BOGACZYK: Greene and Herd Softball; a Career in Full
The Word on the Herd-May 6, 2016
Friday, May 6, 2016
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – To say that Kaelynn Greene is one of the top players in Marshall’s 23-season softball history wouldn’t be out of leftfield … which happens to be where she plays.
And to say that this weekend is one of the biggest in Greene’s life also would be in the same ballpark.
On Saturday, Greene will miss her college graduation, because the Herd will playing a doubleheader at Western Kentucky that day on the final weekend of the 2016 regular season.
OK, maybe it’s apropos that Greene, a health sciences major, won’t “walk” in the MU Spring Commencement … because the Herd career leader with 138 steals usually runs.
Then on Sunday, as Coach Shonda Stanton’s club finishes a three-game series at WKU, the player known to teammates as “KG” will spend Mother’s Day with her 18-month-old son, Ace … not to mention her “family” of teammates.
“Really, I don’t think I ever thought I’d change as much as I have here at Marshall,” Greene said Thursday at Dot Hicks Field. “Obviously, this a great program, and that’s why I chose to come here, but I didn’t know how much I would grow.
“I didn’t know how much this place would mold me into pretty much who I am, the woman I’ve become and how much Coach would be a part of that. You can say she was my coach, but she’s been way more than that, you know?”
In her four years at Marshall, the Herd has won a Conference USA softball title and played in its first NCAA regional, in 2013. There have been 126 victories as MU points toward next week’s C-USA Tournament at North Texas. And Greene is finishing strong.
The 5-foot-7 outfielder is one hit shy of a .500 batting average this season. She has reset the Herd career hits and steals records in 2016. Her 292 hits are 26 more than previous record-holder, catcher Rachel Folden (2005-08), a two-time C-USA Player of the Year.
Consider this: Of the top 10 single-season batting averages in Herd history, the two players to make that list three times each are … Folden and Greene.
“I’m definitely surprised by all of my accomplishments personally,” said Greene, of Eastvale, Calif. “I never expected to set any records. As a team, I knew we could do something special, and all of the girls have been phenomenal. All four years I’ve been blessed with amazing teammates here. That’s been awesome.
“I kind of expected the team to do big things. As an individual, I didn’t expect to do what I’ve done. It’s been shocking, yeah. Coach always tells me I need to work on my confidence, so maybe I should think about it differently.
“The one that surprises me the most is the career hits (record). I think all are really shocking to me, but most shocking is the hits record because Rachel Folden had that. I guess she was a four-time all-American, right? And I broke her hits record? Really? Come on.”
Greene’s son was born in October 2014, and Stanton allows Greene to travel with Ace in tow on some road trips. This weekend is one of those.
The talkative single mom said Ace not only has changed her life, but also how she approaches a game she loves, one she has played since kindergarten … and one she will miss greatly.
“Having a child, I do think it makes you more focused,” said Greene, one of a handful of Marshall student-athletes who are mothers. “Coach Stanton (a wife and mother of three) always tells us about having our priorities. And when you’re doing that one thing, that’s what you focus on.
“When you’re with your son, you focus 100 percent on being a mom. When you’re at the field, you focus on 100 percent softball. It’s just not, ‘OK, I’m out here now.’
“She talked a lot to me about balancing when I got pregnant and that helped me out. You focus on academics, you focus on ‘mom duties,’ you focus on softball. It all helped.”
Greene, 22, said she wants to savor every game, every half-inning, every at-bat now, because the curtain on her softball career is closing.
“I’ve had great success and we have, too,” she said. “It’s definitely bittersweet – probably more bitter than sweet. It’s really tough. I know I’m going to cry when it’s over … What am I going to do?
“I think I’m going to start crying and I don’t know if I’ll be able to stop but it’s goodbye forever, and however I deal with that. On Senior Day (last Sunday at “The Dot”), it was kind of sad, but it was mostly tears of happiness because I made it. I did it, you know, and my parents were really proud of me, told me that over and over, and that meant so much. It made me so happy.”
Greene said her post-graduate plan is to return to her native California with her son. With her health sciences degree (and a minor in psychology), “I want to get my teaching credentials. I want to teach elementary school.”
Not that she hasn’t had other thoughts …
“I’ve played since T-ball, (age) 4 or 5,” Greene said. “There actually have been a couple of teams ask me to try out for them in the pro league (the six-team National Pro Fastpitch). I don’t think I’ve totally dismissed it, but right now I’m leaning toward ‘no’ just because I’m ready to be a full-time mom and since I am a single parent, I want to be that parent for Ace.
“That’s going to benefit him. I’ve had to force myself to think about it, whether me going pro would benefit him. But as for now, I do not plan on playing.”
Greene thought back to prior to her arrival at Marshall, in August 2012, as she was turning age 19.
“It was the only (recruiting) visit I ever went on and I came here and I immediately knew this was the place,” she said. “And my mom said, ‘Are you sure; do you want to look anywhere else?’ I said, ‘No, Mom, this is it.’ I felt comfortable with the coach and the assistant coaches, who aren’t here anymore.
“The players on the team … I felt like it was a family atmosphere and they proved me right. We are just like a family, a big family, and when I leave, they’ll still be my family.”
Greene will leave the Herd with more than her records, too. She knows they can – and likely will – be broken one day. Other things, no one can take away.
“I’m a completely different person now,” Greene said, when asked how college, softball and motherhood have changed her. “As a player, I’m completely different. Not that I don’t take softball as seriously, because I take it serious all of the time.
“But it’s more like I don’t get so hung up on making an out or striking out, or a bad bunt, or making a bad play … I don’t dwell on the bad so much after I gave birth to Ace, and to be honest, I think it’s actually made me a better player.
“Instead of me just moping or taking a whole day to get over a bad game, now, right after a bad game or bad practice I have to go straight home and be a mom. There’s none of, ‘I don’t feel like making dinner tonight because I’m upset.’ There’s so much more to life now.”