Dynamic athlete, 16-year-old Kayli Worden, has been playing softball ever since she was a little girl; however, up until recently she has traded her fist-sized softball for a spot as second baseman on the Technology High School boys’ baseball team. And what sets Worden apart from her teammates is not her gender, but her ability to be a dynamic player, fast learner and passionate personality.
Worden, who grew up in Cabo San Lucas, has been involved in the world of sports her whole life with her mother and the soccer centered sports culture of Mexico encouraging her to learn and thrive as a soccer player.
However, it was her father, Scott, who introduced her to softball at the age of four and inspired her to start playing.
“My dad has been my softball coach my whole life. When I was little we played soccer, but I got into softball… and my parents have been the ones that I’ve looked up to (in sports) for my whole life,” Worden said.
When it was decided that there would be no softball team for Worden’s junior year, both her dad and her friends from the baseball team urged her to come to a few practices and see if the sport was something that would interest her.
“A couple of my friends from the baseball team told me to come out and see if I enjoyed it and my dad is friends with the baseball coach and he asked if I could come help out at practice and after that one practice I stuck with it,” the bubbly teen explained.
Since Worden has been on the team this season she says the guys treat her like she’s one of them. Her uniqueness is the fact that she was able to pick up the sport quickly and show just how diverse her skills are.
Many may think softball and baseball are quite similar, however, they are not. The ball in baseball is significantly smaller than the bulky green softball and the bat is much heavier, meaning you have to work on your upper body strength and learn how to hold the ball with just two fingers instead of your entire hand.
These significant differences at first proved to be a challenge for Worden, yet with lots of daily practice with the team, Worden says the movements have become second nature.
“The hardest part is the difference on the field (bases are spread out over 60 feet instead of the 30-35 feet in softball), the smaller ball and having to have more endurance. I didn’t think I was prepared for that, but with help from the team and coaches it was pretty easy (to get used to),” Worden said.
The change from softball to baseball also threw her for a loop as her usual shortstop position was changed to second baseman, which often requires the use of quick hands and feet to tag someone out or make a double play. Despite this change, Worden thrived and said she made one of her best plays of her season as second baseman.
In one of the teams’ most vital games against Credo High School, Worden was able to make a skilled play that helped the Tech Titan’s victory.
The special senior night game had been tied up awhile, causing the game to stretch into the ninth-inning and the Titans and Credo were vying for second place in the season, which has historically been held by St. Vincent de Paul High School.
“They beat us the first time so we wanted to win this game. There was a super hard hit ground ball to me and I was playing towards second base so the area between first and second base was a lot more open than usual, so I waited for it on my knees, came out of nowhere and after a hard hop I made the play at first so they would not potentially score,” Worden explained.
It is these sorts of lightning fast plays that make her a valuable and distinctive player for the team and her coach, Mark Meinhofer, couldn’t agree more.
“She is a very talented athlete. She is able to transition from softball to baseball which takes a lot of hard work,” Meinhofer said. “She is always willing to dive for the ball and she has no fear.”
Worden says one of the most rewarding aspects of being on the team is being able to be surrounded by supportive teammates.
“I have a lot of support from my team, my family and my school,” Worden said. “I’m friends with all of the guys on the team… they treat me just like one of them.”
As for her future baseball and softball career, Worden says she doesn’t know if she will play next year, however, she did get recruited to play for the National Women’s baseball team for a tournament in Illinois this summer representing Northern California.
The coaches tell me after the games, how cool it is (that I am playing). They think it is totally awesome what I am doing,” Worden said of her well-deserved place on the Tech High Titans Baseball Team.