Nikki Shumway recalls her humble beginnings on the diamond, playing T-ball because her younger brother wanted to play.
“I was that girl they stuck out in right field … and I was usually the one picking flowers and catching butterflies,” she said.
She uses the story now to reassure others that from humble beginnings, anyone can become a talented athlete, which Shumway has proven by become an impact player for the College of Idaho softball team.
The senior biology major from Boise High is a two-time all-Cascade Conference honorable mention selection, and an all-academic team pick, proving she can excel on and off the field.
But, her success might come more from her own humble, team-oriented attitude, and her special knack to adapt.
“I’ve just kinda been thrown into different things I feel like throughout my softball career and, the name of the game in softball is being able to adapt,” said Shumway, who along with the rest of her Coyote teammates host Dickinson State on Saturday and Sunday in doubleheaders, the home openers for the C of I (9-3).
“Those who adapt to situations or what they’ve been given or what role they need to fill on the team are those who are going to be most successful,” Shumway said.
Shumway’s adapted to playing the outfield, after being an infielder in high school, and adapted at the plate at Boise High — and College of Idaho.
When her coaches realized she had the weapon of speed, they switched the right-handed hitter to the left side of the plate to become a slap hitter.
“The whole reason somebody slaps is they’re quick, and being on the left side gives you that one extra step,” said Shumway, who earned all-conference honors three times and hit .356 as a senior as a slapper at Boise.
But things changed again when she arrived on the C of I campus.
Shumway moved back to her natural side of the plate, which might seem odd, as she also moved from being a No. 3 hitter into the leadoff role for the Coyotes.
Admitting the toughest part of the change is mental, reminding herself she can succeed as a right-handed hitter once again, Shumway’s stats have proven she can as she is a .307 career hitter with 10 home runs and 44 RBIs.
And playing the role of a lead-off hitter — albeit an atypical one who can swing for power as easily as reaching base on an infield single — is something Shumway relishes.
“You’re the very first person to see all the junk (the opposing pitcher) has. … You go back in the dugout and you go and tell your teammates everything she threw you, so you’re almost like the guinea pig out there,” she said, adding that you get to ignite the team’s energy as the first batter.
Plus, Shumway relishes her role as base stealer – she led the team in swipes the last two seasons and has 27 career steals — and putting herself in position to help her teammates.
“I know my teammates are great hitters and I know they will put a ball in play, but what’s most important to me is making sure I utilize their hits as much as possible,” said Shumway, who has scored 67 career runs.
All proof that good things come from humble beginnings.