BLHS catcher caps homerless career
Monday afternoon, the high school softball season ended for the Basehor-Linwood Bobcats, as they were defeated 5-4 by Sumner Academy in the first round of the 4A regional playoffs.
For three BLHS seniors, the loss marked the end of their careers. But for one of them, senior catcher Nicole Kirk, it marked the end of a career without a home run.
That void probably would not have mattered to Kirk had it not been for an oh-so-close call at the Lady Bobcats' senior night against Lansing.
During the Lady 'Cats' final home game of the season, Kirk hit a blast to the outfield that looked like it might have a chance to leave the yard for the first home run of her career. Instead it bounced off the top of the fence and Kirk was held to a single.
Those who were there said the ball was actually kept in the park by a green senior day balloon that was anchored to the outfield fence.
Kirk's father had taped the blast from the bleachers, but the replay proved to be inconclusive and Kirk will spend the rest of her life not knowing if that should've been a home run.
"I couldn't believe it," Kirk said. "I almost hit a home run and I never do that. But it was just my luck, it bounced off the fence right to the center fielder and I only got a single." Kirk came around to score later in the inning, but she would've been much more thrilled to get the run and the RBI.
The unusual play is not all that unusual when you consider the rest of Kirk's career.
During the first game of her senior season, she was a bit too anxious to snag a pitch and her left hand was struck by the swing of the opposing batter. The swing left Kirk with two broken fingers, however, she played with them that way for the rest of the season.
"They've been real sore, but they haven't bothered me too much," Kirk said. "Maybe if I hadn't broken them I would've hit that one ball out of the park."
Although the broken fingers became a nuisance Kirk did not mind the pain. She never has. That's why she plays catcher, a position she's owned for as long as she can remember.
"I love to catch, I always have," she said. "It happened by chance, my coach just put me there when I was young because he thought I had a good arm and I just kind of stuck there."
Kirk said she prefers the dirty work behind the plate to the guesswork of playing the field.
"I can handle the outfield, but I hate the infield," she said. "As a catcher, you've got all that padding on, the contact doesn't bother me."
Unfortunately, the end of the season does.
Kirk said it didn't take long after the Bobcats' last loss for it to sink in that her career was over. And when it did, she immediately began to reflect on what she will miss the most.
"I think I'll probably always remember the people I played with," she said. "I've made such good friends playing softball. I don't really remember games or scores, but I'll always remember the people I played with and the fun I had."
In addition, Kirk said softball taught her many more things than how to get down a bunt or how to block the plate.
"I just learned that things aren't always fair," she said. "And if you can get past that, you'll be a better person for it."
Maybe that's why Kirk isn't too bent out of shape about the balloon or the fence or the single. Maybe she was just supposed to finish her career without a homer. Lucky for her, she packed it with a ton of other things like friendship, fond memories and even a few bumps and bruises.