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Monday, November 23, 2015

Kylee Lahners Steps Into Justin's World

The historical depth of talent to come out of the Washington softball program is tremendous. Whether on international or professional rosters, numerous Husky softballers have played at the game’s highest levels. In 2015, the newest member of this fraternity officially joined the professional ranks when the Dallas Charge signed Kylee Lahners to be part of the franchise’s inaugural season.

(c) Scott Eklund/Washington Husky Athletics
Defensively versatile and capable of playing nearly every defensive position not involving a circle or shin guards, Lahners put together a quietly-stellar career at UDub. Four times an all-conference selection and an all-American as a junior, she holds four top-ten marks in the Husky record books. Her fifty-four career home runs rank third all-time for the program, and she ranks among the top ten in the career categories of walks, slugging percentage, and RBI.

Expounding and offering an example of the versatility mentioned earlier, Lahners was her team’s center fielder in 2015. Just a year earlier, she had split time as the starting third baseman and right fielder. In 2012, her first season in Seattle, she started at second base.

Drafted #10 overall, Lahners was the eighth UDub Husky to suit up in the domestic professional ranks, following in the footsteps of the likes of Ashley Charters, Jenn Salling, Kimi Pohlman, and others. She was the first, and, to date, only Husky alum to wear a Charge uniform. She will return to the field in Dallas in 2016 in the second season of a two-year deal.

Justin’s World: How did you get started playing softball? At what point did you realize that this was something you were *really* good at?
Kylee Lahners: When I was about 3 years old, my dad used to pitch plastic golf balls to me in the backyard and I would hit using a broomstick. I was that kid who never wanted to come in for dinner because I was having too much fun out in the street playing whiffle ball with my friends. The start of being somewhat serious in my softball career was at the age of 6, my first year playing in an organized league. I think the key to my softball success was that my parents always played me a division up, so that I could compete with older kids. In addition, my father never wanted me to be the best player on the team or play with other kids from my neighborhood or school that I was attending at the time. He strongly felt that you getter better by not only participating against strong competition, but also by playing with better players on your current team.

Different players from completely different areas creates a need to understand and relate to others a lot more than players you would know from your local schools or neighborhoods. [That was] a trait that he felt would help my social skills with teammates.

Justin’s World: Why Washington? Tell me what it meant to you to be part of the storied, successful heritage of Husky softball.
Kylee Lahners: UW was the first school that I took a trip to and I absolutely fell in love with it. It seemed like the best place for me. I am not only proud of playing softball for Washington, but also getting a degree from such a great institution.

Justin’s World: You played several positions across the diamond; to what do you attribute your ability to not only play so many positions but to provide such quality play at each of them?
Kylee Lahners: I always believed in, when training, to be as well-rounded an athlete as possible because you never know when you might need it. Being able to play multiple positions is one of the biggest ways you can help out the ball club.

Justin’s World: Your name is seen in several places all throughout the Husky record books. What does it mean to you to know that you’ve left that kind of impact on the program?
Kylee Lahners: It’s a tremendous honor and to be very honest, I cannot tell you what I’m in the record books for because I never looked. I believe that a key factor in my success on the field is due to my humbleness. I believe that you shouldn’t be so invested in record books, but rather play the game with a lot of heart and the records will come. Maybe someday I’ll take a look, but right now I just want to keep playing the game I love.

Justin’s World: Four times an all-conference honoree and an all-American, players coming into the program for many years are going to know your name. Outside of the awards, what do you hope is the legacy you’ve left behind at UW?
Kylee Lahners: Try to be a better player than yesterday! Remember it’s still a game and to have fun playing it. I hope that players coming into the program will remember that I always knew how to have fun, but at the same time got the job done. Regardless of what kind of game you’re having, good or bad; it’s still 60 feet and turn left.

Justin’s World: What went through your mind when you found out you had been drafted to the NPF?
Kylee Lahners: A day I will never forget; it was a tremendous honor to be one of the few players that was selected. It was always a life-long dream to be a professional player. When I was younger, I always told my dad that I was going to play in the MLB. He was always supportive and would tell me to never stop working towards that goal. Then, when I was old enough to realize that playing in the MLB probably wouldn’t work out, I made it a goal to get drafted and play in the NPF. I hope that someday the NPF draft and league will be almost as big of a deal as the MLB.

Justin’s World: What was the biggest culture shock, moving from the Pacific Northwest to north Texas?
Kylee Lahners: The two areas are completely opposite, but both have great fans that are passionate about their softball.  Plus, I think it’s just a little warmer in Dallas during the summer!!

Justin’s World: What was the biggest learning curve from college ball to the pros?
Kylee Lahners: Osterman & Abbott. The biggest names and pitchers in the game. In the league, you are on the field with the top softball players in the world and there is never a game that is an easy one. There are no weak links in the league and you need to stay on top of your mental game in order to do well in it. If there was no competition, the league wouldn’t be that fun! Love it and embrace it!

Justin’s World: What are your plans for the future – is playing long-term in the NPF something you have plans to do? What about stepping into the coaching world? Non-softball career plans?
Kylee Lahners: I would like to play professionally for as long as I can, possibly even internationally during the NPF off-season. My long-term goal is to be a Division 1 head coach someday. I would also be open to becoming a Grad Assistant for a program in the near future so that I can further my education and coaching experience at the same time. At some point in my life, I would like to spend numerous hours on the golf course, trying to make it on the LPGA.

Justin’s World: And a Justin’s World must-ask: Say you were stranded on a deserted island for an undetermined period of time. You can take three things with you. No boats or phones, but anything else tangible goes. What would you take?
Kylee Lahners: I would take a big blow up float so I could hop on it and let the water take me wherever. The next thing I would take would be a backpack full of suckers and jolly ranchers. I would never get bored with all that candy. The last item that I would bring would be tanning oil, because I need as much vitamin D as I can get, after living in Seattle for 4 years.

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