Nov. 15, 1999
by Rosie Leutzinger
Meet Erin Helgeland for the first time and you start to wonder if her vocal chords are still attached. Remain in her presence long enough to pop in a Celine Dion CD and you will hear those same shy vocal chords unleash a melody as sweet as wedding bells.
Helgeland, a senior from Arlington, Wash., has been a fixture in center field on the Husky softball diamond since her sophomore year. She has helped lead the team to three consecutive College World Series berths, including a spot in the championship game last season. But you will never hear her talk trash about it, nor will you hear her yell at a teammate to pick up the slack. Instead, Helgeland is the epitome of a silent leader, leading by example. She lets her graceful range, soft hands in the outfield, her powerful bat and blazing speed at the plate do the talking, and they have spoken volumes over the past three years.
In her second season as a Husky, Helgeland burst onto the scene, a proponent of the "speak softly, carry a big stick" theory. Without a lot of fanfare, Helgeland snuck into the Husky lineup one-third of the way through the season and quietly became the most consistent hitter on the team. Most fans and some of her teammates may still not know that in that sophomore year, Helgeland led the team with a .345 batting average. The numbers she put up helped her garner second-team All-Region and honorable mention All-Pac-10 accolades. But who knew? Helgeland surely would never let anyone know. She quietly continues to get on base and use her lightning speed to give other teams fits. While all her offensive numbers are impressive, it is the side to her game that does not show up in the statistics--her defense--that has established her as one of the best outfielders in the country.
Helgeland is one of the smoothest and most graceful players you will ever watch. She creeps slowly in the outfield, awaiting the pitch, like a cat ready to pounce on its prey. When the ball is hit she is transformed into a blur...but only for a second, shifting into a gear not many players in the country can attain. From there she is in a full-sprint, gliding effortlessly, coasting across great stretches of outfield grass. She knows from years of drills and experience exactly what angle to take, anticipating precisely where the ball will land. She simply elevates playing the outfield to an art form.
Day in and day out Helgeland makes the extraordinary look routine, her speed allows her to run down balls most others would not even dream of reaching. Although this paints a picture of simplicity, for Helgeland, playing center field for the Huskies has been a long trek of hard work both physically and vocally.
She has adapted to being the "quarterback" in center field, directing traffic and letting the other outfielders know where they need to be. It has been more than screaming "Mine! Mine! Mine!" to ward off other fielders, although that was difficult in itself. Knowing the hitter's tendencies and knowing where the pitch is most likely to be hit has turned her into the now not-so-silent leader that she is.
Despite her emerging vocal leadership on the field, Helgeland is still as soft-spoken as they come off the field, yet strangely enough she is becoming quite well-known for her voice. Helgeland's true gift is singing. She twice has sung the national anthem before Husky softball games, both times performing a duet with her older sister, Kyla. Helgeland is always urged on by her teammates to sing, but shy and humble as she is, she slinks away and saves her voice only for special occasions such as the team's annual karaoke night.
Come June, Helgeland's days in a Husky uniform will end. Having been as close to a national championship as one can get, she vows--although quietly to herself--to lead her team over the final hurdle. When it is over she will have set a standard against which all future Husky outfielders will be measured.
Although her days on the field are numbered, what will continue is her beautiful voice. Helgeland will continue to produce the sound reminiscent of wedding bells. Did someone say wedding? Of course, we must not forget that "Erin Helgeland" will soon be "Erin Lure", following her wedding in August. The question is whether she will sing in her own wedding.
"I've thought about it, but I don't think I could do it live. I might record a song and play it at the wedding, but doing it live would be too emotional."
As Erin quietly heads off into the sunset with her fiancée, we will all be left thinking, "What was inside that mind of hers throughout her four years?" Though she was able to keep many thoughts to herself--something many of us wish we could sometimes do--there are a few things she could not keep in that shell. Her intensity and desire to play the game shows up on the field every day. We may have all wanted to hear what Erin was thinking, but the again, actions do speak louder than words.