Racing for the Ring
April 8, 2005
Aimee Minor, junior centerfielder for the Washington softball team, grew up in a racing family. Her father's passion for speed led to the development of Larry Minor Motorsports where he managed dragster and funny car teams for the National Hot Rod Association. The younger Minor was one of the first kids to drive in the Junior Dragsters in Indianapolis and she learned early on that she had a love of competition.
"I actually had better reaction time than my brother but I got a little freaked and let off the gas," said Minor. "He passed me and I lost the race. It turned out racing wasn't my thing. What it did teach me though was the thrill of competing. My dad always taught us to be the best at whatever we did whether it be racing or softball. When I decided I wanted to get serious about softball he quit racing and built two softball fields in our front yard. I get my competitive spirit from him and am a true believer in the saying `do it right or don't do it at all'."
Minor had her first taste of team sports when she joined the boy's tee ball team and it didn't take long for her to be hooked.
"Softball wasn't offered when I little so had had to play with the boys," said Minor. "I don't remember too much about it other than the fact that I hit the second-most home runs on the team."
Minor joined a girls softball team the following year and also began playing basketball and volleyball. By junior high word of Minor's athleticism grew and she was asked to play on summer teams for all three sports. After initially being torn about which sport to choose, Minor chose softball and became one of the top recruits out of southern California.
"I am a classic perfectionist so I sometimes look back and wonder why I picked softball," said Minor. "Softball is a game of failure. You're going to fail on average seven out of every 10 at-bats. I've had to work really hard to not freak out when things don't go perfectly."
Luckily for Minor she experienced a lot of success in the sport as a teenager, becoming a top pitcher as well infielder and outfielder.
Minor pitched all through high school and was recruited by numerous Division I programs, including Oklahoma, DePaul, Illinois and Purdue. Minor, however, wasn't interested in pitching in college and looked for a school that could offer time in another defensive position.
"UW is the only school that didn't offer me a spot on their pitching staff but I knew I didn't want to pitch in college," said Minor. "I think I would have been just a mediocre pitcher at this level and I don't want to be mediocre at anything."
Now a three-year starter in the Husky outfield and Washington's home run leader this season, it's safe to say that Minor has had anything but a mediocre collegiate career.
As a freshman, Minor earned herself a starting position in right field and hit .259 with six home runs. Minor showed she was a clutch player in the postseason, being named to the Regional All-Tournament team and hitting a home run against UCLA's Keira Goerl in the College World Series.
"My freshman year didn't get off to the start that I would have wanted but I came around at the right time to play well in the postseason," said Minor. "We set the goal of returning to the World Series at the beginning of the season but getting there was even more exciting than I ever imagined. Coming up against one of the best pitchers in the country and hitting the game-tying home run is something I will never forget. Hitting a home run in the World Series is something every kid dreams of."
Last season, Minor improved her average to .275 and led the team with 12 doubles. She helped the Huskies hand top-ranked Arizona its first loss of the season, hitting two home runs, a double and driving in six runs to defeat the Wildcats 7-6 and win the Kia Klassic Championship. Minor peaked in the postseason, hitting .455 to lead Washington to its second-straight WCWS, earning herself Regional All-Tournament team honors along the way.
"I struggled in the beginning of the season offensively but picked things up at the end," said Minor. "Our team went through a lot last year and everybody had their doubts about us making it back to the series but we proved them wrong. I never doubted that our team had the talent and the heart to make it back."
This season, Minor has moved to centerfield and has improved her offensive output to a .315 average. She leads the team with 11 home runs, including a pair of grand slams, and ranks 10th on the UW all-time home run list with 19 career home runs. Minor also ranks eighth on the UW all-time list with a .504 slugging percentage.
"I feel like I have finally found my swing and have been playing like I should have been all along," said Minor. "Our record isn't what we would like but I believe in this team. We have a ton of talent."
Ten years after her first race with the Junior Dragsters, Minor finds herself in another race: a race for a national championship. Washington has opened the season with a 19-11 record and is ranked 20th and 22nd in the national polls. Despite the slower than normal start for the Dawgs, Minor believes the team has the ability to compete with the best programs in the country.
"Something is going to have to click to turn the season around and if we had the answers we would have done it," said Minor. "One day it's just going to click and it's going to be like day and night and we will go lights out. I think we are capable of it. I'm hoping that moment is sooner rather than later."
Pacific-10 Conference action opened last week with Washington defeating Oregon 4-3, before dropping a pair of games to Oregon State. Minor hit a three-run home run in the Oregon game and led Washington to a double header sweep over Simon Fraser on Tuesday. She led all players with three hits and drove in five runs, including a grand slam.
Minor hopes the Huskies can ride that wave into the upcoming weekend at California and Stanford and position themselves to make a jump in a national rankings.
"Yesterday's wins were good," said Minor. "I thought they were really good for our pitchers and hitters to get some confidence heading into one of the toughest parts of the season. We are going to face two really tough teams in Cal and Stanford and hopefully we can play to our potential and get back into the top-15.
"I'd do anything for this team," said Minor. "I'd play anywhere and hit anywhere. I want to win a national championship. Falling short the last two years has been tough. The longer I've been here the bigger my desire is for the (WCWS) ring and the more I want it. I know that I only have two more chances and then my career will be over. This is it for me and it's more reality now then when I first came in as a freshman."
Minor has her sights set on the finish line and has every intention of being in the winner's circle. This time she isn't going to let off the gas.