Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Updated: Friday, April 27, 2012 02:04
Even out of season, the softball team plays a dynamic role in the fabric of Wellesley athletics. The players have traded in short skirts and midriff-baring cheerleading uniforms for blue face paint and full blue-man suits, substituted cheer mash-ups for Backstreet Boys lip syncs, replaced pom-poms with homemade signs and swapped high ponytails with ribbons for unique shaved heads. I sat down with Taylor Yamauchi ’13, a softball player who sports one such hairstyle under her catcher’s gear, to hear about her personal Wellesley athletic experience.
Ali Binney (AB): Have you always played softball? Why did you want to continue to play in college?
Taylor Yamauchi (TY): I’ve been playing since I was about seven. It was just park leagues and then, in middle school, I started playing in school and playing club ball. I’d always wanted to play in college. Of course when I was younger, I thought I was going to go Division I and that’s what I was hoping for; then I got older and I realized I wanted to keep doing sports but not necessarily have it be my entire life. It was great to be recruited because all the work I had put in was for something.
AB: What are the best/worst parts of being a varsity athlete?
TY: Let’s start with the best. I love being part of the athletic community. I’ve met my best friends here. Even though I’m not on the same team as other athletes, I feel like I can relate to them because we all have something important in common. I also love that I still get to play in college. It distances me from academics and gives me something else to do. Since I’m not in a lot of clubs, I feel like it gives me more of an identity at Wellesley.
Don’t get me wrong, I love being an athlete here. I love the competition. I love that I’m working for something other than acedmica all year long. But unfortunately, softball takes up my entire life besides school. It’s kind of a blessing and a curse, often making it hard to do other things. Athletics aren’t as big here as at other schools...It’s also tough because of the way academics mix with athletics. I’m on SAAC (Student-Athlete Advisory Committee) so we’re working on it, but it’s still tough. For example, we want athletes to be able to be science majors, but it’s hard because labs conflict with practices. It’s a work in progress.
AB: You’re over halfway through your season. What are your goals for the remainder and where do you see the team going?
TY: My personal goal is every time I get in to try to play my own game. I’m not thinking about what our record is or how we played yesterday. I just do my best every day. Our team goal is to make the NEWMAC tournament. We haven’t been the most consistent team, but we have so much potential. We want to carry that through to the rest of the season. We come out really strong against tough teams like Springfield, but can’t seem to win against less-competitive opponents.
AB: Do you like playing offense or defense more?
TY: I’m a defensive player, personally. A lot of times I’m the “flex,” basically the designated defensive player. So I play on the field for the team, generally catching, while another player hits in my place in the line up. This allows us to get the best defensive players on the field and the best offensive players in the line up. I really enjoy it. I get to call pitches and it’s the coolest position because you see the whole field. I love making great plays and throwing people out if they get on base. If I hit and it doesn’t go well, I know I’m going to get you out on defense. My pitcher and I work together and it’s fun to figure out how to make batters strike out or pop up.
AB: Do you have any pregame rituals?
TY: We definitely have pregame rituals. We, of course, have a warm-up mix. There’s actually a lot of debate that goes into making the right playlist that will pump us up. We always tease one of our teammates for her “nap remixes,” made up of good songs that don’t pump us up. We get excited before games by getting in a circle and free-style dancing. We each have our own moves. Some salsa, there’s the worm and a few old lady dances. My favorite move is kind of like the Jersey fist-pump but with both hands in front of me. It’s hard to explain. My favorite songs are the walkout songs. Before every at-bat, each player chooses a song that plays for the 15 seconds that she hits. They characterize our personalities. Mine is “Good Girls Gone Bad” by Cobra Starship. It’s kind of a joke, but it’s fun. We also do secret psychers to pump us up the night before a game, so we deliver a surprise to a designated member of the team to help build camaraderie before game day. As far as food goes, we eat everything. We chow down on candy before games. My teammate and I like to drink coffee before a game. We also hoard the chocolate milk, apple juice and cranberry juice that come in our lunches. I mean, we’re there for five hours and e don’t have to move around all the time so it’s easier to eat. If I were a lacrosse, volleyball or soccer player, I’d probably have more issues.
AB: What is one thing people may not know about the team and your coach?
TY: We have so many inside jokes about our coaches. We also have a mascot. It’s a garden gnome. We named him Norm and he comes to every game. He has a sprained ankle at the moment but Kristen, the athletic trainer, taped him up. He always sits in the dugout with a Wellesley hat. Our team motto is 20 strong, and we often say 21 strong because of Norm.
AB: How did the gnome injure himself?
TY: We’re not really sure how he hurt himself. He gets really excited and sometimes he falls off the bench. But, I mean, he’s got a rough job and he’s very near and dear to our hearts. The best thing is taking him through airport security. People always give us funny looks. AB: What’s it like being on SAAC?
TY: I think it’s really great. I like being able to meet different athletes from different teams. Being able to figure out what athletes need and work towards their goals is really fulfilling. Now that I’m on it, I try to make those changes we talk about. I’m on the PR Committee, so I try to make funny spam to make people come out to games and things like that. I just got on to a new committee for the annual fall picnic because it’s really boring and we’re trying to amp it up so it can be more interactive, to build the athletic committee. We want it to forge really strong team relations so we can be a strong athletic community as a whole in addition to strong individual teams. The teams are so cool. I wish softball was closer to teams like volleyball.
AB: You guys have earned this “Spirit Squad” title. What do you think of that?
TY: I think it’s great. The team is notorious for being loud and obnoxious and there are just some individuals on the team that literally ooze Blue pride like Jen Migliore ’14 and Mariah Philips ’15. It’s also really good team bonding as well. We’ll head out to games, dress up and cheer other teams. We carried flags at soccer games because we thought it was fun. We love that we’re seen as cheerleaders on campus. We think it’s a blast to support other teams and we know that it’s appreciated because we love when we have support at our games.
So far, Wellesley softball’s overall record is 10-6 in conference play and 18-17-1 overall. On Tuesday, they took on Coast Guard to keep their hopes of winning a NEWMAC title alive.