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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Kelly Braman Steps Into Justin's World

Players are often referred to as "utility" players; more often than not, it's simply a term used to keep from having to limit a player to a single position on the roster. But in the case of Kelly Braman, the term should be used to it's proper, fullest meaning.
(c) University of Memphis Softball via Facebook

Dictionary.com actually had a definition for the phrase "utility player": 'a player who is capable of playing competently in any of several positions'. That fits Braman to a tee. In her first two seasons at Western Carolina, she primarily played first base and shortstop, but also saw some action at third. When she transferred to become a Memphis Tiger, she continued showing off her versatility by starting at first base for the majority of her junior year, then starting every game at second in her senior campaign in 2014.

A fairly sure-handed defender, no matter on the diamond she set up shop, Braman was never an offensive power, but with some occasional pop in her bat and a career batting average above .280, an 'easy out' she was not.

Kelly graduated from the U of M in 2014 and immediately began the next phase of her career, taking an assistant coach's position at Guilford College, in Greensboro, North Carolina. Keep reading to see Kelly talk about several different topics, including:

  • Her favorite Memphis 'qualities'
  • Her goals in the coaching profession
  • Playing multiple sports in high school
  • And so much more!
You can find Kelly on Twitter @Kelly_Braman23

Justin’s World: How did you get started playing softball?
Kelly Braman: I started playing softball when I was 6 years old, and it was all because of my older brother. My brother is 3 years older than me and when I was younger, I was brought along to all of his baseball, football, & basketball games. I was really taken with baseball and always played with my brother in the backyard, and finally when I was old enough to play, my parents signed me right up for coach pitch. I was 6 years old playing 8-and-under coach pitch.

Justin’s World: Tell me what appealed to you about Memphis and made you want to transfer & play ball there.
Braman: I really liked Coach Poole and Coach Roya as soon as I meet them on my visit (Coach Andy wasn’t there); everything they were telling me about the program and where they saw it going really intrigued me. Everything from having a team sports psychologist to changing conferences. I also was very impressed with the athletic facilities like the training room, weight room, turf room, softball stadium, and locker room.

Justin’s World: Take me back to your very first collegiate game, at Western Carolina. Tell me what it was like when you stepped on that field for the first time.
Braman: I was so excited to play in my first game, but at the same time so nervous. I just wanted to play so well and show everyone what I could do. I kept telling myself though that this was just like any other game I have played in and not to hype it up or I would sike myself out and play bad. So many emotions and thoughts running through my head - happy, excited, scared, nervous, who’s here watching me? Do my coaches think I’m playing well?

Justin’s World: You played multiple sports in high school, though none as long as softball. Tell me how participating in basketball and cross-country helped you get even better on the softball field.
Braman: Basketball and softball were used to keep me in shape during the off-season. They both kept me very physically active and fit and also kept me focused on school and sports. Definitely taught me great time-management skills as well.

Justin’s World: If there was one moment from your career that you had the opportunity to relive, what point in time would it be?
Braman: I can think of two specific times in my career I wish I could go back to. One was when I was like 13 years old and playing travel ball for the Magic. We were in the NSA world championship tournament and lost our first game of the day, which put us in the loser’s bracket. We ended up having to play 6 games back to back that day without losing one or we were out of the tournament. We played from 8am-1am that day and sent home 6 teams and ended up coming in 4th in the nation.

The second one would be my senior weekend at Memphis. Just being able to have my family there to support me and play on the field one last time with all my amazing teammates and coaches in front of all of our fans was amazing. And we ended up beating Louisville one game, which no one thought we would and it was great; we put up a fight, for sure, and I was proud of us. 

Justin’s World: Was coaching softball always your career path of choice? Is becoming a head coach your eventual goal?
Braman: Coaching was always a thought I had and was interested in, but I definitely had other career goals in mind like graduate school and working for the FBI. To be honest I told myself whichever opportunity presented itself first is what I would choose, and it ended up being coaching. I do have dreams of becoming a head coach someday at the Division 1 level now.

Justin’s World: Memphis has so much going for it, between the food, the sights, the history… other than U of M softball, tell me your favorite thing about the Bluff City.
Braman: THE FOOD!!!! Memphis has some great places to eat! Everything from Corky’s, Rendezvous, Ching’s, Brother Junipers, it was all AMAZING! If it weren’t for softball, I probably would have gained 50 pounds from eating out so much. 

Justin’s World: Fill in the blank: If not for softball, I would probably have played college basketball and be an assistant basketball coach now.

Justin’s World: Let’s finish up with my signature question – say you were stranded on a deserted island, but could take three things with you. Boats and phones are off-limits. What would you take?
Braman: My best friend and teammate at Memphis, Ijiah, would be brought along with me because she would keep me company and she is one of the smartest people I know, so she would find a way to get us out of there. Food, of course, because I could not see myself being resourceful and hunting or cooking some crazy animals or plants. And probably a radio or ipod… something like that so I could have music. I can’t imagine a day going by without listening to my music. 

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