By Rhonda Craig
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Through four years of high school softball, she scored one homerun. In less than four years of playing at the collegiate level, she’s on pace to break the Missouri career homerun record. But, achievements haven’t come so easy for the Missouri senior Micaela Minner.
In six seasons as a Mizzou softball player she’s broken more than just school records. Minner reflects on how her first season at Mizzou almost became her last.
“I broke my tibula and my fibula in the first tournament of the season in the outfield running back for a ball. The bone went through my skin. It was just awful I had to have surgery, and I was out for the whole season,” Minner said.
The injury took a toll on Minner both physically and emotionally. For the next month during her freshman campaign, having previously never missed a game due to injury, was now confined to a wheelchair. Minner depended on her teammates for everything from transportation to help with rehab, but confesses it was her teammates’ emotional support that kept her from throwing in the towel.
“Emotionally and verbally they really tried to talk me up. They kept telling me, ‘You’re gonna be fine, you’re gonna be fine.’ If they had given me a cold shoulder I definitely wouldn’t have stuck in there. It was very humbling,” Minner said.
Determined to rebound from the injury, Minner went through months of vigorous rehabilitation and two-a-day workouts, and it quickly paid off. The next season Minner not only led her team in batting average and on-base percentage, she set the Missouri single-season home run record (17) - a record that moved her into fifth on the career home run list.
“I didn’t know I was gonna break a record, it just happened and I think that’s honestly when I play best, when I don’t think about stats, think numbers, I’m just playing ball,” she remarked.
Minner started every game for the Tigers in 2006 and 2007. In 2007, she led her teammates in batting average, on base percentage, hits, doubles and walks, and came just one run shy of tying MU’s career home run record. Just when everything seemed to be going her way, the unthinkable happened. Minner tore her ACL.
“Talk about a scary phone call to make to your coach, Minner laughed. At first he was kinda silent. He said you have two options: just slap a brace on it and play your senior year or take the chance, have surgery right away, and just chance it that you’ll get a second medical redshirt. We took the chance I got my medical redshirt, had surgery, rehabbed and was in the best shape I’ve ever been in. Until, I re-tore my ACL this December.”
As a result of December’s injury, Minner now plays with only two thirds of her ACL and wears a brace during every game for safety.
“I go out and I play 100 percent,” she exclaimed. “My teammates know that there’s nothing they can say or do that can make me play more careful. I’m doing everything I can to catch a ball and hit the ball the best I can, they know when I’m playing I’m gonna go hard.”
That ‘go hard or go home’ mentality is apparent every time she hits the field. Minner admits her optimistic attitude has helped her get through the two redshirt seasons and the many other ups and downs she’s experienced the past six seasons.
“Hey, a lot has changed in six years. I've been through two different coaches. Coach Earleywine is the best coach I’ve had in my entire life. We would never be this good if we didn’t have him as coach. I wanna have his brain when it comes to softball,” Minner laughs.
Coach Earleywine admits being equally impressed with his standout slugger.
“For Micaela the love of her life is softball,” Earleywine commented. “It’s been fun to watch her, not just the mechanics, but to watch her battle through so much with injuries and so forth and to be able to come out of that and still be a successful player.”
Minner has found success outside the diamond as well. In May, she’ll graduate with a Master’s Degree in Health Education and Promotion.
“If it wasn’t for softball, I didn’t know if I was even going to go to college. It’s been a big accomplishment to leave Mizzou with a Master’s. I’m very happy and thankful for that opportunity,” Minner said.
After graduation, Minner will head to Ohio to play professionally with the Akron Racers, the team that recently drafted her. Until then, Minner says she still has a few things left to accomplish at Mizzou.
“I’d really like to be an all-American, and as far as the team, I expect our team to go to the World Series,” she stated. “That’s our goal for our season I am so confident in our team that if we continue to play like we’ve played I know we’ll get there.”
Her physical dominance is inarguable and leadership incomparable, but it’s her mental toughness that makes Micaela Minner not only a standout athlete, but a standup student.