Kaluhiokalani-Glackin is now a left-handed hitter
April 23, 2014
Many aspiring softball players remember the first time they took the field, where it was, who they were with and what position they were playing. Some knew exactly what position they wanted to play, but perhaps did not realize another spot on the field might be the one best-suited for their natural abilities.
The majority of those who go on to play in college and beyond look back at where they started and are surprised at where they finished, but recognize the value of their personal growth along the way.
East Carolina senior softball player and Hawai’i native Chelsea Kaluhiokalani-Glackin can attest to that, having pushed through some unique changes of her own: most significantly prior to the beginning of her final season when she altered almost everything about her game from the side of the batter’s box she entered to her primary position.
Originally a right-handed hitter, Kaluhiokalani-Glackin struggled at the plate during her first three seasons, hitting just .158 with 44 hits in 279 at-bats. Her speed kept her in the lineup for much of that time, as she stole 21 bases in 26 attempts over that span. In 2014, head coach Beth Keylon-Randolph converted her into a left-handed slapper.
“I think it’s the best move I ever made,” said Kaluhiokalani-Glackin. “I did it a little last year, but stuck to it this year. I’m glad that I did it because I see the ball better from the left side.”
Since making the change, she has been hitting nearly 200 points better than her career batting average. Through 38 games this season, she is sporting a .348 average with 46 hits, and ranks second on the team in stolen bases with 13.
“You only get into the lineup if you’re hitting,” Kaluhiokalani-Glackin said. “I talked a lot with Coach (Keylon-Randolph) and she said I have a lot of potential in the field and that it was hard to see me out of the lineup because my batting was holding me back.”
It sounds almost ludicrous for a lifetime right-handed batter to try hitting lefty and see such a significant improvement. In fact, Kaluhiokalani-Glackin found the transition to be rather simple.
“I didn’t think it was that hard,” she said. “A lot of righties do, but it just comes naturally to me. The only difficult part of it was putting everything together during live practices. It’s easy to do it in the batting cages, but it’s tougher in game situations.”
That might make logical sense, but her production this season begs to differ. Instead, she credits another attribute she acquired during the offseason.
“I’ve become stronger mentally,” Kaluhiokalani-Glackin said. “When I batted from the right side, I used to get in my own head a lot. Now that I feel comfortable from the left side, I’ve become more confident in myself.”
One could argue that mental toughness must reside within a person and cannot be taught by another. However, a good mentor or coach can ignite another individual’s toughness if they knock on the right door at the right time. For Kaluhiokalani-Glackin, it was Keylon-Randolph whose timely intervention made all the difference.
“It was the fact that it’s my senior year and I wanted to play more. Coach (Keylon-Randolph) has the most confidence in all of us. Knowing that the coaching staff is behind you is important because there are times when you kind of feel like you don’t have anyone.”
Kaluhiokalani-Glackin played shortstop during her first three seasons with the Pirates but now she plays outfield. The transition to her new position in the outfield went very smoothly due to her arm strength and range.
“I was originally recruited to be an outfielder here,” Kaluhiokalani-Glackin said. “I never really played infield except for a few times in high school before I got to ECU. I was always comfortable in the outfield and I feel at home there.”
Home is an entirely different subject for the Pirates’ leadoff hitter, who was born in Waianae, Hawai’i, but opted to play college ball in the state North Carolina. It wasn’t the position or batting transitions during her playing career that were the toughest on Kaluhiokalani-Glackin, it was the geographic change.
“My freshman year was bad,” she said. “I was really homesick and days would drag on, but as the years went by, I’ve gotten used to it. The team helps as well and we’re all close so it’s easy to forget about home sometimes. I do miss it once in a while, but I’ve adapted.”
In just a few short months she will graduate from East Carolina and begin another transition. She hopes to return to Hawai’i and pursue a career in event planning. From there, she hopes to develop a network and move to the west coast of the U.S.
"You can say you want to do a lot of things, but putting it into action and motivating yourself is probably the most difficult part. The hardest part of transitioning from being a student-athlete to the real world will be the fact that I’m not on a team anymore and I’m going to have to find things to fill my time. In the beginning, everything is hard, but I’ve always been able to adapt and carry on.”