The determination and dedication required to excel in collegiate sports is astounding. There’s an animal-like tenacity in athletes to become the best at what they do, no matter what stands in their way. So when you look at sophomore Kelli Suguro, whose personality seems to ooze sunshine, bubbles and rainbows, it’s hard to imagine such a sweet girl clubbing softballs and taking on teams with girls twice her size.
“I was really small growing up,” Suguro said. “I’m still small now, but I was tiny back then.”
But despite her size Suguro has managed to earn her way onto the softball field, and onto any other sporting field for that matter.
Growing up, Suguro was one of those kids who had to try everything before she would be satisfied. Bouncing from sport to sport, Suguro stayed active and competitive all her life, mostly because of her older sister, Lauren.
“It was one of those things where ‘she can never be better than me,’ so I had to compete with her,” Suguro said. “School-wise or softball, I had to be better than her in everything, even though I was, like, a quarter of her size.”
Luckily for Suguro, her older sister took an interest in softball at an early age. Quickly following in Lauren’s footsteps, Suguro took up softball at 8 years old. Soon the game became her love instead of an obligation to beat her sister.
“It was kind of like I played a whole bunch of sports, but then I realized softball is what I liked the best,” Suguro said.
But despite the draw softball provided for Suguro, she still found the other seasons boring unless she played a sport. So to compensate for the lack of softball, Suguro played two additional sports.
“I played basketball, volleyball and softball in high school,” Suguro said. “Volleyball was the fall sport. I went to basketball in the winter and softball in the spring. I always like to keep busy. Just sitting around is so boring. I want to do something.”
Sitting around is so boring, Suguro says. Her need to keep moving is a strong one, and staying in shape isn’t such a bad thing, either, she admitted with a laugh.
“I’m always out of shape unless I play a sport, it’s so pathetic,” Suguro said.
But with the constant action, there’s always the possibility of injury. The idea of a pulled muscle or a broken bone is enough to make many players think twice about playing in another sport.
For Suguro, though, there wasn’t even a hesitation.
“I was one of those kids who would turn their ankle walking down the street even though there was no hole or whatever,” Suguro said with a smile. “But then my ankles got a lot more flexible after that so I got over that pretty quick. If I roll my ankle now, it’ll go away in the next two minutes.”
This happy and upbeat attitude may seem to be a little nonchalant, but to sister Lauren, this is who Suguro has been since they were kids.
“She’s always been this really happy kid,” Lauren said. “We’ve always been really close, and that’s just how she is.”
Of course high school doesn’t last forever, and Suguro had to start thinking about a college career. But like all life-altering decisions, it required a lot of thought.
“I knew I wanted to go to a school that would challenge me,” Suguro said. “I didn’t want to go to a school that was only good for softball, and when you graduated, your degree didn’t mean anything.”
So when schools like Dartmouth and Columbia began to offer scholarships for softball, the decision about what school to attend became even harder.
Knowing that her father wanted her to attend an Ivy League school, Suguro had to really focus on what was important.
“I know my dad really wanted me to go to Ivy League,” Suguro said. “I was like, ‘Yeah but I don’t want to be the dumbest kid on campus.’”
The search for the right fit was difficult – until Suguro finally got the answer she had been hoping for. With her acceptance into the University of Washington, there was no further discussion necessary.
“I’m a Husky fan, born and bred,” Suguro said. “My mom went to UW and so did my uncles and aunts.”
Having grown up around former Dawgs, Suguro was indoctrinated early with Husky pride.
“I wanted to be a Husky when I grew up,” Suguro said. “I hated WSU growing up. Absolutely hated them.”
Definitely, a purebred Husky.
And it figures, given their childhood competitiveness, that Suguro would go to Washington at the same time that her sister was attending.
“I remember I was surprised when Kelli told me she was going to UW,” Lauren said. “I was kind of like, ‘She’s copying me again.’ But I was really happy to have her so close.”
But as a freshman, Suguro would have to face a major letdown: She tried to walk on the Huskies softball team, but she was cut. Suguro was barely on the field for 40 minutes before the coaches broke the news.
To try to ease the sting, Suguro played intramurals. Once again, Lauren provided the perfect outlet by inviting Suguro onto her intramural softball team.
Playing again was fun for Suguro, but it just wasn’t the same Then, out of the blue, Suguro received a text asking her to be one of the “practice players” for the Huskies. With so many injuries that year, head coach Heather Tarr was running out of options and bodies, so Suguro was given another shot.
“I didn’t get to play at the time,” Suguro said. “I was just there to help out the team off the field in practice.”
But as practices went on, Tarr saw something in Suguro that she liked, and barely a year later, Suguro was offered a spot on the roster.
Now a full member of the team, Suguro has been proving that Tarr’s invitation was not a fruitless decision. Again and again, Suguro has been the difference in a win or a loss.
“She’s a big offensive piece for us, whether it’s as a hitter or a base runner,” Tarr said in an interview with The UW Daily. “And the more she does with her opportunities, the more she’s going to get opportunities.”
Now coming full circle, Suguro is making the most of playing for her dream school, making use of every opportunity given to her.
Even donning catcher’s gear.
“I’m like the backup backup,” Suguro said. “I’m the person they call if there’s an earthquake and everyone falls down except me, then they put me in.”
Be it earthquakes, hurricanes or the Snowpocalypse, Suguro will be out there playing the game she loves, spouting sunshine and rainbows as she goes.