Q&A With Kaleo Eldredge
April 3, 2005
BERKELEY - A first team All-American and All-Pac-10 selection last year, senior center fielder Kaleo Eldredge is enjoying another great season in 2005. The Kahului, Hawaii, native has been, perhaps, Cal's most productive hitter this season. As of April 2, Eldredge was second on the Bears in batting average (.378), hits (37), home runs (5), RBIs (37) and total bases (61). CalBears.com recently caught up with Eldredge to discuss hitting, returning to play in her home state and who the toughest pitcher in college softball is.
When third baseman Vicky Galindo went down with an injury earlier in the season, you were moved to the leadoff spot. How did you like that?
At first I was nervous because I hadn't hit leadoff since I was a freshman. But, I try to do my best wherever the coaches put me. In the beginning of the season I was in the fourth spot then hit leadoff and now I'm hitting third. I'm jumping around so it's kind of fun. It doesn't really matter where I hit because I just try to have the mentality of getting base hits and making contact.
You're second on the team in home runs with five. Do you consider yourself a power hitter?
To this day, not at all. I just try to go for contact and if it goes over the fence, I really consider it a mistake. It's a little weird because I'm only 5-3, not the prototypical size of someone who's supposed to hit home runs.
How were you recruited to play at Cal?
Every summer since I was a sophomore in high school, I left my home in Maui to play with a team in California. After playing with two San Diego-based teams, I joined the West Bay Nuggets, who had a bunch of Cal players - Chelsea Spencer, Jessica Pamanian, Haley Woods, Lindsay James, Kristen Bayless. I actually had no idea (Cal) was looking at me. Coach Reeves was at one of our tournaments and looking for an outfielder. I got lucky that they spotted me. They offered me a scholarship on July 1, 2000 at a tournament in Colorado. I remember we finished one of our games really late - around 11:30 p.m. or midnight. I was sort of sleepy when coach Ninemire offered me a scholarship. She gave me until the next day to respond and I accepted.
You weren't always a center fielder, correct?
I was actually a catcher until my sophomore year in high school when I moved to third. Then in my junior and senior years I moved to shortstop. The only time I played outfield was with my summer teams. Sometimes I miss the infield but it's been so long since I've played there. I'm an outfielder now.
Do you feel with each year there's been more responsibility and pressure to succeed with all of the recent success Cal softball has enjoyed?
I feel like we should be playing for the World Series title again. My expectations for this team are really high and I know that a lot of the seniors feel the same way. Each year the feeling gets passed on and now the freshmen will get to experience it. Playing at Cal has been a great experience. You always know the competition will be great and to play at the highest level and achieve what we have has been an awesome feeling.
Early in March, Cal won a tournament hosted by the University Hawai'i. What was it like going home and playing in front of your family?
It was fun. It's always great to go back and play in front of your home crowd. The tournament was on the island of Oahu so my grandmother, one of my aunts, my parents and my high school coach's family - which is like my second family - came over from Maui to watch me play. I also got to play against some of my friends who play for Hawai'i. It was fun and sad to play against one of my good friends at UH because we knew it was the last time we'd ever face each other.
How often does your family make it to the mainland to watch you play?
My parents came to the Palm Springs Classic but the cost of flying is ridiculous now. Plus, with the addition of the Super Regional Round of the playoffs, if we keep advancing, they're going to have to stay three weeks away from Hawaii and pay for it. So they weren't able to attend any of the other tournaments but they are going to make it to our Oregon and Oregon State road trip (May 6-8) and they'll be at Senior Day.
What's the softball environment like in Hawaii?
Very small when I was growing up. It looks like it's beginning to get bigger though. Whenever I go home, I work with my high school team and a summer youth team that one of my former coaches heads up. I try to help out at clinics, which I do for free. I'm just trying to do what I can to help softball grow in Hawaii. Back home, a lot of the kids like soccer. The seasons are the same, so, growing up, a lot of my friends would play soccer over softball.
How does this team differ, if any, from others you've played on at Cal?
We're a lot closer as a team this year. I think this team has more fun - both on and off the field - than any I've been on. It helps a lot and is a product, I think, of so many of us having played together for so long. We know each other's styles of play and we're able to talk and to communicate easier. When it's easy to communicate it's easier to have fun and play well.
Pac-10 play opens this weekend. What's the team's expectations going into the conference season?
I'm hoping we take the conference. That would be a good way to end our Pac-10 playing careers. Going into these games we just have to have the mentality that each is a championship game. Which, pretty much for eight of us, it is. It's our last year playing Pac-10s, which is sad. Every game will be tough, like a national championship game because the caliber of the conference teams is high. I think we have to think of every game that way.
Kaleo is actually your middle name and your first name is Leslie. Do you go by Kaleo because it`s so unique?
Kaleo is my Hawaiian middle name. It means 'The Voice' in Hawaiian. It actually comes from my aunt and Leslie comes from another relative. My Japanese name is 'Sachiye,' which comes from my mom's side. So my full name is Leslie Kaleo Sachiye Eldredge. I've been called Kaleo my entire life and I felt growing up that Leslie was too girly. I accept it now but I still don't like it. Plus, since I came from Hawaii I figure it's important to me. Kaleo is a Hawaiian name and that's who I am.
What would you like to do upon graduation?
I'd like to pursue a college coaching job so I want to go on and get my master's in education. Right now I'm majoring in American studies with an emphasis in education.
When you're on the road, do you get any time to take in the city you're playing in, see the sites?
For the most part, it depends on the time. Our coaches are very lenient so we're allowed to go out with our parents after games as long as we're in by curfew. Since my parents aren't always at our games, I usually just stay on the bus and go back to the hotel.
Kelly Anderson tossed a no-hitter March 26. What's the mood in the dugout and on the field when someone's throwing a no-hitter in softball?
There is that thing that you don't bring it up, like in baseball where you don't want to jinx the pitcher. I didn't realize she had a no-hitter until after the game when coach Ninemire brought us in and talked about the game. Then she brought up that Kelly had pitched a no-hitter. I was like, 'wow!'
Who's the toughest pitcher you've faced in college?
For me, I would say Cat Osterman from Texas because she has great movement on her pitches. Another pitcher is Keira Goerl from UCLA. I struggled against her as well last season.