The Star Tribune's softball Metro Player of the Year, Katelyn Kemmetmueller of Rogers, pitched in her team's 4-1 win over Elk River in the Class 4A, Section 8 tournament June 2 in Buffalo. Photo by Jeff Wheeler • jeff.wheeler@startribune
It’s a scenario from a Norman Rockwell painting.
The young ballplayer rises at dawn for two hours of farm chores before breakfast. Then a full day of school, where the ballplayer is, naturally, one of the top students. All before donning the glove and the spikes, and showing the skill and the grit and the humility that have made the ballplayer among the best around.
It’s pure Americana. It’s also Katelyn Kemmetmueller’s life.
The Rogers senior pitcher/shortstop/heart and soul is the 2016 Star Tribune softball Metro Player of the Year.
Her pitching stats are very good, but not off-the-charts: 13-1, 0.42 ERA, 171 strikeouts in 100 innings. She’s a feared hitter, but her numbers (.468, 4 HR, 24 RBI) aren’t as gaudy as those of other players. Her best position is shortstop, where her overhand throw has been clocked at 70 mph, remarkable for a softball player.
“My favorite thing is getting the ball in the hole, and knowing the runner thinks she has a hit, and then gunning her down,” Kemmetmueller said.
The sum total of those parts make Kemmetmueller the player she is, the most important of which is the passion she brings to the game.
“Softball is so important to me,” she said. “If I’m not helping my dad on the farm or doing schoolwork, when I get free time, what do I think to do? It’s ‘Hey, let’s go outside and play softball.’ ”
She balances that passion with a humility born of spending hot summer days baling hay or picking rock. “It can be 90 degrees outside and humid and my dad will say, ‘Let’s go bale hay.’ I’m like, ‘You gotta be kidding me, dad.’ ”
A farm life has advantages, however. Her favorite is caring for animals: Dairy cattle, pigs, dogs, “so many cats,” she said. And her throwing arm is a direct result of farm work.
“Baling hay,” she responds immediately when asked where her rocket arm comes from. “My dad tells me that all the time. He says that’s where all my strength comes from, even hitting.”
Despite her immense skills, there’s no shred of ego evident. She banters easily on the field, eschewing the star vibe. It’s those relationships, she said, that are the most gratifying.
“It’s not about what I’ve meant to my team, it’s about what they’ve meant to me,” she said. “I take a lot of pride in building friendships. I’ve made so many great friends. I hope they take that to heart.”
Judging by comments from others, they did.
“I just love Katie,” said Elk River senior Jayme Langbehn, who has played summer softball with her. “She’s so nice and down-to-earth, so kind to everybody, but she also works so hard. I have so much respect for her and so proud to have played with her.’’
Rogers catcher Olivia Olson, who has played with Kemmetmueller since 10U travel ball, said you’d never know Kemmetmueller’s a star from her behavior.
“She is the most hard-working person you’ll ever meet,” Olson said. “She’s the best leader I’ve ever come in contact with. Every time you see her, she’s doing something to help the team — motivating us, getting the big hit, making big plays, pitching and shutting the other team down so we can get something started. We are so lucky to have her.”
Rogers lost in the Class 4A, Section 8 championship game to Buffalo, meaning Kemmetmueller will graduate without the chance to play in a state tournament. A disappointment, but her softball future is extremely bright. She’s committed to play at the University of Minnesota.
“I’ve always wanted to play for them,” she said. “Who doesn’t want to play for their home state team?”
HOW THE PLAYER OF THE YEAR WAS CHOSEN
The Star Tribune’s All-Metro teams and Metro Player of the Year were chosen after ballots were sent to all metro-area coaches. In making the selections, the Star Tribune considered nominations from metro-area coaches, conversations with coaches and staff observations.
1988: Michelle DeBace, St. Bernard’s
1989: Sue Varland, North St. Paul
1990: Karyn Valentino, St. Bernard’s
1991: Jeanette Strubb, St. Bernard’s
1992: Laura LeVander, Woodbury
1993: Tracy Carey, Richfield
1994: Laura Peters, Park of Cottage Grove
1995: Erika Kanavati, Henry Sibley
1996: Karissa Hoehn, Stillwater
1997: Lacey Hughes, Wayzata
1998: Angie Recknor, Hopkins, jr.
2000: Lyn Peyer, Minnetonka, jr.
2001: Missy Beseres, Armstrong
2002: Kristen Schmidt, Park of Cottage Grove
2003: Allison Bakke, Anoka, jr.
2004: Chrissy Sward, North St. Paul
2005: Briana Hassett, Eastview
2006: Kristin Danielson, Mounds View
2007: Brynne Dordel, Chaska
2008: Sam Hildebrandt, Park of Cottage Grove
2009: Sara Moulton, Eagan
2011: Hayley Nybo, Hopkins
2012: Cayli Sadler, Maple Grove
2013: Hannah Heacox, Stillwater
2014: Sydney Smith, Maple Grove