LEXINGTON — As Kylie Gottman was scrolling through social media on a late March day, she came across a post concerning the Lexington softball program.
It was in search of players so it could field a junior varsity team so they could compete in both varsity and junior varsity seasons.
Gottman, a Lexington senior who hadn't played a competitive softball game since the eighth grade, shot a text to one of her good friends and fellow senior Camryn Campbell, a four-year starter for the team. Gottman asked if Campbell thought it would be a good idea to come play and be a part of the team. If anything, she could just be an extra body out there so the JV team could field a team and build for the future.
Campbell texted right back with enthusiasm saying Gottman should play and included head coach Todd Galownia's contact card with it. So, Gottman fired a text over to Galownia. The text message said: "I know I'll just play JV, but I want to make sure you have enough kids to have a JV team."
"I played when I was younger and decided to focus on cheerleading after eighth grade," Gottman said. "So, I saw people posting that there weren't enough players to have a JV team so, I texted Camryn to see if they needed someone to play and she gave me the coach's number so I reached out and he responded by telling me to come out to practice, it begins in an hour. So, here I am, I guess."
So, an hour before the season even started, Gottman wasn't even remotely thinking about softball. An hour later, she is on the team and making an impact felt much deeper than a boxscore.
"Kylie coming in this year was huge for us," Galownia said. "She is a Division II college cheerleader on scholarship. She came out just so we could have a JV team and she has been our biggest cheerleader throughout our tournament. She has really been an x-factor because she came in and owned that role and the others are looking at her as an example. Her teammates who don't play as much like her can either get on board with what she is doing or sit and pout and look kind of stupid."
Gottman played in every JV game and when there wasn't a game and varsity was playing, she was right there reach to go wherever the team was going. She only appeared in two games as a senior and scored one run, but what Gottman brings to the team is much more than simple stats in a GameChanger App.
She brings a fun-loving attitude and an unmatched spirit in the dugout. She is regularly kissing the on-deck batter's helmet for good luck and if they go up and get a hit, she is ready to pucker up the next time they are on deck.
She is always there screaming and cheering. And she doesn't even get a chance to get on the field, and that is OK with her.
"I have sat back and watched these girls put in the hard work these last four years and I know it was really hard for them," Gottman said. "Seeing them work hard made me want to work hard. I have the heart of a cheerleader so if that is my role on this team, I will do it. It is super cool to see the spirit this team has when they are out here playing. So, I show up for them."
As a senior, Gottman could have come in with a sense of entitlement, demanded playing time and caused a rift within the team chemistry. Instead, she did the complete opposite by being the best teammate she could possibly be.
"I have so much respect for her for that," Campbell said. "I thought it was amazing she even wanted to come out. We played together in 12U and she would always show up in pants that didn't fit and just being such a fun teammate."
Gottman isn't going to go on to college and play softball, but she is going to use her cheering skills to her advantage. She will be on a partial scholarship to Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona, Florida to cheer. She was the top choice out of all of the candidates that tried out and will study Aeronautical Science while soaking up the Florida sun.
Gottman plans to be a pilot.
"So, I will be learning how to be a pilot and will get my private pilot's license my first semester when I finish ground school and earn my rating," Gottman said. "If I decide to fly for an airline, I will only have to fly 100,000 hours instead of 150,000 hours in order to be a flight captain."
The love for flying came from her mom who was in the Navy stationed in Virginia Beach for eight years with tours in Australia and was a crew member on the USS Lincoln. She launched and recovered jets which sparked Gottman's interest in aeronautical science.
"I've always wanted to one-up her," Gottman said with a laugh. "We are a very competitive family. I always told her if she can launch and recover planes, I can fly them."
But, before she goes, she has to support her teammates at least one more time in the Division II regional championship. Galownia is still amazed at Gottman's ability to show up and be the best teammate she could possibly be.
"JV has been done for almost a month now and she could easily have said she was done," Galownia said. "She isn't going to play in these games. She is graduated, has her future set and could be off enjoying her senior summer, yet here she is, cheering on her teammates, setting a great example and being a great teammate. You can't ask many kids to play that kind of a role on a team."
Campbell agrees. She knew Lex needed a player like Gottman on the team.
"When she texted me to see if she should come play, I just remembered her personality and how up-beat she was," Campbell said. "I knew we needed that. It is so helpful because I knew if I am in my head, she is going to come over and cheer me up simply with her personality."
It is that personality and sacrifice which will resonate for years to come and something that leaves the Lexington softball program better than how Gottman found it.
This article originally appeared on Mansfield News Journal: Kylie Gottman helping Lexington reach Sweet 16 as perfect teammate