Cindy Doerre couldn’t find her daughter.
She checked the field where her daughter, Katie, was supposed to be practicing in the outfield. She wasn’t there.
She asked other parents. They didn’t know where she was either. Katie was nowhere to be found.
Cindy shuffled into a building and found Katie playing catcher. Katie was 8 years old, trying out for a 10-and-under tournament softball team.
“Coach, she doesn’t know how to catch,” Cindy said. “You don’t understand—she’s never been a catcher.”
Katie interrupted her mother.
“Mom, I got this,” she said. “Just go outside, take it easy. I got this.”
Katie made the team as a catcher. She’s played the position ever since.
“She enjoys being in the middle of everything,” Cindy said. “For her being a catcher, she was involved in every aspect of the game. There wasn’t stagnant time or down time.”
At an early age, Katie would pick up a ball rather than a Barbie doll. She tried dancing and gymnastics like her older sister, Brittney, but it was short-lived. She loved being outdoors, and dancing didn’t retain her interest.
Dancing didn’t feed her competitive hunger either. Katie wanted to be first in line, first in Monopoly, first in a race—first in everything.
Her parents found a tee ball softball team for Katie when she was four. She loved the sport immediately—perhaps a bit too much. It didn’t matter who hit the ball and where they hit the ball; Katie was going to find it. She would run into the outfield, grab the softball, push her teammate down and continue running to home base.
Once the play concluded, she would give the ball back, but only then.
“She was competitive and inquisitive,” her father, Rickey, said. “For someone who is that competitive, though, she has a kind a heart. She’s someone who really cares about people and how they feel.”
Several years later, Katie participated in a quick catching tune-up lesson prior to her tryout with the Texas Peppers, a 16-and-older softball select team.
Katie had to block pitches thrown at her face and chest while her hands were behind her back. The drill tested her ability to drop, block and withstand the speed of pitches. The pitches, thrown from a live pitching machine, simulated the speed of a live game.
One pitch caught Katie off guard.
“She had one tough hit,” Cindy said. “You knew it hurt. Her face got real red, but she didn’t cry. We all knew that it hurt her. After that, she was fine.”
Though the Peppers allowed girls 16 and older, the coach was reluctant to let a freshman try out for the team.
He allowed Katie to try out, but on one condition. She had to run to the fence, jump on it and catch a wayward fly ball at the same time.
A girl intentionally fouled a ball behind the plate, and Katie angled her body in the ball’s direction. She dug her cleat in the fence for leverage and extended her arm, cradling the ball in her glove.
“That’s what it took to make the gold team,” Cindy said. “They all voted her on the team. She was the first freshman that Texas Peppers ever had.”
Kim Trotter mentored Katie in high school. Trotter, a former collegiate softball player at South Carolina, tinkered with Katie’s swing and helped her off the field.
“She’s like a sister to me,” Katie said. “I could always talk to her and listen to her. Our personalities matched up really well. I trusted her because she had been very successful. Her style made a lot of sense to me.”
Division I colleges noticed Katie during her freshman season. Katie played softball and still squeezed in recruiting visits with Arkansas, Notre Dame, LSU, Oklahoma, Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin.
The two finalists were Texas State and Oklahoma.
Arkansas recruited Katie as a utility player since they already had a highly touted catcher. Notre Dame, a seven-hour flight from her hometown, was too far.
Katie visited Oklahoma several times and had an impromptu tryout where she finished in the top two catchers. Katie, a 5-foot-7 catcher, felt out of place in Oklahoma, where some players towered over her.
At Texas State, she felt like one of the girls.
“Coming in, this was a winning team,” Katie said. “They had won the conference four years in a row.”
After a one-year recruiting process, Katie verbally committed to Texas State during her sophomore year of high school. She was the youngest player to receive an offer from Texas State at the time.
“Katie swung the bat really well through her high school career,” Coach Ricci Woodard said. “She does a really good job behind the plate, and I felt she had a strong enough arm where she would be a good offensive and good defensive catcher, and those are hard to find.”
This season, Katie started in 48 of 56 possible games. She’s first on the team in slugging percentage (.542), second in home runs (7) and sixth in on-base percentage (.384).
“I’m not a huge kid, so I have to use my whole body when I swing,” Katie said. “There’s always things I can work on. I could throw out more runners, but for the most part, I feel I’m one of the more dominant catchers behind the plate in our conference.”
Katie, a sophomore, is a physical therapy major. Once she graduates, she wants a job with a professional team where she can help rehabilitate athletes recovering from injuries.
“I’ve never seen a kid adapt so quickly to college life and truly like every aspect about it,” Cindy said. “She’s bought into everything. She just enjoys everything, and that’s what we wanted for her. We wanted her to choose a school that she loved by itself, and this is the best of both worlds.”
Follow Quixem Ramirez on Twitter: @quixem