Although statistics are important in measuring the worth of an athlete, sometimes to evaluate a player’s true value, other factors must be taken into account.
What cannot be counted in a box score is the leadership an athlete can bring to a team.
Heart is the one aspect that sets great athletes apart from the rest. It is what truly inspires us to watch sports and keeps us coming back for more. The UCSB women’s softball team has one such athlete, and she is junior second baseman Kim Sawyer.
“Kim is just a real determined player,” freshman first baseman Katie Junge said. “You can always see the love of the game in her eyes when she is playing. And besides just being a great player, she is always there for you, always there to pick you up if you are down.”
Sawyer’s parents Richard and Debbie knew that their daughter had grand aspirations when the first word out of her mouth was “ball.” From then on, there was no looking back. Sawyer excelled in both softball and volleyball at Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego. Sawyer’s accomplishments during her rookie year on the varsity team demonstrated her determination on the diamond. In 92 at-bats, she did not strike out once, while hitting a stellar .428. Sawyer was twice named an all-league selection and led her team to a league title in her senior season.
Even though the jump from high school to college can be intimidating to some players, Sawyer handled the transition with the greatest of ease. Sawyer started several games at third and second base her first year at UCSB. She was especially effective in the clutch as she notched seven of her 13 RBIs with two outs. Sawyer hit .253 on the season and was named Gaucho Rookie of the Year.
“In terms of hitting, I think it is such an advantage to be a hitter,” Sawyer said. “The mound is actually 3 feet farther back in college, so you have more time to see the ball. You also have no idea of who you are going up against, so that blindness can lead to confidence. I was more excited than anything.”
If Sawyer’s freshman year surprised some people, she was not among them. At the beginning of her second year, she picked up her success right where she left off; she became the team’s leader by demonstrating her strong work ethic and unparalleled enthusiasm. As the starting second basemen in 45 of Santa Barbara’s 50 games, Sawyer again registered a terrific year. She was fifth on the team in slugging percentage and was third on the team in home runs. Although she hit four round-trippers on the season, one of those bombs stands out from the others.
The softball and baseball stadiums at UCSB are located right next to each other, and the baseball right-field fence is almost parallel with the left-field softball fence. There is approximately 30 feet in between the edge of the baseball stadium and the outfield fence of the softball complex. A softball player had never hit a home run onto the baseball field.
Never, that is, until Sawyer came to bat.
Sawyer hit one of those yellow softballs so hard that it not only cleared the 230-foot marker in left field, but it zoomed over the gap between the stadiums and landed between first and second base in Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. Needless to say, the baseball team, who was playing a game, was a little surprised.
“It was a bomb,” sophomore pitcher Sylvia Santos said. “I remember some of the baseball players asking me after the game, ‘Wow, did Kimmy hit that?’ They had these stupid looks on their faces; they just couldn’t believe it.”
But Sawyer has always been about more than just sports. If you were to ask any one of Sawyer’s friends on the softball team what they think of her, her softball ability would not be the only thing out of any one of their mouths.
“She is always upbeat,” Junge said. “She just never has a mean thing to say.”
“Kim is a great person,” Santos said. “You know she is behind you every step of the way.”
Sawyer has been an instrumental part of this year’s Gaucho team, as a co-captain alongside senior third baseman Teresa Tolson. Sawyer is fifth on the team in batting average, fifth in at-bats, second in slugging and also boasts a .940 fielding average. She is tied for the team lead in home runs.
“I would love to lead by stats,” Sawyer said, “but I think it means more to lead by example. And not just on the field, off the field as well. I think it is my responsibility to show the younger players how to handle themselves. Softball is a sport where, if you succeed three out of every 10 tries, you are considered a great player. You need to have perspective. Hopefully, I help the younger players with that.”