Throughout her athletic career, Teigan Denny had been able to look up into the bleachers and see her aunt.

But Margie Dawn Denny-Wall passed away last April at just 45 and was not in the stands for Denny’s senior season in the outfield for Owasso softball, a season that culminated in last month’s run to the state championship game.

“I’ve always wanted her to be with me,” Denny said. “This season was really tough. This is my first season ever in softball where she wasn’t there. It just took a toll on me.”

As Denny and her Ram teammates boarded a bus south to Shawnee prior to the Class 6A final on Oct. 19, the program’s first title game appearance in eight years, she decided to pen a personal letter to Denny-Wall, who she nicknamed “Auntie.”

In the letter, Denny wrote just how bittersweet the moment felt.

“I was thinking this is such a surreal moment being in the state championship,” Denny told the Owasso Reporter. “I felt so happy, but so guilty because she wasn’t there to experience it with me. Writing this letter, I wanted to let her know she was still with me. She was with me through the whole tournament. Regardless of the outcome, I know that she was proud of me.”

Edmond Memorial edged out Owasso, 3-2, to claim the title. But the outcome did not keep Denny from another moving tribute. Moments following the conclusion, she placed her cleats on home plate at the Ball Fields at Firelake and then tucked the letter inside.

Several years earlier, Denny had seen some of her Olympic softball heroes do the same after their retiring from the sport. The state championship concluded a 15-year softball career for Denny. Following graduation, she will continue to compete athletically, but will do so in lacrosse at Oklahoma Baptist University.

“I figured (home plate) is where I started and this is where I’m going to end,” said Denny, who also got the nickname “Peanut” from her aunt because she was small for her age as a child. “I decided to put that letter on there too because she was there from the beginning and she was there in the end. She’ll always be there. So I just wanted to say a big thank you to her.”

A picture of both Denny’s cleats and the note circulated around the internet. Denny said she was unaware they were posted online until she went searching on Facebook for photos as possible keepsakes from the state tournament.

Denny described her aunt as both an encourager and confidant. Denny-Wall, who lived in Glenpool, rarely missed the opportunity to travel to one of her niece’s games.

“She was a guarding angel, and I know she definitely is a guardian angel now,” Denny said. “She put me before herself.”

The daughter of Milt and Rachel Denny, Teigan said losing her aunt has been painful, but also gave her a different perspective on the softball field.

“This year, it made me realize there is more to the game,” Denny said. “Because you have all of your loved ones in the stands cheering for you, making sure that you’re happy. They don’t want you to be upset. They don’t want you to feel stressed out. They just want you to have fun. They just love seeing you do what you want to do.”