Playing in the Moment

Softball catcher Mary Grabowski


When Softball Coach Melissa McElvain recruited high school standout catcher Mary Grabowski five years ago, it was a big deal. McElvain’s catcher at the time would be a graduating senior, so getting Grabowski in the fold would give her time to adjust and develop her game at the college level.

It was also a big deal to McElvain because bringing Grabowski onboard was about more than just bringing a quality player into the Torero program. It was about finding the right fit.

McElvain herself had been a catcher on three Oklahoma State University teams that reached the NCAA postseason, including the 1998 College Softball World Series. She knows the position’s importance, demands and the leadership required.

“You have to call timeouts and settle everyone down. You need to be able to tell the pitcher a joke to loosen them up, and you need to know when to yell,” says McElvain. “She had great size for a catcher, and strength as a hitter. But as a coach, I wanted a good talent and someone with good character.”

Grabowski came to USD in Fall 2012. For the next four years, she grew and developed in all facets of the game. A dependable power hitter, capable catcher and leader, she describes her senior year as “playing in the moment,” but Grabowski prepared just as hard her last year as her first.

“Softball is not just my passion, it’s my life,” says the 2016 All-West Coast Conference First-Team selection. “It’s been the platform that’s given me every opportunity.”

When Grabowski wasn’t playing softball, she made strong connections across campus. She was the president of USD’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee this year. She leads a student Bible study group, participates in the MENTOReros program and thoroughly enjoys team community service opportunities.

“I’m a real social person. Freshman year, I had a lot of athlete friends, not just on my team but every team. My journey from freshman year to senior year has been about opening myself to different leadership roles.”

It comes as no surprise that this liberal studies major, set to complete her elementary teaching credential this fall, is also great with children. Whether she’s working with young girls at a softball clinic or wearing a costume at a local children’s carnival, she always leaves a favorable impression.

“When I see the little girls who watch me play, I want to show them what it looks like to play in the moment, to really enjoy it,” Grabowski says. “Whether the bases are loaded and I hit a two-run single or I watch the third strike, I want them to see that this game means so much more than RBIs. It has the potential to give you so much.”

Developing critical leadership skills defines Grabowski’s impact as a Torero. McElvain praises her for helping create a championship culture. “I had high expectations for her, but she’s completely surpassed them all,” McElvain says. — Ryan T. Blystone

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