Although High Point's Karen Kimmel is a motivator and role model, she would rather be thought of simply as the pitcher on a girls softball squad that is unbeaten and favored to repeat as the Maryland AA state titlist.
The Eagles, with only four seniors including Kimmel, entered this week with a combined 31-1 record over the past two seasons. Despite being the key to High Point's success, Kimmel allowing others to take charge so she can concentrate on the one thing that she does best -- strike out opponents.
Last year, Kimmel and the Eagles were 20-1. Going into play this week, High Point was 11-0, but Kimmel is cautious about what the remainder of the season will bring.
"We have to take the season one game at a time," said Kimmel, who posted a 1.38 earned run average in 1984. "After a win, you can be happy for a little while, but then you have to start concentrating on the next game."
This year, with six starters back, the Eagles have done well. In their sixth victory, 16-0 against Crossland, Kimmel pitched a no-hitter and accounted for 14 of the 15 outs in the five-inning game (shortened because of the 10-run rule) with strike outs.
"She's just an outstanding talent in every aspect of the word, " said High Point Coach Wayne Snyder. "Besides her pitching abilities, she's an outstanding base runner, and a solid hitter (.425 last year). I have never seen any player, at any level of the game, be it baseball or softball, play a position better than Karen plays hers."
Kimmel admitted that she still needs work on her attitude. She gets especially nervous before games and gets very intense -- sometimes too keyed up -- during games.
Kimmel's intensity carries over to her teammates, but they play well at that level. "We definitely are a 'play-better-under-pressure' team," Kimmel said.
Kimmel began pitching in the fifth grade for the College Park Girls Club. She says her pitching ability is not a natural talent, but rather an acquired one.
"Almost anyone can pitch well if they start early, like I did, and continue it year by year," she said. "It's not as hard as you might think, and I don't like it when people place me in a 'super pitcher' image."
Among Kimmel's numerous coaches, Snyder has had the greatest influence. "He's about as much into softball as you can be," she said. "We learn something new from him every day, and he makes us play like a team, not like individuals."
Softball is included in her future plans, but the sport is not her top priority. "I enjoy playing ball, but I don't live for it," said Kimmel, an honor role student.
"People who only see her during the season see a super pitcher. I see a super kid," Snyder said. "And that's what is going to help her in life. She has her head on straight and her values in order, and I'm certain that she'll be even more successful in life than she has been in softball."