Out-of-staters find home away from home in softball teammates

By Bobby Reagan

One of the hardest things for students attending an out-of-state school to endure is being hundreds of miles away from their families. But the non-Kentucky members of the UK softball team have found a new family since their arrival in Lexington — their teammates.

“At first the transition is weird because I was so used to being around my family and all of a sudden I wasn’t seeing them anymore,” said sophomore Molly Johnson, a utility player from Tucson, Ariz. “I started seeing my teammates more and more, and in a way they started to become my family.”

Megan Yocke, a freshman catcher and infielder from Sunnyvale, Calif., agreed with Johnson. She said she first realized how close she had grown to her teammates when she returned to UK after a visit home to see her mother while she was sick.

“When I came back and had my teammates waiting for me, I knew I made the right decision,” Yocke said of playing softball for UK. “That convinced me that no matter how far away I was, I had a family.”

Ashley Dimkich, a senior first baseman from San Marino, Calif., said having the support of her teammates made Kentucky feel like home ever since her freshman year.

“My family is my biggest support system, but the team is the greatest group of girls around, and I couldn’t ask for an easier transition,” Dimkich said. “There were some rough days earlier in my career, but my teammates were always there to get me through it, and I’ve loved Kentucky since then.”

There is not a player on UK’s team who hails from the Lexington area. Only five members of the Cats’ 16-player roster are from the Commonwealth. The squad features three players from Arizona, two from California, and players from Oregon, Alabama, Texas, Ohio and New York.

But the diverse group has formed a family-like bond during its time on the field together.

Yocke said the support of her teammates’ parents during games has helped her adapt to playing away from her own family for the first time.

“Even though I never met the other parents, they all knew my name and supported me,” Yocke said. “It reminded me of coming to UK for the first time and my teammates supporting me, it just makes the transition easier.”

Most of the out-of-staters, especially those from the west coast, agreed the toughest transition to playing in Lexington was learning to play in cold weather. Dimkich said that while she enjoys the different seasons, playing at the tail end of winter has its downfalls.

“I love being able to have all different seasons, but I absolutely hate playing in 30-degree weather,” Dimkich said. “Even after four years, I’m still not that used to it.”

While she might not be used to the cold weather, Dimkich hit the first home run of her four-year career in the Chattanooga Frost Classic during a 10-4 victory over Marshall on Saturday.

The trio has also had to adapt to living and playing in the city of Lexington. Dimkich said southern hospitality was something she found very different.

“The people in Kentucky are much nicer,” Dimkich said. “Walking around in the city you’ll have people come up to you and say hello, while back in California I felt you just got dirty looks.”

Despite battling the cold weather, being away from their families and the culture shock of life in Kentucky, the tight-knit group is off to a 9-7 start, and the team is currently riding a seven-game winning streak.

The Cats host Valparaiso University and Longwood University in the Frostbite Classic at the UK Softball Complex this weekend, but will first look to extend that winning streak tomorrow with a 5 p.m. showdown against archrival Louisville.