Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Being one of five children, it's no surprise that junior Kathy "Kat" Shelton is all about family. In fact, if it weren't for her father's influence, she might not be where she is today.
"Kathy is a great player first of all because of talent," Baylor Softball head coach Glenn Moore said. "Then, I have to believe the fact that her dad has prepared her for life first and then athletics - it's typically the other way around."
Shelton's family is from McKinney, Texas, where her father runs one of the most successful softball club teams, Texas Glory. It all started when Shelton was just eight years old and her father started the team for Shelton and her two older sisters.
"He's just been really involved and is the reason I played softball in college," Shelton said. "He's been the most influential person in my softball career. He learned about the sport with us even though he never played baseball; he just wanted to support me and my sisters."
Since family is such a big influence in Shelton's life, the community atmosphere Baylor offered was one of the biggest factors for Shelton's decision to play here, although both her parents attended Texas A&M.
"Having camaraderie is extremely important to me because you can definitely play better and be yourself when you are really close with the people around you," Shelton said. "So when I came to Baylor, the coaches were really funny, they were like a family joking with each other, and I was talkative and laughing and even went to eat with some of the girls on the team. I ended up talking to the girls like I had known them forever so I knew I really fit in here. We liked the school, the atmosphere and it just felt right."
Shelton loves that the girls have a very tight knight bond outside of athletics and after her freshman year, she stepped up and became the leader the team needed.
"Most natural leaders are leaders early," Moore said. "First you must lead by example, have good people skills and be trustworthy. Kat's freshman year she had all of that - from that point on, her teammates were willing to follow."
"I attribute my leadership on the team to my personality," Shelton said. "Sometimes I wish I was a quiet player that was good and just led by example but I've tried to do that and it doesn't work for me. If I realize there's something that needs to be said, I'll say it. I'm a good teammate and encouraging, but at the same time, I'm not afraid to be that tough teammate that needs to keep people accountable in a respectable way."
Not only is she a vocal leader both on and off the field, Shelton currently leads in nearly every offensive category this season including batting average, runs, hits, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and steals.
"I came back from a high after last season and was kind of on a mission this year of just wanting to get back to the World Series," Shelton said. "Every time I step on the field, I want to try to be the best player on both teams. Every game is a challenge for myself; me versus the pitcher."
Last season brought the team to their first World Series appearance since 2007, which Shelton says is her most memorable experience in her softball career thus far.
"Last season and the road to the World Series was exciting," Shelton said. "Going to Maryland and winning, but mostly going to Georgia and winning in their house after they had been to the World Series about four of five years in a row, really brought us together."
Building on the momentum of last season's success, including Shelton being named a unanimous All-Big 12 first team selection, an Academic All-Big 12 first team member and a second team all-region, Shelton has high hopes for the current season, both for her and for the team.
"Personal goals include me wanting to lead the Big 12 in hits and steals again," Shelton said. "I think if I can do the little things like that, it will lead to the big stuff like being named an All-American or being first-team All-Big 12 again. As a team, we've started out rougher this season and it's been tougher to win games, so I think we need to push to get the little wins so we can make it to post season and hopefully fight our way back to the World Series."
After her collegiate softball career, Shelton hopes to attend graduate school to continue studying speech pathology and use her degree to work with children.
"When I first got to Baylor I didn't know what I wanted to do and thought maybe I'd wanted to coach softball," Shelton said. "I was drawn to speech pathology because I like to talk and I'd like to be able to help other people with their speech. I'm going to apply to graduate school and would love the opportunity to work with kids as a career."
Although family and teammates have been key to her accomplishments, Shelton says the biggest reason for her successes comes from within.
"It can really come down to me being such a passionate person," Shelton said. "Even if I didn't like something but I was going to have to do it anyway, I'm going to do it to the best of my ability. My mentality is that if I'm going to do something, I'm going to be the best at it."
The team has faced some uncontrollable circumstances this season and Shelton has proven herself to be a valuable asset.
"The reason we will rebound is Kathy Shelton," Moore said. "I expect her to be consistent and continue to meet challenges. The records and accolades will come her way. Kathy Shelton motivates me."