job of personifying what it means to be a student-athlete with her actions inside and outside of softball, and I am so proud of her for that.”
For Montana, her success and beliefs wouldn't be possible without her support system.
“It means the world to me,” Montana said. “I couldn't possibly have a better support system, from my family and friends to my teammates and coaches. They have been through it all with me and believe that I could do anything. That it and of itself means a lot. Someone once told me it takes an army to be able to reach the goals and dreams I have, and I certainly have one of those.”