Kelsee Baker recently wrapped up the final season of her Lady Bulldog softball career. During the 2017 season, Baker’s career reached new heights as she improved significantly from her junior season and earned All-District and All-Region recognition. She finished the season with a batting average of .428 while scoring 23 runs, batting in 10 additional runs and hitting her first career home run.
For Baker, it was the end of a career that began when she was just 4 years old. Her parents signed her up for Tee-ball with the hope that she would enjoy it and Baker said it didn’t take her long to completely fall in love with the sport. That love and her knowledge of the game continued to grow as she watched her sister, Ashlee, play. But she was still only known as “Ashlee’s little sister” and she said it was the driving force behind her striving to become the best.
“It drove me crazy being known as ‘Ashlee’s little sister,’” Baker said. “It pushed me to be my best when I was growing up.”
Baker put in the work and was rewarded by being named a starter on the team as a freshman in high school, but with the title of starter came the pressure of filling the shoes of the recently graduated Riley Kinder. It wasn’t easy but Baker said she was able to do it thanks to the support she received from her sister and other teammates.
“I felt a lot of pressure starting as a freshman,” Baker said, “but I had my sister at third to yell at me when I needed to be yelled at and to encourage me when I needed it. Carsyn King also helped me a lot my freshman year and Carsyn and Ashlee were the two biggest impacts on my life and softball career during my freshman year.”
With King and Ashlee’s support, Baker began to reach her full potential as a starter. As each season came and went, Baker’s batting average, runs scored and runs batted in total began to climb.
Those totals were better than ever during her senior season and Baker said it was all thanks to the work she put in during the summer and her desire to be one of the Lady Bulldogs’ top hitters and fielders.
“Sometimes I would hit in a field by my house with my mom and my sister,” Baker said. “Other times, I would go hit at WOSC or at a building that Grady Allen bought for us to go hit at. All I did during the summer was hit almost every day because during my freshman year, my hitting was awful and I never wanted to have a season like that again so I tried everything I could to get my averages higher and the hard work paid off. All I wanted to do during the summer was play softball.”
In addition to constant practice, Baker also played on a traveling team and said that sometimes, she would play on two or three at a time.
She obsessed about being a better softball player and during the week, she could be found out in the field playing catch and taking ground balls with her sister or hitting.
Baker quickly became the lead off hitter for the Lady Bulldogs and said that while it was nerve-racking, it was also peaceful in some ways.
“I always went up with confidence, telling myself I trained for this,” Baker said, “and I always said the same prayer before I stepped into the box. I knew I had a job to do and that I needed to help the team and that pushed me to always try to hit the ball. When I stepped into the box, it’s like I would go to my happy place and it felt like I had control of the game. I can make the pitcher pitch to me, I can get her flustered and I can make the defense back off. There are a lot of possibilities you can achieve in the batter’s box.”
Her confidence in her abilities grew each season and she said that a big part of that was learning from her mistakes and making the necessary adjustments to fix them. But even with the boost in her confidence, Baker said she wasn’t immune to the occasional slump.
“It’s a mind-over-matter thing,” Baker said. “When we make mistakes, we have to overcome them or we won’t get through it. Each season, I went into a slump and it was always towards the end of the season which is the worst possible time. I just kept telling myself that the team needs me and all I did was go and practice hitting. I can’t stand not hitting, especially because that was a part of my role as a player on my team.”
Baker always gave it her all when she was on the field and said she learned a lot about herself during her time as a Lady Bulldog.
Even with the leadership up in the air each of her four years on the team, she said she did what she could to help lead the team and teach the younger players.
“I’ve learned that I’m a better leader than I thought I was …” Baker said, “because having a new coach every year has taken a big toll on our program. We’ve been through four head coaches but Coach (Gary) Freeman has been with us the longest and we appreciate him so much. This year, we got Coach [Ricky] Bull and I think it has been the best decision. He was one of the best coaches I’ve had and I’m so grateful for him. If Coach Bull and Coach Freeman stay, this program will grow better each year.”
Being a Lady Bulldog generated memories for Baker that she said she will never forget.
“Playing with my sister my freshman year is one of my favorite memories,” Baker said. “Also, when we held Ardmore to all seven innings during my junior year when they thought they were going to run-rule us.”
Although her love of softball will always remain, Baker said her 14-year journey in the sport is coming to an end and that instead, she is looking towards the future.
“Unfortunately, my career is over and it has been a good ride,” Baker said. “I will be going to the University of Central Oklahoma to major in speech-language pathology and hopefully, I’ll be a sign language interpreter some day or teach at a school for the deaf.”
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.