Vallie’s quiet personality belies her aggressive attitude on softball field
One word describes Mesa State College center fielder Dani Vallie.
“You recruit a kid for their talent and skill and personality and academics,” Mesa State softball coach Kris Mort said. “You don’t know what kind of gamer you’re going to get until game time. I’m really pleased with what Dani’s brought to game time.
“Sometimes you get a really good kid with skills who just doesn’t have any gamer in them.
With Dani ... I didn’t expect as much of a gamer as I’ve gotten.”
That’s not because Mort didn’t think Vallie wasn’t a competitive player, but when a player doesn’t say a word, a coach has to wonder.
“We’ve gotten more than I anticipated because of her personality,” Mort said. “If she could hear me right now, she’d get real sheepish and quiet and embarrassed. Because her personality is so quiet and shy, I think it surprised me that she’s so aggressive because she’s got such a passive personality.”
The Mavs’ passive-aggressive center fielder started the season at second base, but when Mort needed someone to play center, she volunteered.
“I never took a fly ball all of last year, and then we needed someone out there, and I (said)
‘I played outfield on my travel team, if you need someone you can put me out there,’ ’’ Vallie said. “The next day, the next game, she said, ‘You’re starting in center field.’ ’’
Mort hasn’t considered moving her since. Vallie is one of only two players to start and play in every game — left fielder Gabi Parra is the other.
Vallie’s pink jersey will be one of four up for auction Saturday as part of the Mavs’ “Swing For Life” game. Mesa State (13-15, 9-13 RMAC) plays New Mexico Highlands (6-33, 3-23) starting at noon on Friday at Bergman Field, with the benefit game for cancer research starting at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
Vallie is hitting .354 with an on-base percentage of .431 from the leadoff spot. She’s scored 23 runs, tops on the team, with a half-dozen doubles and one triple.
The left-handed hitter sat out last season as a provisional redshirt. Mort reserved the right to put her on the active roster in case of an injury, so Vallie traveled with the team, watching and learning. She got stronger from the Mavs’ weight program for an entire year, and mentally, she was prepared to play.
“I know the game a lot better,” she said of what she gained by sitting a year. “(Mort) taught me a lot. Watching the seniors last year, I learned a lot.”
Vallie doesn’t have a lot of power, but she’s got the speed to take an extra base, whether that’s stretching a single into a double, or a double into a triple, or scoring from first on a ball hit in the gap.
She’s proven to be a clutch hitter, and although Mort loves having a speedy left-handed leadoff hitter, Vallie could develop into that consistent hitter in the No. 3 spot who’s counted on to drive in runs.
Despite working all of last year and the early part of this season as an infielder, Vallie didn’t take much time to get used to things in center. She gets a good jump on the ball and doesn’t hesitate to make a diving catch.
That’s where that aggression really comes out in the unassuming freshman.
“I guess I lead by my actions on the field,” Vallie said. “I’m not a very vocal person, I never have been. I just show by playing hard.”
Mesa State’s Cancer Awareness Week
• Today: Baseball’s Game of Hope. First pitch against Colorado School of Mines is at 7:05 p.m. at Suplizio Field. Part of the gate receipts benefit the American Cancer Society/Relay for Life. The Mavs will auction purple “Hope” caps worn by the starters, as well as items autographed by the team and team apparel. Starting at 4 p.m. at Arby’s, fans can buy their game tickets, plus 20 percent of sales at the restaurant go to the American Cancer Society.
Saturday: Softball’s Swing for Life. First pitch against New Mexico Highlands is at 11 a.m. at Bergman Field. The Mavericks will be wearing pink jerseys for breast cancer awareness; proceeds benefit the Huntsman Cancer Institute. Former Maverick and breast cancer survivor Kathy Howa will attend the game, with Swing for Life T-shirts for sale. Four Mesa State pink jerseys, an autographed team bat and an autographed pink batting helmet will be up for auction, plus several items from the U.S. national softball team, including a pink Team USA jersey and an autographed photo of Team USA shortstop Natasha Watley.