FOR THE LOVE OF SOFTBALL, FAMILY AND WALLOWA COUNTY
By Gary Fletcher
Observer Staff Writer
ENTERPRISE "She's providing the essential tools, and she follows up on fundamentals. Fundamentally strong teams are winning teams," said Tom Bequette.
The Hermiston man was talking about Enterprise Little League softball coach Kathy Schaefer. This is Bequette's third year to accept Schaefer's invitation to conduct a pitching and hitting clinic in Enterprise last weekend.
"This is my favorite bunch to work with," Bequette said. "These girls are stronger every year. They have a good work ethic. Behind every good team, there's good support. Enterprise always has that support. "
The Enterprise all-star girls placed second in state last year. As a coach, Schaefer is proud of their accomplishment and impressed with the parental and community support that helped get them there.
Now, she wants to make the team even better and more competitive out of town.
Along the way she noticed that the Enterprise team was beaten every year by the Pendleton team. It was the pitching, but she wondered what could be done. She began asking around.
This energetic, engaging and determined woman is not to be denied when it comes to her passion softball.
At last, someone told her that Bequette was the secret behind Pendleton's pitching.
Prior to that Schaefer had arranged for Eastern Oregon University coach Angie Weissenfluh to conduct clinics for the teams.
Schaefer, who has been coaching softball for about 10 years, is a believer in camps and clinics. They were probably the reason that enabled her to play at the university level, she said.
When her first daughter was old enough to play, Schaefer began coaching tee-ball. When Rachel began Little League, and Andrea was in tee-ball, their mother found herself "jumping the fence" to the Little League field to help coach after she finished with tee-ball.
"The foundation is laid in tee-ball," she said.
Schaefer emphasizes the importance of teaching good mechanics for the girls to develop their skills.
Schaefer believes in coaching in a constructive way.
"You can always find something positive to say to encourage them," she said.
Schaefer is thankful to God for her athletic and coaching ability, but she keeps an eye out for anyone with expertise in an area, someone who can help bring her team up another level.
Schaefer doesn't have to look far from home to give thanks. Her husband, David, is consistently there helping, as are their three daughters.
Of course, the one who makes it all possible is God, Schaefer says.
The support and encouragement in her life started with her parents in Creston, B.C.
Her parents played softball, and were there to help Kathy when she began to play in the third grade, and when she was competing in high school.
Ever since age 9 she knew she wanted to be a P.E. teacher.
Her parents made it possible for her to get a physical education degree with minors in coaching and health at Washington State University, and make her dream come true, she said.
There she played club ball.
Schaefer's father, a logger and contractor, built houses. Her mom, a real estate agent, sold the homes.
Now she has three daughters who want to play college ball Rachel, 15; Andrea, 13; and Whitney, 10.
David is also involved in the softball program.
"I knew he was the man I would marry. It was love at first sight," Schaefer said about meeting David at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes alumni gathering.
He was speaking about how contented he was being single, she said.
With her teaching in Victoria, B.C., and his studying at Pullman, Wash., to be a veterinarian, their long-distance calls were getting expensive.
He concluded it would be cheaper to get married, she said, chuckling.
In 1986 they married, and she moved back to Pullman, where she taught school while he finished at the university.
"God brought us (to Enterprise)," Schaefer said.
In March 1988, David began an internship with Enterprise veterinarian Mike Lathrop.
David had several job offers, but he had a sense of peace about the one from Lathrop.
It wasn't a peaceful transition for Kathy, however, to move to near the end of the road. It was culture shock. She'd been used to all kinds of indoor recreation facilities where she could pursue her passion for softball, volleyball and other sports.
When the opportunity arose to work toward starting a park and recreation district in Wallowa County, Kathy threw herself into that. Maybe at least she could again have a place to swim laps year-round as she used to.
When voters turned down the measure, she cried.
Another tough thing to give up was her teaching.
"God changed my heart," she said.
Now she is at peace living near the end of the road, and she counts her blessings, such as her children being able to walk safely to school, and her being able to be an aide in their classrooms, work in the school library and coach volleyball.
She now realizes that it's a blessing to not have a teaching job, so she can do all that.
Fast-pitch softball is catching on. Now there are three Little League teams in Enterprise, she said.
The junior and senior leagues often conflict with the summer work of the older girls, so Schaefer hopes that by next spring there will be girls softball available in the high schools.