Kayla Hanson plays the most challenging position in softball; but embracing that challenge has made a her collegiate athlete.
Catcher is one of the most challenging positions in softball.
Yet since she was little, the Saints’ Kayla Hanson has made a career behind home plate armed with five pounds of equipment, known affectionately as the tools of ignorance, bent knees and a torso lowered to the ground like a frog about to launch to the next petal.
She spends two hours each game with alert and pointed toes, an outstretched glove eager to catch the hard fluorescent ball hurtling toward her.
After each pitch, it becomes a routine for Hanson. She returns to that familiar crouch, and she communicates with her pitcher - one finger for the fastball, two digits for off-speed, as they strategize how to get the batter out.
Each pitch is a challenge.
Some pitches will hit Hanson right in the pocket for a perfect strike.
Some pitches go off-script, and Hanson will have to drop to her surgically repaired knee in a sudden motion and block the 7oz ball with her body.
Getting down for the next pitch — again and again, across scores of games and hundreds of innings and in service of thousands of pitches — is the essence of Kayla’s job.
She is, as a softball catcher, all at once trusted and vital, exposed and embattled, relied on by her team with subtle nuances of her job that go underappreciated.
But she wouldn’t have it any other way. Kayla Hanson loves a challenge.
“Catcher is a position that has its drawbacks,” Hanson joked. “But, it’s a position I love because it means I have to be at my best to help my team.”
That why she’s relishing the challenge of being a student-athlete, as she will head two hours north to play softball for Augsburg College next spring.
“I’m excited to finalize those plans, and there are so many emotions running through my mind - but I’m ready for the challenge,”
Hanson’s athletic exploits on the playing surfaces of St. James are well-documented. In each sport, she’s played the on-field captain, a setter in volleyball, a point guard in basketball - and of course, as a catcher in softball.
But softball is where Hanson shines. It’s also the sport that first challenged her.
Then a second grader watching and absorbing her sister Lindzey’s every move on the softball field - Kayla was presented her first opportunity to make her mark on the sport.
She was offered a chance to play on her sister’s team, as they were missing a player. From that moment, filling that vacant spot on a lineup - she evolved her game to become a fixture on future lineups.
Each year, she would challenge herself to get better.
Become a .300 hitter? Check.
Become a stolen base threat? Check.
Learn how to manage a pitching staff? Check.
The prospect of becoming college softball became a challenge in the summer of her freshman year when she played on a summer team.
She was selected among some of Southern Minnesota’s best and brightest softball players to play on the South Central Slammers.
In that summer, a coach saw her drive, her talent, and her desire and commented that Hanson playing college ball was a possibility.
“When he said that, it was a goal that I knew I could reach and had to reach,” said Hanson.
Off the field, she’s personable, she challenges herself to be a friend and peer to everyone and a role model to younger kids in her youth service class at Northside.
On the field, Hanson approaches each aspect of baseball as a challenge. The challenge of turning that quarter-inch lead into a 60-foot dash into a stolen base.
She takes each pitch as a challenge, especially those right in her sweet spot, and promptly answers bold pitchers with a line drive into the outfield.
Hanson - as a leader and a competitor, is trusted and vital, exposed and embattled, relied on by her team with subtle nuances of her playing style that go underappreciated.
In that regard, Kayla Hanson has become the perfect catcher.