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Meet the No. 1 player in the 2019 Hot 100 Kinzie Hansen

Meet the No. 1 player in the 2019 Hot 100 Kinzie Hansen

On Friday, FloSoftball revealed our Top 10 players in the 2019's Hot 100 rankings.

Feb 6, 2016 by Brentt Eads
Meet the No. 1 player in the 2019 Hot 100 Kinzie Hansen

On Friday, FloSoftball revealed our Top 10 players in the 2019's Hot 100 rankings.  For the first time since we started rating prospects--the 2014 class led by Oregon standout infielder Jenna Lilley--we have a catcher atop the list.

And to be No. 1 in a very strong year for backstops means you must be a pretty good catcher.

Kinzie Hansen, a freshman at Norco (Calif.) High,  is that good but what's surprising is she's only been in catcher gear now for a little over three years.

And more astounding, when she first tried the position she hated it.

"When I was between 10 ½ to 11 years old," she recalls, "a family friend who was a coach told me to put on the gear.  I asked, 'What gear?' I was put in front of a pitching machine and I could not catch one ball.  I told myself, 'I'll never be a catcher; I'll be anything but a catcher!'  I was so scared of the ball coming right at me!"

Fortunately, it wasn't too long before Hansen felt at ease in the gear and she grew to love being in on every pitch and in every play.

"I soon got hooked and never wanted to take the gear off," she laughs now. "Being a catcher is one of the most important spots on the field and I loved that I had control of the game."

Kinzie started off playing rec softball when she was eight years old and because she had the strongest arm at third. Eventually, being the tallest of her age group, she was pushed over to first.

nullToday, the nearly 6-foot tall freshman is preparing for the softball season at Norco High, perennially one of the top high school programs in Southern California.  Coached by Rick Robinson, the Cougars went 27-8 last season and won the CIF-Southern Section Div. I championship. The team was led by current Tennessee freshman catcher Abby Lockman, who was one of the nation's top power hitters her senior season.

With Lockman now in the SEC, Hansen looks to be the heir apparent to continue Norco's success.

"I'm working really hard," she says of anticipating her first high school campaign, "and I know I have to earn my spot on the team.  If I make it, I'll be filling the big shoes that Abby left."

Fortunately, Norco has one of the top pitchers in the West returning as junior Taylor Dawkins, a Cal State Fullerton commit, will keep the Cougars competitive in every game.

After Hansen's admittedly rough start behind the plate, she's blossomed in just a short time span to become one of the most talented and coveted catchers in the nation at the club level.

As a first year 12U player, she caught the eye of one of the top club coaches in the country, David Mercado, and made his So Cal Athletics team.  Two years ago, in the team's second year at 12U, the A's won the prestigious PGF Nationals.

Remembering the exciting win over the DirecTV Genies, Kinzie says, "I thought I caught pretty well that game although one girl stole on me.  I was disappointed, sure, but I picked her off so that was good!"

Coach Mercado knows he has a special player who will be a key component on the A's team considered a favorite to make a title run this summer.

Kinzie has it all. She's naturally a leader and her athletic ability is off the charts. She's one of the best--if not the best--I've ever seen. Everything she does is above par.

If her strong week in Huntington Beach in 2014 put her on the recruiting map, a standout performance at the OnDeck West Coast Elite Camp in October of that year brought the world of college coaches to her door.

"That was a big step for me," the tall, lean catcher remembers. "A lot of exposure for me came from that camp and I felt all the hard work I had put in paid off."

More than 15 major programs came hard after Kinzie that fall including Patty Gasso and her Oklahoma Sooner staff.  The coaches asked the eighth grader to visit the Norman campus for a camp and she did, tripping to the Big 12 school at the end of October/early November 2014

"It was the end of autumn," Hansen explains, "and was so beautiful with the leaves turning, but it was cold. They offered me after the last day of the camp, they kept me afterwards and talked to me and my parents."

Kinzie didn't commit on that trip, but two weeks later--"it was November 14, 2014, I'll never forget that date"--she called the coaches and told them she wanted to be a Sooner.

"It was just a feeling," she responds upon being asked why Oklahoma. "Actually, before the plane landed on that trip I had a feeling deep down in my heart that this was where I was supposed to be.  We toured the campus and it instantly felt like home.  I loved the coaching staff and everything just felt right."

One of the key elements to Kinzie's rapid growth and development as a catcher has been her working out with Jen Schroeder, the head of The Packaged Deal which runs camps and clinics for young fastpitch athletes. Schroeder was a catcher at UCLA and has worked with hundreds, if not thousands of catchers and knew almost instantly that Kinzie was a diamond in the rough.

"Two years ago when you asked me if I had any input on the top 2017 catchers I answered yes, but I also already know who your top 2019 is in the country is. You thought I was kidding… I was serious! It is Kinzie."

Kinzie is the hardest working catcher in the country. She takes her weaknesses and works on them and does not stop working and tweaking until they're right. Her competitiveness drives her greatness, but she's also tenacious, yet humble.

"She's a physical specimen, almost 6-foot already, and growing more every day. Her knee throws are the best I've ever seen for someone her age and I have frequently clocked her at a 1.6 and below pop time."

"But, my favorite part about Kinzie is her ability to make those around her better, me included. I've worked with some incredible catchers, but Kinzie Hansen is in a league of her own."

Kinzie underscores the value Schroeder has brought to her life on and off the field.

"Jen has made a huge impact on my life, not just athletic life, but personally in the way I walk and talk. She has taught me to be the leader off the field and to have confidence and to hold my head up high. And to grow as an athlete."

On Friday morning, Kinzie woke up feeling miserable from a developing head cold.  Still, as her mother shot video on a cell phone, the freshman looked up the last installment of the 2019 Hot 100 and scanned down the list to find her name at No. 1.

Silently, her eyes welled up with tears and a wave of emotion swept over her.

"It's been my goal for two years to be in the Top 10," she had said Thursday night only knowing that she made the last day's list of honorees. "To accomplish that goal is awesome because it shows my hard work has paid off, but whether I'm No. 10 or No. 1 it's still a motivation to me."

So how did her feelings change after reading the final list?

"It's unbelievable, I'm still processing it" she said at home feeling miserable, but hoping she'd feel up to going to school later in the day. "But I know that now I have a target on my back and that everyone will be watching me to see if I'm worthy to considered No. 1.  Sure it's pressure, but I love the pressure of being in the spotlight.  That's what being a catcher is all about and what I love about playing the position."


Hot 100 2019 #10-1

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