With her family visiting, Oregon softball’s ace pitcher Cheridan Hawkins had quite a few familiar faces cheering for her when she took the mound against the Arizona State Sun Devils this past weekend. One of those faces was Addisyn Linton — an 8-year-old from Garden City, Kansas who came with her father to fulfill a life-long dream of being bat girl at an Oregon softball game.
Linton also got to meet her biggest idol — someone she stumbled across while watching videos of left-handed pitches on YouTube with her father — Cheridan.
Linton and her dad spent the evening before Saturday’s game with Cheridan’s parents as they met for the first time in person. Despite having known each other very shortly, both families shared a connection through their daughter’s love for the game.
“I think we’re going to become really good friends,” Linton said of meeting her role model. “(I like) how she acts to people and how she treats people.”
Growing up playing softball, Cheridan idolized Cat Otserman, the left-handed pitcher who led Team USA to the Olympic gold medal in 2004. Now that she’s an ace pitcher herself, Cheridan has sparked the same inspiration in Linton’s life that she once had for Otserman.
Looking at her family, you wouldn’t expect anything less from her. As only a sophomore, Cheridan serves as exemplary role model by reflecting a long line of competitiveness, excellence and sophistication instilled in her by her family.
Where it all started
Before Cheridan became one of the top pitchers in college softball, she only saw time in the outfield and at the plate.
“When she was cut from teams she was told, ‘you’ll never pitch on my team, you’ll bat and you’ll get outfield,’” said Natalie Hawkins, Cheridan’s mom.
While her parents always believed she could grow into a great pitcher, it wasn’t until her sophomore year of high school that she began her journey to national stardom.
“I still pinch myself all the time because she wasn’t always the best,” Natalie said. “To see her finally start having some success … I still can’t believe it.”
Between Cheridan’s sophomore and junior year of high school, tragedy struck the Hawkins family and it had a profound affect on her career.
“Her parents’ home burnt down and she watched it happen,” said Russ Rivera, Cheridan’s grandfather. “It was kind of that time that next year that she made up her mind that she was going to do something with softball.”
Born in Anderson, California, Cheridan, like many small town kids, grew up playing sports and was highly competitive. Her dad, Charlie Hawkins, was a high school wrestling state champ and college football player. As her father and coach, he instilled a competitive drive in her that still resides today.
“When she was in high school, she kind of flipped the switch and she’s always had this attitude of ‘I want to be the best at what I do,” said Natasha Hawkins, Cheridan’s older sister. “She doesn’t let a lot get in the way of what her goals are.”
The biggest common denominator among the family was softball — a sport that Natasha had excelled in before Cheridan. Natasha was a scholarship athlete playing softball at San Jose State University. She continues to provide words of advice to her younger sister when she takes the field.
“She was almost like my teacher (growing up),” Cheridan said. “We would hit together, field together, throw together … we still do. I’ve always looked up to her for inspiration and for that knowledge. If I have a bad game, I call my sister. She always has some words of encouragement.”
Luckily for Cheridan, her family lives only five hours away — just a short scoot up I-5 for her games.
“I’m extremely blessed to have that (family visits) opportunity,” Cheridan said. “I know that’s very rare and I love that my family can make it that much.”
Road to the top
For Cheridan, the road to success is a reflection of the relationships she’s made throughout her life. She seems to embody the best attributes of the people closest to her: The competitiveness of her dad, the love and care of her mom, the athleticism of her sister and the wisdom of her grandfather.
“I think she’s kind of a melting pot,” her sister said. “She’s an extremely caring person and it’s funny to talk to her off the field and then see her get in a setting where she’s pitching. It’s like a whole different person.”
Outgoing, hyper and silly, Hawkins is a self-proclaimed goof with family and friends. But on the field her personality is intense — a polar opposite of the happy-go-lucky nature she exudes when not playing softball.
“When she walks across that chalk line, it’s on,” her dad said. “ She doesn’t play around out there. She’s tough and she’s going to do everything she can to win.”
Ally Wimer is a longtime friend of Cheridan and currently plays softball at Shasta College. She says Cheridan’s demeanor on the field can’t always mask her extroverted and warm personality.
“I know she’s having a good time and being goofy in the dugout. Whenever I watch her I can tell she is still the Cheridan I know,” Wimer said. “I think being herself is something that makes her even more successful.”
As Oregon heads into the postseason, Cheridan will be leading the charge from the mound. As a member of the senior USA national team as a freshman, she proved to be an above average player early in her collegiate career. It’s going to be yet another test for her as she tries to lead the Ducks to the Women’s College World Series as only a sophomore.
“I think she (Cheridan) has the ability to go all the way,” her grandfather Russ Rivera said. “I think she’ll be prepared.”
Cheridan has perfected the craft of “flipping the switch” from the moment she leaves the dugout to when she steps on the mound. When she’s on the mound, she isn’t alone — she’s a living embodiment of the group of people that groomed her into who she is today.
As her family likes to say, “Good, better, best.” In her second year at Oregon, Cheridan takes her family motto to heart and strives to be the best she can be.
Off the mound
Just as Cheridan sparked inspiration in Linton’s life, she has also reached out to other children in the community. Outside softball, she still finds time to give back to the community. Cheridan — a family and human services major — often volunteers at summer camps for disabled children such as Successful Living With Autism Through Training and Education and continues to embrace the role of connecting with kids that are in need through organizations like Special Olympics. She takes after her mom, who has cared for women with disabilities for nearly 16 years.
Hawkins isn’t sure what she wants to do with her major, but she knows working with those that are less fortunate is something that will always be a part of her life.
“I want to help people find their full potential. I want to bring that out in people and help them realize that they’re special no matter what,” Hawkins said. “I want to inspire people.”
Follow Hayden Kim on Twitter @HayDayKim