Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chelsea Hawkins Steps Into Justin's World

There's a stockpile of previously-conducted interviews in a folder on my desktop, and today I have the privilege to feature one of South Carolina's finest daughters, Chelsea Hawkins.

Photo cred: J Blas Photography
A starting outfielder for three of her four seasons under Beverly Smith, Hawkins was always at or near the team lead in many offensive categories. Defensively, she was sure-handed with only three fielding errors to her name in those same four years.

For those of you who didn't pay attention to or don't remember the postseason, here's a link to a write-up of the USF game we mention more than once in the interview.

As is often said but rarely true, Hawkins is a social media star, with more than 1,100 followers and one of my all-time favorite Vine videos to her name. Since leaving SC, she continues to impact the game by giving individual lessons to young girls. (More info on her future plans are part of the interview, below).

You can follow Chelsea on social media by clicking on any of these links to take you to her profile on each of these respective sites: Twitter. Facebook. Instagram. Vine.

Justin’s World: How did you first get started playing softball? Was softball always "your sport”?
Chelsea Hawkins: I first got started playing when I was handed a bat at 4. It was something that just came easy to me. I fell in love with the feeling of having a bat in my hand. It's always been my first love, but I also played basketball and volleyball.

JW: This one is phrased simply, but the answer may not be. Now that your playing career is done, what will you miss the most?
CH: What I'll miss the most is simply having 20 something sisters to come and compete with every day. More importantly, just getting to do what I love and also represent USC at the same time….Having the little girls who look up to me is really something special. I love knowing I am a role model for them.

JW: Why did you choose SC?
CH: I've always been a Gamecock! My aunt was also someone I always looked up to; she played here starting in 2001, so she was a big part in making me want to continue my career in college.

JW: What was your favorite thing about playing in the SEC?
CH: Just the competition itself, knowing there is no game guaranteed to one team. Anyone can beat anyone on any given day.

JW: What about playing ball after college? Is that something you thought about or were/are interested in?
CH: It was something I had thought about before- coaches told me I should consider it, but I want to get my Masters degree and it's something I am scared to put off. I want to do it now and go ahead and get my foot in the door for coaching jobs.

JW: How do you plan to stay involved with the game of softball now that you're collegiate playing days are done? Do you think you might coach at some level?
CH: Yes! That is what I want to do, coach college ball.

JW: Let’s say you were given the opportunity to go back in time and change one moment, one happening from your life and/or career. What would you want to change?
CH: I would change the USF game obviously. Both teams play hard, but overall I think we deserved that win. Julie pitched an outstanding game, hitters were making good adjustments, and it would have put us in the final game. FSU is a great team, but I think we would have given them a good game in the final games, would have had the chance to come out on top.

JW: If you can, describe the feeling when USF came from behind and beat y’all. It’s got to be incredibly difficult to know your career is done, but to have it end like that? Was that even harder for you to stomach?
CH: It was honestly the feeling of getting punched in the gut. I think it was more because I didn’t expect it, none of us did. I thought we had the win, so I didn’t have time to think about how this could really be my last game in the last inning. One minute I was ready to go all out to make the last out, and then the next minute I was walking off the field. It all happened so fast.

JW: Do you have any superstitions? Have to eat the same meal before a game, can’t step on the foul lines, same routine every time you step into the batter’s box, etc?
CH: I’m sure if anyone has watched our games, they see me killing some bubblegum, so one is that I have to have Dr. Pepper gum for every game (don’t knock it until you try it, it’s delicious). I have the same routine every time I go up to bat. I stare at the pitcher and look her right in the eye, then I put one foot in the box, take a deep breath, look at a small part on the bat that says, “One Pitch” then I step in the box.

JW: Let's say you were given the opportunity to spend a full twenty-four hours in another person's shoes. Who would that person be and why would you want to trade places for a day?
CH: Ellen. She is so funny and even though her job would be hard not to enjoy, she is hard working. And plus, she meets the coolest people, and also helps in any way she can for them to reach their dreams; I would love to do that for people.

JW: If you were stranded on a deserted island (Robinson Crusoe-style), but were allowed to take three things with you, what would you take? No boats, no phones.
CH: Steak, my puppy and my little brother. I'm pretty handy so I could somehow build something if I needed to, I love steak, and I'm too much of a people person to be alone.

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