A resident of Scottsboro, Ala., a retired youth baseball coach, and the father of Hillgrove coach Jason Campbell, Pops followed the Lady Hawks wherever they went. He would make the roughly three hour one-way trip to see Hillgrove play, and sometimes stayed overnight to catch a game the next day, before heading home to Alabama to make the trip all over again at another time.
Pops was committed to his sons, Jeff and Jason, and adored Jeff's twin children, Taylor and his sister, Kelly. occasionally, he would bring his grandchildren with him to Georgia to see Hillgrove play. He had his own bench in an area next to the dugout where he could always be seen wearing his Hillgrove hat.
"He always had his Hillgrove hat on," coach Jason Campbell said. "You never saw him without his hat. You could always hear him cheering on the girls and he was really strong in encouraging the pitchers."
Pops had experienced many of the ups and downs of Hillgrove's previous three seasons and was looking forward to the 2009 campaign. But, on March 15, he awoke that Sunday with a heart attack and couldn't get out of bed. The ambulance arrived to take him to the hospital, but he died en route.
Coach Campbell and the softball team, are grateful Pops was able to see the Lady Hawks succeed year after year. They are also thankful that he was able to witness the team win the Region 7AAAA title last year and advance to the state playoffs.
As a gift, the Lady Hawks paid for a plaque to honor him - their late friend and fervent supporter. It sits in the brick wall adjacent to the gate leading to the Hillgrove dugout and reads:
"For your unconditional love and support to Hillgrove's fastpitch team. You will forever be in our hearts..."
Dianne Holland was a fan too
Dianne Holland, another die-hard Hillgrove softball fan and the mother of Lady Hawks senior Molly Holland, rarely missed a game.
"She would be here for every game, work or not, even if I didn't play," Molly said. "She was our biggest fan."
"I could always hear her in the crowd," senior Sarah Johnson said. "She always wore a Hillgrove shirt and would yell, 'come on Sarah J.' She was just so loud."
On the morning of Saturday, Aug. 8, 2009, Dianne helped her older daughter, Lori, move into her college apartment in Statesboro.
With the help of a family friend, Dianne, Molly and Lori enjoyed their time together that day with the move-in duties until late in the evening.
Molly decided to stay with her sister in the apartment that night, while Dianne and their family friend, each got separate hotel rooms, electing to turn-in around 12:30 a.m.
An early riser, normally Dianne would be on the phone talking with her daughters the following morning. The conversation could be about how they slept, or what they were going to do that day, or what they were going to have for breakfast. It could have been anything. But, this morning there was no conversation. This morning was different.
Dianne Holland, 53, passed away that night. She was discovered in her bed on Sunday by the family friend and the hotel maid after Dianne's daughters became concerned that she wasn't answering her phone. Her death was a tragic loss for Molly, Lori and their dad, Mike, who had been married to Dianne for more than 20 years.
Dianne's passing was also emotional for another reason, for as the mother of a Hillgrove player and an ardent supporter of the Lady Hawks, her loss affected the entire team. One of their own was now gone, and something had to be done.
The team didn't want to forget her, just as it didn't want to forget Pops. It was important to always remember her and what she meant to them and to their teammate, Molly. Something had to be done.
Dianne's unexpected and untimely death occurred five days before the Lady Hawks' season opener on Friday. The team attended the funeral that week, and with heavy hearts, took to the field on Friday without Dianne in the stands or Molly in the dugout.
Needing a change of scenery, and to help move past her grief, Molly decided to attend one of her teammates five games during that weekend.
"When I got there, Shelby's mom put her arm around my shoulder and told me to look out onto the field," Molly said. "That's when I saw them."
Hillgrove's starters and several players in the dugout were all wearing blue armbands in recognition of Dianne, who's favorite color was blue, and to match Pops' eyes.
"I just started crying," Molly said, when she saw the armbands and was told what was on them. "I said, 'thank you so much. You don't know how much this means to me.'"
Scott, who became best friends with Molly as a freshman at Hillgrove, and Johnson, who met Molly and Lori at Lost Mountain Middle School, came up with the idea. They wanted to honor Dianne and Pops for what they meant to the team and to the persons closest to them.
"We wanted to do something," junior pitcher Shelby Scott said. "We all loved her like a mom, and coach Campbell's dad was important to us too. So, we decided we would wear the armbands this season to honor their memory," Scott said. "They're really visible, and you can see them from a distance. We were going to put a Bible verse on it. But, we didn't think it would fit."
Instead, the team chose to simply put the word, "Remember" on the armbands along with a cross.
"Dianne was the best," Johnson said. "She always made you smile and was so nice to everyone. She was great to all of us, and was like our second mom."
Molly, of course, misses her most of all.
"She was just a great person to be around," she said. "She never wanted to see anybody upset or down in the dumps. She was here for every game, whether she had to work or not, even if I wasn't playing. I feel like she's just on vacation. She was our biggest fan."
Hillgrove is off to its best start in its four-year history at 8-0, and the team is dedicating the season to Pops and Dianne. The Lady Hawks begin defense of their Region 7AAAA title with a game at South Paulding Tuesday.
Unfortunately, neither Pops nor Dianne will be in attendance. Nor will they get to see if Hillgrove can win another region championship and perhaps even a state title. According to Molly, the armbands have brought the team even closer than before, which has helped them play better.
"We kind of had our cliques in the past," she said. "Now, we play more as a unit and as a team. It's unified us."
While coach Campbell was able to see his dad, Pops, live a rich and fulfilling life, Molly won't get to experience that same joy. She will, however, always have a way to remember her mom, Dianne, with the help of her family, her teammates, and those armbands.
"It's hard to know she's not here when I walk out of the dugout," she said. "I'll go out there and have no one to talk to like I did before. But, putting on this armband let's me know she's watching over me and I hope I make her proud."