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Sports Archives The Altamont Enterprise, April 7, 2011
It’s for the love of the game
By Jordan J. Michael
COBLESKILL Kelsey DeZalia loves softball so much that she would probably go insane without it.
At least, that’s what she said from the campus of the State University of New York College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill on Tuesday, after being named Fighting Tiger Athlete of the Week. DeZalia, a first-year student from Voorheesville, received the honor after hitting .409 with three doubles, four runs scored, and five RBI over eight games to open the season.
“One of my floor mates told me that I was on the athletics’ page,” DeZalia said about discovering her award on Monday. “It was one of the best Mondays of my life, just a great day in general. I realized that my hard work had actually paid off.”
DeZalia, who plays second base, told The Enterprise that she could “barely hit” in the first four games of the season, but she’s currently on a six-game hitting streak. Over that time, she’s amassed a .545 slugging percentage and a .519 on-base percentage.
“Everyone has ups and downs, but I’ve been riding the upscale,” said DeZalia, mentioning how hard she is on herself. “My teammates stayed so positive with me and brought my spirits up.”
Cobleskill has 11 players on its Division III softball team and DeZalia says that everyone is equally “hard working” and “passionate” about the sport.
“We don’t have this amazing reputation or anything, but we work hard,” DeZalia said. “Passion is needed on any team if it wants to succeed. It’s tougher to have a small team, but we just work that much harder.”
Nine players make a softball line-up, so that leaves two girls on the bench for the Tigers. “No one can ever get hurt or sick,” said DeZalia with a laugh.
DeZalia realizes the commitments of playing a sport while in college, but she can’t imagine the demands of a Division I student athlete. Cobleskill plays each opponent twice, also known as a double-header. There’s a 10-minute break in between the games.
“I’m usually gone for more than half the day,” said DeZalia. “For away games, we’ll leave before noon and get back around 9 p.m. I thought about the workload before I decided to play, but I always knew I wanted to play softball in college because I love it.”
DeZalia, raised by diehard New York Yankees fans, started playing softball at age 7.
“Something clicked when I was little,” DeZalia said, confessing her own love for the Yankees. “My family taught me so much and supported my interests. I’ve run into a few people who say softball is easy, but they’re wrong. I wanted to prove them wrong and excel.”
No doubt, DeZalia silenced her disbelievers, but she also learned to control her temper while playing for the Voorheesville team. “I was a huge hot head when I was younger,” she said. “I couldn’t fully control my temper until I was a sophomore. The game is 90 percent mental. My parents and coaches helped shape my mind.”
After DeZalia’s mind was reformed, she learned the old adage of team orientation: There is no “I” in team. She played four years for the Blackbirds, covering every infield position, finally getting the opportunity to be a catcher during her senior year.
“Being a catcher really helped my reaction time,” DeZalia said. “As far as the people around me, they were always encouraging.”
Cobleskill was the ideal move for DeZalia, she said, because it offered a wildlife management major. She had looked at Syracuse University, but Cobleskill was the only school she applied to.
DeZalia does an array of lab work, including mist-netting of birds, which requires the setting up of big, clear nets. The birds fly into the netting, without being harmed, and the students study them. Before the birds are released, a band is put around the foot for future identification.
“This is the best major for me because, one day, it’s going to take me around the world,” said DeZalia, who is also interested in photography. “It has a great design. I get a broad view point of animals out in the wild.”
“College is a time to expand while building a community,” continued DeZalia. “It’s so much fun, and way different than high school. I won’t lie.”
After playing softball consistently for 11 years, DeZalia will continue to play the sport for another three with Cobleskill. She encourages athletes to at least try the sport they love in college, even if it doesn’t work out in the long run.
“Just see if you can do it,” DeZalia said. “Just go for it.”
DeZalia wears the number eight for her older sister, Amanda, who also wore the same digit for softball. She gets plenty of references to Cal Ripken Jr., the Baltimore Orioles great who also wore the number.
“Nope, no connection to him at all,” she said. “I want to be like my sister.”