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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Kelly Majam Elms Steps Into Justin's World

On a strictly nerd-brain note, the team featured today is one of my personal favorites. I read a study a while back that found that the most-used team "nickname" in Division 1 sports is the Tigers (yes, somebody actually did a study on this). And while I'm totally not knocking teams that call themselves the Tigers, when it's so common, it kind of loses something.

I'm pretty sure that the "Rainbow Wahine" is held by exactly one team & one school, and that's the University of Hawaii. It really rolls off the tongue, ya know? "Rainbow Wahine". "Rainbow Wahine".

OK, nerd-brain off. The player featured today is another of my personal favorites. A stupendous player with an incredible career & a great Christian witness, it is quite the honor to feature former Hawaii superstar Kelly Majam. Now a married lady (thus the "Elms"), Kelly finished her career last season as one of the best players to ever put on a Rainbow Wahine uniform.
A sight that UH fans got used to seeing.

She started every game in her four-year career, to the tune of 232 consecutive starts. A slugging center fielder, her list of awards and accolades is lengthy and deservedly so. In 2013, following her senior season, Kelly was named Hawaii's Female Athlete of the Year. An all-conference first-teamer & a a Senior CLASS Award candidate, her trophy case filled up fast!

As a .400-hitting, home-run-slugging freshman in 2010, Kelly was named an NFCA All-American following a season when she hit thirty home runs & didn't make a defensive error. Her career statistic line of .335/72/148 really speaks for itself.

I personally enjoy following Kelly's life post-softball, and I encourage you to connect with her on Twitter @00Majam

Justin's World: How did you get started playing softball?
Kelly Majam Elms: I started playing softball when I was 5 years old. My dad played baseball at SDSU and a little professional baseball after that, and my mom grew up playing softball. So both loved the game and really wanted their daughters playing the game as well.

JW: Your family is chock full of athletes, including several softball players. Did y’all compete against each other growing up? How did the athletic prowess of your family help you grow into an All-American-caliber athlete?
KME: My family and I love to play games and love to compete, but something that has always been one of our strong suites was that we always desired to see each other succeed. We all played softball growing up and many times I had at least one of my sisters on my team, so playing with my sisters and practicing with them helped me stay at the top of my game. We pushed each other to get better but also just encouraged each other and were there for one another. I don’t think I would have been anywhere near as good of an athlete if it weren't for my sisters and parents pushing me, challenging me, and practicing with me.

JW: Who is your hero? How did that person’s influence affect your on-field play?
KME: I have two softball players that I look up to the most. The first is Laura Berg. She was an amazing center fielder, extremely quick, and a great leader. It takes a good athlete and great leader to be able to play on all four of the Olympic softball teams, and that’s what she did. I also look up to Leah O’Brien-Amico. She was also an Olympian but the reason I look up to her is for the way she has stood by her faith through all of her success and proclaims her beliefs through her words and actions. She is a motivational speaker, and that’s something I have come to accept as one of my roles in the local high schools in Hawaii. So I look up to her ability to use her words and actions to spread God’s love.

JW: What would you say was the defining moment of your career?
KME: It’s hard for me to pinpoint one standout moment in my career so I will name two! The first would definitely be my freshman year when we upset the #1 seed Alabama at the super regionals on a walk-off home run to make it to the College World Series! It was a dream of mine to make it to the world series, and to finally fulfill the dream and in that dramatic of a fashion was unforgettable. I get chills every time I think about that moment. The second one would be my first weekend back on the field after my radiation treatment. I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in July 2010 and underwent radiation treatment over Christmas break that year. Our first game was only five weeks after treatment, and although I wasn’t at my best shape I could not be any more thankful than I was that first weekend of the season getting to play the game that I loved despite my health. The game hadn’t changed because I had gotten cancer, and I felt so at peace and happy during that first weekend back.

JW: Why Hawaii?
KME: I committed to come to Hawaii my senior year of high school right after I came out here on my official visit. One of my goals in high school was I wanted to play in the College World Series, and I came here on a visit and saw that Hawaii hadn’t done it yet but could definitely get there. And I wanted to be there to help make it happen. I also, really enjoyed the coaching staff at UH because they treated their team like it was a family. Plus, I obviously chose Hawaii for the awesome weather.

JW: What did your four years at Hawaii teach you that you might not have been able to learn otherwise, at another school or playing for another program?
KME: Playing in Hawaii is unlike any other place in the country! The University of Hawaii is the only division 1 college in the state, so the local people truly look up to the athletes at the college. There are no professional sports in Hawaii, so the college athletes are the local role models. The fans are intense, passionate, and love their UH athletes. I learned that dedicated and loyal fans are so incredibly important to a sports program and can truly change the direction of a game, one play, or even the attitude of a player. The fans in Hawaii and the atmosphere I played in for my career was something I will always cherish.

JW: Is there a moment or single play that, if given the opportunity, you would like to go back in time to relive or do-over?
KME: There were maybe a handful of plays in centerfield where I climbed the fence and got leather on the ball and was inches away from robbing a homerun but just couldn’t reach. I’d love to get those plays back and reach just a little bit higher or jump a little more just to get it in the pocket of my glove and rob it.

JW: How does your faith affect your mindset when it comes to the game & your on-field performance?
KME: My faith is extremely important to me and and is the lens that I view life and view softball through. I see softball as a way for me to give glory to God through my actions and my words to teammates, coaches, and fans. I always wanted to be a positive light on the field and in the dugout because that’s showing love to my teammates and coaches. I prayed a lot while I was on the field and in games. I prayed for myself, for my teammates, for the outcome of the game. I was constantly praying and that kept me grounded and showed that Jesus cared about softball and the stuff that I care about, because he definitely does. He loves the things we love, and I love softball. So I know that God hears those prayers when I am on the field.

JW: With the decision not to include softball in the 2020 Olympics, effectively ending Olympic dreams for this generation of players, how badly do you think that decision will hurt the sport of softball as a whole?
KME: I know that every girl dreams of being an Olympian someday, and obviously I did too. Both of my softball role models are Olympians and so that’s where I dreamt of being someday as well. It definitely does take a toll on our sport, but I think there is still a lot of hope. I think it starts locally and instilling the love for the sport at a young age. In Hawaii softball is becoming more and more popular, and that is exciting for me to see. I want to see more and more girls learn to love the sport that I love, whether its just tee ball or someday getting to watch it again in the Olympics.

JW: What have you been up to since your playing career ended? Are you still involved with the game of softball?
KME: Well, a month after our season ended I was getting married! My husband and I got married in June and it’s been awesome to step into that new life of being a Mrs.! My husband is still in college at UH so we are still out in Hawaii. I am an elementary PE teacher, which is an absolute blast! I also give hitting lessons which definitely is rewarding. The UH softball team is quite popular here in the islands, so many girls know my name and wanted to learn from me. So I found it an easy step to want to give back to them and start giving private hitting lessons. I have many girls I give weekly lessons too which is challenging but also an excellent experience which I plan on continuing to give lessons for as long as I can.

JW: If you had the opportunity to sit down & have dinner and talk to any three people from history, who would they be and why?
KME: I think I would choose my three sisters (they can count as one person right?), Josh Hamilton, and Esther from the Bible. Super random I know. I would choose my sisters first because they are my best friends and whenever we get together it is a nonstop conversation of weird, hilarious, nerdy, fun things that never get old. Josh Hamilton because he is an awesome athlete but also is a follower of Christ! He has inspired many and is a great story of how God loves to save the lost and lift them up even higher. And Esther from the Bible because she was a woman who was strong, courageous, and stood up for what she believed even when it was scary and I would love to be just like that!

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