“Hey, Staci! Why are you so good?”
The question, posed by freshman Lisa Bennett, is a joke between teammates, but Staci Doucette is already considered one of the finest players in NCAA Divison III softball history.
“She is one of the most naturally gifted athletes I have ever seen, in any sport,” says Linfield softball coach Jackson Vaughan. “Softball comes really easily to her. Staci just has a knack for understanding and playing the game.”
Her career at Linfield is studded with a host of awards, almost too many to name. She was honored last month as the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Player of the Week, and became the NCAA’s all-time leader in home runs in March.
“Staci is easily one of the greatest hitters to ever play Division III softball,” her coach rightly says.
Doucette’s not a specialist, either. Following four years of high school softball in which she played center field, she started her freshman year as the Wildcats’ shortstop and later switched to first base after a shoulder injury her sophomore year and surgery shortly thereafter.
“She really anchors us there,” Vaughan says. The veteran coach is quick to point out that wherever Doucette plays, is all but immaterial. “She’s an All-American no matter what position she’s playing.”
Doucette remembers playing nearly every position on the diamond growing up: outfield, infield, catcher, and even, for a short time when she was very young, pitcher.
“I’ve been on a team since I was six, starting with t-ball. Then I did soccer, basketball, track, bowling…I’ve been into sports my whole life. Softball is just what I was best at.”
She is certainly one of the best. According to some, Doucette is a Division I-caliber athlete playing at a Division III school. “I probably could have gone to a Division I school,” she admits, “but at some of those big schools, softball becomes your job. I didn’t want to end up hating it.”
She says she also liked Linfield’s small-school atmosphere, and that it’s so close to her family in Vancouver. “They’ve only missed a handful of games in my whole college career. And the chance to win a national championship in softball was pretty persuasive.”
The Wildcats’ title-clinching victory in 2007 caught her attention immediately and a highlight tape the coach sent her during her senior year of high school sealed the deal. “I saw a bunch of people all playing the game the same way I do.” Since then, she’s become committed to “the culture of Catball.” Translated, that means doing things right, learning from mistakes, playing with class, and loving every minute of it.
Linfield’s prestigious softball program has kept her busy, but Doucette has nonetheless been able to work as a Peer Advisor, putting her “scheduling ninja” skills to good use. She’s also made time to keep up her vast pop-culture repertoire.
Her interests include Batman, SpongeBob and the Hunger Games, but her list of favorites is long and diverse. “I liked Prison Break, Grey’s Anatomy, Smallville, Alias – that one was probably my favorite – Lost, Once Upon a Time, Survivor, Castle.” Those are just the top few TV shows, but Doucette has an interest in every genre of entertainment from comic books to DVDs and back.
“I would love to be a rock star when I grow up,” she jokes. “I love live music and music in general, and try to go to as many concerts as I can.” Doucette says she also likes to read, play video games, and go to movies. “It’s something I enjoy enough that it’s worth the cost for me.”
She feels similarly passionate about her chosen field of study. Doucette will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in history at the end of the month. “For a while, I got hung up on not knowing what I was going to do with that, but I love it enough that I don’t regret being a history major, not one bit. Maybe I will in five years, when I’m homeless,” she laughs.
Doucette still doesn’t know exactly how she’ll best utilize her history degree. Many people have suggested she become a teacher, or, better yet, a coach. “I would definitely love to coach softball at some point, but I don’t want to become a teacher just for the sake of being a coach.”
That’s not to say that she’s not already coaching. This spring, Doucette is providing hitting lessons to some of the youth players in town. “Our assistant coach (Erica Hancock) started doing them last year,” Vaughan remembers. “Erica isn’t here for this season, but they still wanted someone to give lessons. Staci was the natural choice for the job.”
“I really enjoy it,” Doucette says. “Showing people how to hit is a bonus of doing something I already love.”
She’s certainly qualified for the job. Doucette is currently the best hitter in the Northwest Conference, with a .500 batting average for the season, 59 RBIs, and a Division III-leading 17 home runs so far on the season.
“There’s just something about hitting,” Doucette says, smiling. “It’s always been something I was able to do. But ask any player, there’s something about it that just feels right when you do it well.”
Her inner coach comes out on the practice field, too. “Staci’s all about humor and constructive criticism,” says shortstop Katy Brosig.
“She notices all these tiny details,” Bennett agrees.
“She makes us better players,” says sophomore teammate Kate Hasty.
“Staci is one of the coolest kids I have ever had the opportunity to be on the field with. I like playing with her,” says Bennett. All the girls agreed that Doucette is a fun leader and a talented player who will be sorely missed next year.
Between now and next season, there’s another playoff run in store, starting this week in the NCAA Regionals.
“We’re all really optimistic about where we can go from here,” Doucette says. She is almost as excited for the new Avengers movie as she is for the remainder of her final season.
“We know we’re a good team and that if we’re playing well, there are not a lot of teams that can beat us.”
– Lexi Chapman ‘15