Kelly Javier

Javier Leads Small Team with Big Energy

Kelly Javier
Head coach Kelly Javier, with her back to the camera, says winning is less important to her than teaching her players how to “have a fantastic time learning to love this sport.” (Photo by Steve Bowman)

By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit

 Roy and Javier
Sandy Roy gets tips from coach Kelly Javier on how to play the infield. It’s Roy’s first season playing for Brentwood. (Photo by Steve Bowman)

The Brentwood High School softball team is taking batting practice at Brentwood Park. Assistant coach Darold Harris is flipping easy pitches to the hitter so she can work on her swing. Oddly enough on this day, most of the hits go directly to Kate Nikodym at shortstop. Whether the hit is a grounder, a line drive or a short pop-up, the senior corrals it and fires a rope to the first baseman.

“Attaway, Kate!” head coach Kelly Javier hollers excitedly. “You’re a brick wall!”

Occasionally the batter hits one to the outfield. If it’s caught, Javier usually shouts something like “What a catch! You are unbelievable!” If it’s dropped, she might smile and scream “You’re killing me!” On one dropped fly she yells, “Oh darn it! Do you know what happened? That glove doesn’t know how to catch flies, that’s what happened!”

Welcome to Kelly ball. Softball guided by an energetic woman who is equal parts coach, motivational speaker, comedian and mathematician.

“Oh my gosh, is there not all math going on out there?” said Javier, who teaches the subject at BHS. “If I didn’t have the pegs for these bases pre-dug in the field, I’d use my tape measure as a compass and I’d figure out where 60 feet is , mark that, then bisect the angle to figure out where second base is. Also, geometry is all about the angle of how to get to the ball if you have to circle the ball to go get it, and what angle you put your foot for the first step. Geometry is everywhere. When you hit, you need to keep your hip and your knee vertically aligned. And you have to get collinear for the cutoff.”

Now there’s a slogan for a locker-room wall. Replace “WINNERS NEVER QUIT, QUITTERS NEVER WIN,” with “YOU HAVE TO GET COLLINEAR FOR THE CUTOFF.”

 Morgan Mears
Morgan Mears, a junior, is a returning starter in the outfield. (Photo by Steve Bowman)

It probably takes somebody with a big, energetic personality to run the softball program at BHS. If you include cheerleading, it’s one of four fall sports being offered at a fairly small high school. (Maplewood-Richmond Heights, a bigger school, doesn’t even have a softball program.) For a while this summer, it looked as if BHS wouldn’t have enough girls for a team. But you need nine players and just last week the ninth one joined the roster, with possibly two more on the way. 

Because of the low turnout, the team has gone 5-20 in the past two seasons combined.  They were 3-9 last year and last place in the four-team South Central Athletic Association Conference. But ask Javier about wins, losses and standings and you’ll bring out the comedian.

“Now, why are you asking about nasty stuff?” she exclaimed. “We finished winners and every single one of us felt like winners. One of the things you’d really love is how, at the end of the year, kids talk about what a great experience they had. It has nothing to do with scoring runs or batting or whatever. It has to do with camaraderie, teamwork and effort.”

Lucy Sappington
Lucy Sappington is a returning starter who played in the outfield last year. She might move to third base this season. (Photo by Steve Bowman)

Heart and Soul

Javier’s team leaders are Nikodym and Alaina Youngstrom, seniors who’ve each been in the program for four years.  

“Alaina and Kate are my heart and soul,” the coach said. “I think Alaina said she’s the heart and Kate is the soul. They have brought this team together and carry us.”

Youngstrom, the catcher, had the second-most RBIs on the team last year.

“Both those guys would do anything you’d ask, so that’s why Alaina learned how to play catcher,” Javier said. “A softball coach’s dream is to have a really great pitcher. But while I was praying for a really great pitcher I forgot to ask for somebody who could catch. So the last couple of years we had pitchers but no catcher so Alaina learned how to do it.”

Youngstrom likes that Brentwood’s softball program is small enough that it’s not exclusive.

“I started playing my freshman year because my sister Emily was playing,” she said. “I liked it because you don’t have to be an expert softball player to contribute to this team.”

Nikodym plays anywhere in the infield. Last year she ranked fifth in the conference with nine stolen bases and she had five RBIs and pitched a complete game.

“Kate is such a fantastic second baseman but she doesn’t get to play second much anymore because she’s such a good infielder,” said Javier. “I always tell her that I’m going to make a video of her moving her feet because she’s really good at getting to the ball. As a pitcher she has come in so many times when we’ve been in a pinch. That’s why we’re going to be pitchers by committee this year.”

Shawn Durham
Infielder Shawn Durham led BHS in RBIs as a freshman last year and stole nine bases. (Photo by Steve Bowman)

The third senior, Alice Richter, just joined the team last week.

“We needed another player and Alice came along to save the day,” said Javier. “We’re so excited to have her. She’s so coachable. She’s a gymnast so she understands the physiology of movement.”

Underclassmen

The most polished of the Eagles’ four juniors is Haley Holtgrieve, who led the team in stolen bases last year.

“As long as Haley’s arm holds out, she’s a fantastic shortstop,” said Javier.

The other juniors are Sandy Roy, Morgan Mears and Lucy Sappington. It’s Roy’s first year on the team but she’ll probably play first base. Mears, an outfielder, stole four bases last year. Sappington, who might be moved from the outfield to third base, drew five walks.

It looks as if the future of Brentwood softball rests on the shoulders of two sophomores: sisters Shawn Durham and Alison Durham. Last year Shawn led the team in RBIs and her nine stolen bases was fifth best in the conference. Allison had four stolen bases.

“They’re both so athletic that I can play them just about anywhere,” Javier said. “Shawn mostly plays infield and Allison mostly plays outfield. They do whatever we need with happy hearts and a good attitude.”

 Kate Nikodym
Senior Kate Nikodym is a skillful second baseman but she may be needed elsewhere in the infield this season. (Photo by Steve Bowman)

‘Happy Hearts’

Nothing is more important to Javier and Harris than for their players to have good attitudes.

“Our philosophy is that you come out here because you want to learn, that you have a fantastic time learning to love this sport, and your effort and attitude help you grow,” Javier said.

Added Youngstrom, “The only time she gets mad is when you don’t try your best.”

Javier attests that the benefits of persistence and a good attitude in one season can last a lifetime.

“I’m still close to some of the kids that I started playing ball with when I was four,” she said. “It went from going to each other’s graduations, to weddings, and even to parents’ funerals. Back in my day, we won state championships so I come from that kind of experience. But that was never the part that was important to me. I would just love for our kids to someday get back together and not talk about the awards they’d won, but to be able to go ‘This was my high school team.’”

2011 Varsity Schedule

All hosted games are at Brentwood Park Field No. 3.

Aug. 26, 4:15 p.m. at McCluer South-Berkeley
Aug. 30, 4 p.m. at Hancock
Sept. 1, 4:15 p.m. host Soldan
Sept. 7, 4 p.m. at Valley Park
Sept. 8, 4 p.m. host Metro
Sept. 9, 4:15 p.m. at Lift for Life Academy
Sept. 14, 4 p.m. at Clayton HS
Sept. 19, 4:15 p.m. host Valley Park
Sept. 21, 4 p.m. at Bayless
Sept. 23, 4:15 p.m. host Jennings
Sept. 27, 4 p.m. host McCluer South-Berkeley
Sept. 29, 4 p.m. host Bayless
Sept. 30, 4 p.m. host Hancock
Oct. 3, 4:15 p.m. host Lift for Life Academy

Alaina Youngstrom
Catcher Alaina Youngstrom is one of two returning seniors on Brentwood’s roster. (Photo by Steve Bowman)
Haley Holtgrieve
Junior Haley Holtgrieve is a returning starter for Brentwood at shortstop. (Photo by Steve Bowman)
Alison Durham
Sophomore Alison Durham is a returning starter in the outfield. (Photo by Steve Bowman)

Balls n Strikes

 

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