Keilani Ricketts Interviewed by Gary Leland

Keilani Ricketts Interview by Gary Leland

Keilani Ricketts Interviewed By Gary Leland

I have traveled all over the country interviewing great fastpitch softball players, and coaches for The Fastpitch TV Show. These videos have been viewed thousands of times by players, coaches, and fans. I am adding the interviews to The Fastpitch Blog for people who may have a problem finding time to watch a video, and just prefer to read. I hope you enjoy.

Gary: Thanks Keilani, for coming on to the show. I really appreciate it, and I’ve got to say I was at the World Series the whole time this summer, and I was never as impressed, and I’m honestly telling you, as I was with your performance. It was fantastic. Can you tell our audience what it was…just, I know you can’t go into – there’s a lot of emotion there, but can you kind of tell us what that was about, what it was like?

Keilani Ricketts: Oh, yeah, there’s definitely a lot of emotion going into this year’s World Series and, you know, first of all, it was my senior year, it was our last year, and second, after what happened the previous year, we had lost in the championship in a heartbreaker, and third, we, we were kind of playing for the State of Oklahoma, the tragedy that hit with the tornado in May, and, you know, it just struck our team and we just looked at softball in a different way and we were trying to use that state that we had with the World Series and just trying to bring hope to the State and trying to bring joy to the people, you know, it gives me chills just talking about it right now, but it was just really cool being able to come together, not only our team, but the University and the State of Oklahoma, just trying to bring happiness to our people, and it was fun to be able to play for them.

Gary: You know, while you were there you had a team from the tornado area that had one of the players killed there, and you had a lot of stuff there to represent the tornado and what had happened to the people of Oklahoma, and I thought that was really neat the way y’all did that and brought them on the team. Even so, the mayor was there, everyone was there, everyone was excited about it.

Keilani Ricketts: Yeah, it was cool and especially with that team there, um, it made us look at softball a different way. One of their, their pitcher, she had actually passed away in the tornado and, you know it was funny ‘cause she’d been a big OU fan, She came to my USA game, and came to our OU games, and it just made us, we got to play with them in our super regional game the night, the day before our super regional game and just play on the field with them and have fun with them, and just made us realize how fun the game really is, and it definitely put the game in a different perspective, you know, we’re not just out there trying to press, press for a championship, we’re out there having fun with our friends, so, it was cool because we were trying to inspire them, they inspired us as well.

Gary: Yeah, and it was great, this great event all around. You know, my daughter went to OU, so I was Boomer Soonerin! I paid so much money, there; I can claim that, right?

Keilani Ricketts: Awesome

Gary: I wanna go back a little bit earlier in your career, like How old were you, let’s go way back, how old were you when you started playing softball?

Keilani Ricketts: I played t-ball in kindergarten, so I just started from there, and my older sisters played softball as well, so I was always dragged to their games, so it’s been around my whole life.

Gary: So you’ve been playing softball since you remember?

Keilani Ricketts: Yep, I guess so. I was playing softball, I swam, played basketball…

Gary: Who was your first coach?

Keilani Ricketts: My mom’s my manager, I guess that.

Gary: Ok. That’s good enough. I run into more dad’s, than I do moms, is why I ask that question. You, Monica Abbott says her mom, you know, several times I hear that, mom, but not that often. So, when you started playing, were you playing just to… when did you start playing competitive softball, I guess, is what I’m trying to find out…

Keilani Ricketts: Um, when I was about 9 or 10. My older sister, she was playing travel ball for San Jose State, and so then I ended up getting into that organization as well, and I played that all during, through {travel} ball, then I ended up on the Source tour my last year.

Gary: And when did you start pitching; at that age?

Keilani Ricketts: Um, I was too scared to pitch, actually. My parents kept trying to get me to try out, but I was too afraid to try out for the teams, but…ah, probably about 11, I guess. Yeah.

Gary: Now, if I remember correctly from the last time I interviewed you, and I’m not sure I’m correct on this, but you told me once you had seriously started pitching, you threw about 150 balls a day until you got to college; is that right? In practice.

Keilani Ricketts: Um, you know, I was just out there playing, having fun, didn’t really take it that seriously I guess, and then, you know, coaches, they just kept telling me, like, you could be really good if you really put the work in and stuff, and, I kind of thought about it and I was like, I might as well try it, and so, when I was about 15 or 16 I went out and threw about 50 of each pitch every day and I just, I just had the mentality, I just wanted to be the best out there and I just wanted to work harder than anyone else, you know, that’s when I really started to have confidence in myself, because I was practicing so much, and you know, my stuff was really moving out there, and it was really fun to see what I was capable of doing, and now, from about Junior and Senior year, a little Sophomore year in High School, I started, I just became a completely different player because I was able to really just enhance my game by practicing so much.

Gary: So, so, ok, so we understand how your pitching got so great, and you did make it to the top of the game there, we can certainly say, but the other part, I mean the way you hit! I mean, you’re not just like, you get on base, I mean, what do you bat, number 4? I mean, you know, you’re a powerhouse hitter! I mean, you know, you got the winning RBI’s in a championship game! When did you start hitting like that? Did you have someone working with you and did you have to practice a lot? Tell us about your development in hitting.

Keilani Ricketts: Um, I never really had, you know I had a pitching coach growing up I’d go to every week, but I didn’t have a hitting coach. I’d go to different hitting coaches, now and then, but I just, I wasn’t, I guess since I wasn’t really the number one pitcher on my teams I was always like an out, a left fielder, a first baseman and stuff, so I was a hitter growing up, and you know, I just became a hitter / pitcher, and Coach Gasso, she told me she really wanted me to hit while I was in college, and I was excited about that.

Gary: That was a good call I’d have to say.

Keilani Ricketts: Yeah, and she let me have a few steals. I mean, I wish I had a few more, but I’m glad she let me steal.

Gary: What was it like playing for Patty?

Keilani Ricketts: It was, it was awesome. It was incredible. And, it’s not just that she was an amazing coach, but she was also, she cared about us off the field as well, and, you know, I call her my mom, I kind of tease her that way, but she really did treat us like her children. You know I’m still able to have a relationship with her, even though I’m not at college, but she just genuinely cared about her players as people and not just, she didn’t have her favorites, she really just cared about all of the players and it was cool to be able to see that kind of relationship.

Gary: I have a feeling you’ll probably have a relationship, knowing her, for the rest of your life. Now, Patty is real strong in her faith, and I’ve noticed, I’ve not been to a lot of games in person, but after the game was over, you actually huddled down, someone led you in a prayer on the field, there, and, uh, I thought that was pretty interesting and pretty great to see that on the field. Did y’all do that after every game, or was that special, or, I’m just curious. That’s the question I want to know.

Keilani Ricketts: Um, when was…was that after the championship game?

Gary: Yeah, the championship game. You had some dynamic prayer leader there!

Keilani Ricketts: Yeah. That was our Chaplin, Sarah Roberts. Uh, yeah, we always pray as a team before every game, and actually the year before, when we had lost to Alabama in the championship she came down and, you know, we were devastated, and she came down and we just had a prayer together and we were praying, saying that, you know, whether we win or lose we always praise God and that was just kind of our thing that just held us together, and to just know that even though we lost, it wasn’t the end of the world, and then after we were able to win the National Championship, she still came down, cause whether we win or lose, still we’re able to praise God.

Gary: Great, and speaking of last year, getting back to that, man, I was there for that, too, and that rain started coming down and I told the guy beside me, this is never good to see rain in the game; anything can happen! He said, what do you mean? He did not know ball very well, I guess, needless to say. Now, we’re here in Florida for the USSSA Pride, or USSSA National Convention. This is your first trip here, I assume. What is it like coming to this and seeing this part of softball?

Keilani Ricketts: It’s really cool, just to see how many people are involved in USSSA. You know, I never really knew about it before, but to see how so strong and different sports, not just softball and how many people are just so dedicated to making our sport better for the different, like, the girls involved and the older players that are involved, as well, so it’s cool to be able to represent the USSSA on the Pride and be able to make our sport stronger.

Gary: So, what was it like, since we’re on the subject, I brought it up, what was it like, your first year on the Pride, winning the National Championship? That’s kinda like, how many people won two championships in a year, huh? That’s pretty neat!

Keilani Ricketts: Yeah. Um, well I joined the team halfway through, so I wasn’t there the whole season, but, you know, it was definitely hard, getting used to it and adjusting from college ball to pro ball, but, you know, the girls, they’re very knowledgeable, they’re some of the best in the game, and they’re very approachable, as well, so they’re able to help me and they really help me through thick and thin and I was able to help them with the championship, and we were able to win the championship at the end of the summer, so, yeah, it was cool to be able to start the summer with a National Championship and then end one with a pro championship, I guess, but…

Gary: Yeah, not many people have two of those in a year, right?

Keilani Ricketts: I mean, it was a lot of fun to be able to just experience it with some of the great college players and some of the great pro players, so it was cool to have that moment.

Gary: You know, that could be a trivia question, what softball player won two National Championships in one year!

Keilani Ricketts: I guess so, yeah!

Gary: So, now, speaking on that; something else about you that’s new, you are now a Worth player, and I saw the other day a picture of the Keilani Ricketts bat, so…

Keilani Ricketts: Oh really?

Gary: Yeah! You haven’t seen that?

Keilani Ricketts: No! I’ve been in Japan, so I haven’t seen that…

Gary: Well, you have a bat now, so that was kinda cool I thought. Is there anything for our future players, coming up, that are aspiring to make it like you are, there are so many girls trying to get to the level you are, you know, that’s a pyramid, how wide that pyramid is at the bottom, but to get where you were at is, very, very few that make it. Is there anything that you can tell them to inspire them and help them out on their goal of reaching that?

Keilani Ricketts: Um, you know, there’s just, there’s a lot of different things just to work to where, just to be the best, you know, you have to practice, have the mentality to be the best out there. You have to practice harder and more than anyone else out there and, you know, you have to love what you’re doing. You can’t be out there working hard, and having no purpose if you don’t love the game, and when it comes down to school, as well, you know, if you want to be a student athlete in college, you know, you have to work, not only hard on the field, but you have to work hard in the classroom because the college coaches are giving you a scholarship to go to school as well, it’s not just to be an athlete, so, you know, you have to really work hard in the classroom, as well. It’s not just going to be handed to you.

Gary: That’s good advice, those grades are very important to get where you’re going to be. Matter of fact, I remember one time, I was interviewing Jessica Mendoza, she said “You don’t have the grades. You can’t even go play softball at a lot of schools”. You know a lot of kids, I don’t think, realize that you can’t even play there if they don’t have the grades.

Keilani Ricketts: Yeah, you know, like, a lot of times you feel so much pressure from trying to do so good in softball and getting recruited, but we don’t realize, oh, you’re going to recruit us as students as well, you’re getting recruited to get a scholarship to pay for your school, so , it’s, you know, it’s just that balance of being able to work hard in the classroom as well as on the field.

Gary: How about for, uh, do you have any tips you’ll be able to give to for coaches out there of travel ball players, maybe something you’ve learned from your life of being a player and coach, ‘cause obviously you were coached kinda well, or you wouldn’t have developed and still have a love for the game.

Keilani Ricketts: Huh. I don’t know.

Gary: I’m asking spur of the moment, there, so, you don’t have an answer. That’s understandable. We didn’t rehearse these questions.

Keilani Ricketts: Yeah…I’m trying to think…I mean, I’ve kinda been hearing a little bit of controversy, not only with travel softball, but with the AAU Basketball, you know, coaches are starting, the college coaches are starting to see kids aren’t really developing, ah, they’re competing so much, you know, and getting seen is really important, and so we’re really trying to showcase our kids, but then, also just developing the fundamental part of the game, you know, maybe just try to work so hard on the little things and that really is going to, that’s going to get showcased in the showcases, but just really focus on defense and those little mechanics. You know, growing up, on my travel team, I used to play outfield and play infield and I’d play all the positions. They’d have all the girls play all the positions, so we could just develop different parts of the game, and, while at OU I actually played a few games in the outfield, so, I think that might have helped.

Gary: That’s pretty good. Now, you said earlier when you were growing up, you played softball and basketball and several sports. Now, for instance, Joan Joyce, one of the greatest players of all time, told me that was probably the most important thing that’s not being done is these kids are playing one sport. In basketball, you’re learning things that you need for softball and that you need to play all these sports. Since you did that too, do you agree with that, we shouldn’t just being playing softball year round, you need to play more than one sport.

Keilani Ricketts: For sure. I loved playing basketball and softball all my life, and, you know, playing basketball I was able to become, I was able to stay in condition, I was able to become more agile and quick on my feet, and that definitely helped with pitching and playing softball, so, and I think with recruiting becoming so…earlier, and girls are being recruited in 7th, 8th grade, you know, it’s become more of a priority just to stay with one sport, but it’s a shame ‘cause girls should be able to experience having teammates with not only basketball team and softball team, but be able to just enhance their athleticism, not just in one sport.

Gary: I want to tell you thank you for taking the time for this interview, it’s been more than a pleasure talking with you. You just, you just send out the message of happiness, that you can tell how happy you are with your life, right now, and that’s always a pleasure to see, so thanks for taking the time with me.

Keilani Ricketts: No problem. Thanks for having me.

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