Kim DePaul Feature
Feb. 21, 2000
To watch Kim DePaul play third base for the Huskies, you might not believe your eyes. To listen to DePaul talk, you ought not necessarily believe your ears.
The daredevil of an athlete will stop at nothing to make a play-diving head-first into a base to avoid an out, running into a fence to make a catch, remaining in harm's way, in the form of a 75-mph fastball, to earn a free trip on base by getting pegged by a mis-named "soft"ball. It's no wonder her favorite movie is "Top Gun."
But ask DePaul a question, and don't expect such a fearless, no-holds-barred answer. Instead, be prepared to analyze her response for schrewness, mischief and sarcasm.
The Washington junior has started every game the Huskies have played since she arrived two years ago, and she has played those 136 contests with reckless abandon. She earned all-tournament honors at the 1999 College World Series, providing one of the more memorable scenes of the Series when she dived into first base to beat the throw and sustain UW's two-out, seventh-inning rally against UCLA in the championship bout. DePaul's ability to scoop up every ball moving in her vicinity has earned her the nickname "Hoover" from Husky fans, and she has been hit by more pitches (17) in her two seasons at UW than any of her teammates.
"I just put my body on the line and don't worry about injuries," DePaul explained of her style of play. "Putting on a show, making incredible plays-that's kind of what you live for. That's what makes the game fun for players."
DePaul also apparently derives pleasure from making wry comments. Could "sun" really be the best thing about Washington? Is the Husky weight room honestly her favorite Seattle view? Is she such the map and topography buff that "World Geography" is her favorite book?
The Tomball, Texas, native becomes serious, however, when talking about her team and the 2000 season. The Huskies have made four straight trips to the College World Series, bookending a pair of third-place finishes with NCAA runners-up trophies in 1996 and 1999. The veteran squad of six seniors and three juniors returns all but one starter and both All-American pitchers, all facing high expectations from both inside and outside the team locker room.
"Our goal this year is to not have ups and downs, to stay on an even keel, and to try and not get caught up in all the hype," DePaul revealed. "A lot of people are picking us to at least be in the championship game again, if not win it all. But we need to stay within ourselves, take one game at a time, and focus on the little things."
DePaul earned honorable mention all-Pac-10 and academic all-Pac-10 honors a year ago, adding to her second-team all-league accolades as a rookie. Last year she led the team with seven home runs and tied for the lead in doubles with 15. She spent 13 games early in the season in right field and started another at second base, proving the characteristics of versatility and athleticism she exhibited as a three-sport star at age 5 (soccer, softball and swimming) are still intact.
"Kim is one of the most naturally gifted athletes in the country," Wilson said. "She's strong and fast, she has an incredible arm and incredible power with the bat, but she also can bunt. When Kim's at third base, you start to think outstanding plays are routine. You expect the exceptional from her. She's extremely intense and a fun player to watch."
It was Wilson's matching intensity which drew DePaul to the Pacific Northwest, opting for the hard road instead of the easy way out.
"I had confidence in Coach Wilson's coaching and that she was going to push me," DePaul acknowledged. "I wanted to be challenged. She won't let you be content with where you are. In our program, you learn a lot softball-wise, both physically and mentally."
Wilson also drew out of the sociology major a more vocalized leader. While DePaul has always been intense on the field, she had allowed that passion to emit to her teammates by action alone. This season, however, DePaul has become more outspoken in hopes of motivating the Huskies. But the daredevil player also strives to keep life in perspective.
"I try not to get too stressed about things, to have fun with what I do and not take things for granted," DePaul said. "I try to stay in the present."
The Huskies would do well to actually listen to and adopt that piece of advice from their otherwise scheming teammate...and to think about taking everything else with the proverbial grain of salt.