Stepping up to the plate with the Softball Seniors

By Daniel Kerwin

Amanda Cagan (Saratoga, Calif.), Olivia Abbott (Lakewood, Colo.), Ali Nystrom (Minnetonka, Minn.), Monica Keaney (Philadelphia, Penn.), Lauren Ballewske (Racine, Wis.), Carly Klingensmith (New York, N.Y.), Crystal Barriga (Broomfield, Colo.) and Alison Phillips (Vernon Hills, Ill.) are this year’s seniors on the softball team. Not only do they make up almost two thirds of this year’s squad, they have anchored the team over the past four years. Now just a few weeks from graduation, they reflect on the impact that being on the softball team together has had on their lives at Macalester.
The Mac Weekly: This is the end of four years of Macalester softball for you, how does it feel now compared to when you first came in as freshmen?

Ali Nystrom: Wow, four years already?

Amanda Cagan: Abbott, do you feel old?

AN: How’s your arm?

Crystal Barriga: And your knee? And how about the shin?

AC: How many of us can’t really walk?

Olivia Abbott: It’s kind of interesting how it did kinda come full circle this fast.

Lauren Ballewske: Since I came back this year I feel like I’ve aged 20 years.

Carly Klingensmith: This season for me has been the best, I don’t know why, it’s been the most fun.

AN: I think it was fun because we had nothing to lose really, because we’re done, which is depressing but kind of a relief at the same point.

AN: We got a little older, a little wiser, a little more creaky.

CB: Oh, creaky! I thought you said creepy!

TMW: So what has this senior class brought that will be a lasting legacy for Macalester Softball?

OA: Our class was the core of the team for the last four years.

AN: We were the first class to really be thoroughly recruited for softball specifically.

AC: There were like 10 recruits our freshman year?

OA: Yeah, there were 10 recruits our freshman year and at least seven started every game.

AC: Now we have eight of those 10 back.

CB: And we have six new recruits, we have a team for next year!

AC: I honestly think that we all came in pretty well versed in the game and for the underclassmen that have come after us, I feel that we’ve imparted a lot of wisdom.

LB: We all brought a lot of experience. Freshman year we had all played 10 years up to that point at least.

CB: I remember the story coming in freshman year how the previous seasons TC [coach Tom Cross] would just have the girls walk around campus and say “Hey, have you thrown a ball before? Wanna come play varsity softball?”

AC: Which is funny, because that’s kind of what happened last year.

AC: That first game to have a bench with three people on it, it was like, “the depth!”

LB: I mean, most other teams have an entire other team on their bench, and we’re happy about having three, there’s something wrong with that!

TMW: What’s been the hardest thing about getting through four years of varsity softball? What do you need to survive?

AN: Each other.

OA: Each other and the will and the passion to want to play.

AC: If you don’t have that, it’s not worth the time.

CK: Going to Florida, that saves me every year.

OA: Getting through February is really difficult, and March. It’s like “alright, you just gotta hold out until spring break.”

AC: I didn’t know softball could be played indoors until I got here, that was a culture shock.

TMW: You guys talk about relying on each other off the field, so what is Mac softball culture off the field?

AC: Let’s just say that we have a team policy that the photos don’t get on facebook.

AN: We have lovely greetings for each other that most people will look at us and say, “What did you just call her? Did you really just say that?”

AC: Politically correct is really not our forte. We have an understanding though. Inappropriate is a standard on this team.

CK: We also just support each other. Like when I got on the bus last night [after fracturing her elbow] Amanda let me rest my head on her shoulder the whole way back which could not have been comfortable. We love each other, I think.

LB: Even when I wasn’t on the team some of these girls were still some of my best friends, and that was because of freshman year, we bonded so much.

AN: Crystal hit Lauren really hard with a ball. At least she didn’t try to pull an excuse.

CB: I acknowledged it, bought her some beer.

AC: Beer solves all problems.

LB: That’s my payment. I’m from Wisconsin, man!

TMW: Is there anything you miss from freshman year?

Alison Phillips: Apparently we liked to miss class freshman year.

OA: Because we played so many games in a row.

Monica Keaney: I mean, we have a sweet field now.

LB: I don’t miss not having a field.

AC: Ooh, and IHM.

MK: We did conditioning in the hallways.

AC: And like grounders off of the sport court that was like plastic puzzle pieces.

AN: Didn’t we break a window?

CB: Shh! They still don’t know.

AC: We blamed it on baseball.

OA: It was difficult our first two years because we were the only team on campus that didn’t have a field for two years.

TMW: So you never got a chance to form a connection with this field [Shaw Field, site of former softball field]?

AN: People used to come to our games.

CB: Though we have got a lot of people at our games this year.

AC: That’s partially weather.

CK: This is by far the best weather season we’ve had.

AC: Augsburg wasn’t death this year, that was a first. Whenever we’ve played Augsburg in the past it’s like every form of precipitation imaginable during the game.

TMW: In your entire Macalester experience how much has softball meant to you?

CB: It’s been huge.

AP: I mean, we were the first people we all met freshman year.

AC: It was just so nice to have immediate friends.

LB: A lot of us came here not knowing anyone.

CB: Softball takes up a lot of time, but in a different way than academics do. Once you’re on the field you can let everything else that’s going on just go.

LB: And this year the weather has just been beautiful, I don’t think we’ve mentioned that enough.

CK: It’s fun to just have something else to do besides school.

AN: It’s good stress relief too. You have a bad day you just take it out in the batting cage, you feel so much better when you’re done.

TMW: You guys come from all around the country, so how does that dynamic shape up between you guys?

AN: I get made fun of a lot.

LB: There’s a giant feud between Ali and I, I don’t like Minnesota, and I don’t like California cows!

AC: Because they’re happier!

LB: Wisconsin cows are way better!

CK: That’s what I think is so awesome about this team is that everyone is so different. If you look at the Concordia team they’re all blonde and look the same.

CB: In general the MIAC teams are all from Minnesota.

MK: When you hear the lineups announced at games they’ll say where everyone’s from, but other teams they’ll say what high school they went to and everything.

CK: Even beyond geography, everyone’s interested in different things and involved in different things, nobody’s the same, we’re all going on completely different paths.

TMW: So what are the different paths?

LB: Madagascar and dinosaurs, that’s all I care about.

CB: Grad school for health care administration this fall.

OA: Law school.

MK: I’m going to hang out in Denmark for the summer.

AP: Grad school for sports psychology. U of M.

AC: Hopefully med school, provided I take the MCAT.

AN: Italy for art restoration for the summer and figuring it out from there.

CK: Social work, grad school.

LB: I also want to go to grad school for paleobiology.

TMW: So in the future, what’s going to keep you up at night knowing that you’re not playing college softball

LB: The camaraderie.

All: And the free food!

AN: TC keeps us well fed.

MK: We all gain a bit of weight during the season.

AC: It’s all muscle!

AP: It’s all due to Steve.

MK: Having a nice thing to do outside on a nice day everyday.

CK: I think just organized sports.

OA: It’s going to be really weird not having softball anymore.

AP: Just having a Saturday.

LB: Some of us will have a spring break, but we can do fun things over spring break.

AP: Ten games in Florida isn’t fun?

LB: Florida’s awesome, but 10 games in seven days…

CB: We saw fighting crabs.

AC: We saw manatees!

AN: And jellyfish. Yeah, jellyfish are gross.

CB: We like Nemo a lot.

MK: The majority of this team is obsessed with Disney, I don’t know if that’s come up yet.

AC: We dominate Disney trivia. Bring it on.