Bay City's Hawkins rides Tide for 'Bama
May 9, 2012 at 12:09 a.m.
BAY CITY - She has always been fast.
Blessed with the combination of God-given genes and good-natured gregariousness Andrea Hawkins has yet to meet a stranger.
Those gifts have taken Hawkins to a myriad of elite softball teams across Texas, through the record books at Bay City High School on a journey that will continue at the University of Alabama next year.
The Crimson Tide, perennially one of the top programs in America, won their third straight SEC regular season championship last week. They are seeking their fifth trip to the Women's College World Series in eight years.
Words cannot describe how excited the former Bay City center fielder is to get to Tuscaloosa to begin her college experience, and continue a softball odyssey that began when she was three.
When Andrea began she was so fast she would try to record the putout wherever she was on the field, recalled her parents Andy and Sherry. It didn't matter if the ball was hit to right field, while Andrea was perched at shortstop, she would try to get to where the action was.
"We got her involved at an early age," said her father Andy. "She's fast and she was one of the fastest kids in whatever sport she played. She tried basketball, track, volleyball and softball was the one she picked."
When asked why she chose softball Andrea smiled, brought her head a bit forward and whispered it had the least amount of contact.
The 17 year-old Hawkins sometimes whispers things that are a bit embarrassing. Her fear of snakes, and getting hit by a sharply hit ball at shortstop were among the anecdotes she shared in hushed tones, as was Nick Saban's intensity.
Hawkins met the Alabama football coach in his office in November 2009 when she was in Tuscaloosa for an unofficial visit after the Crimson Tide annihilated Tennessee-Chattanooga.
She was the first softball recruit to meet Saban - on a football weekend no less. She recalled the coach had a device that opens and closes the doors to his cavernous office and how he spoke of the academics the school could provide.
The meeting with Saban may not have sealed it, but Hawkins committed to Patrick Murphy's program soon thereafter.
"I wanted to get up there then," Andrea said with a laugh. "They made me feel right at home. They treated me like I was a part of the team. They have a nick name for me and everything."
Andrea has offers from Georgia, Louisiana State. Texas A&M and Baylor also offered scholarships, and she visited Texas; however, she chose to make the 11-hour trek to Tuscaloosa. The campus and the family atmosphere Patrick Murphy has instilled in his highly successful program were too much for her to pass up.
Hawkins will likely be an outfielder at Alabama. She grew up playing shortstop, but her speed was too tantalizing to remain confined to the infield.
"I used to play on a (travel) team when I was 13 or 14 years old, and everyone said 'Do you play center field? Do you play outfield'" Hawkins recalled. "Ever since then my coach was like 'You're fast. We should stick you in center field.' Ever since then I have never played shortstop (again) in my life. I have been in the outfield and I have loved it."
At Bay City Hawkins was a leadoff hitter and center fielder. In her last two varsity seasons, she hit .539, stole 34 bases and struck out just twice in 139 plate appearances. As spectacular as those statistics may appear, Bay City softball coach said Andrea's best addition to the team was her leadership.
"She knows the game so well," Slater said. "She takes in what's going on and can read plays as well as anyone I know. She takes the younger ones and is trying to pass on the knowledge to them."
All season long Slater put freshman Alexis Woods in the No. 2 spot in the order.
Doing so opened up a hole on the right side of opposing defense for the left-handed Woods to hit through. It also gave Hawkins a split-second advantage she could exploit when attempting to swipe a base.
The pay-it-forward approach Slater said Hawkins brings to softball was apparent in the final home game she and Woods played together on April 27.
In the bottom of the first Hawkins trudged to the dugout after popping out to third base. Her slow walk allowed her to give Woods a brief scouting report on the type of pitcher she would face. It was by little coincidence that Hawkins and Woods combined for three of the Lady Cats six hits in the 14-2 loss that night.
"Getting the experience of being the leader of a team and making the team come together," is what Andrea said she will take from her varsity career. "I have made lifelong friends that I will never get to play with again."
That may be true. But, remember, Andrea is a girl who has never met a stranger. A year from now her circle of friends may be as wide as her range in the outfield.
"Andrea is one of the most athletic kids we have ever signed," Murphy said when Hawkins signed with the program in November. She will fill a huge void in our outfield next year. Her speed will remind 'Bama fans of former great Brittany Rogers. Not only is Andrea a great softball player, she's also a great young lady."
The high praise from Murphy about the youngest member of his 2012 recruiting class may be proof that Andrea's talent at softball and in finding friends are equally prodigious.
Rogers, like Hawkins, is a fleet-footed, left-handed center fielder. Rogers, coincidentally, the person Hawkins models her game after, was also a four-time National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American.
Whether it's the pressure to succeed someone like Rogers, or even find a way on base to lead off a game, Hawkins said she is ready come what may.
"It's kind of intense and its nerve racking, but I like it," Andrea said. "I like being under pressure. It brings out the best of me. It doesn't give me time to think at all. I just go with the flow."