Keara Napoli poses at the Cambridge High School softball diamond in Milton, Georgia, on May 10, 2017. (HENRY TAYLOR / HENRY.TAYLOR@AJC.COM)
Photo: Henry Taylor
Photo: Henry Taylor

High school softball player of the year: Keara Napoli

Softball Player of the Year

Keara Napoli, Cambridge

Achievements: Was named Class AAAAAA Player of the Year and led team to state championship.

Position: RHP

Height: 5-foot-5

Class: Senior

College choice: Signed with Georgia

Why Georgia: When I was a freshman I played in a showcase tournament that my pitching coach put on, and there were a lot of colleges there. Georgia and Georgia Tech both offered me that week. I went on four visits: Florida State, Georgia Tech, South Carolina, and Georgia was my last visit. I chose Georgia because of the location. It is close to home, but it isn’t too close to home. It is about two hours, which is good because I really love my family, and I get to be close to them. Academics-wise, it is very good and hard to get into. UGA has a good business school, which is what I want to get into, marketing. It is SEC, which is very competitive for softball. And the campus was just breathtaking with the facilities. Everything just worked out perfectly, so I chose Georgia.

Best high school moment: As much fun as I have with my team off the field, the best was winning state. Nothing compares. It was great. We worked so hard for it for so long and having six seniors and winning state our senior year was such a big deal after getting second place. Second place was the worst. But we finally won in our last chance. So that was probably the most memorable for me.

Why softball? Well, I was born in Florida and my dad signed me up for a soccer team. I actually played soccer for one year down there. He noticed that I would always want to use my hands to touch the ball. He thought, “Why don’t we sign you up for softball?” And so he did. I played one season in Florida and when I got to Georgia I played coach-pitch softball and worked my way up to travel ball. I have not stopped playing ever since. I totally love it. So I started pitching when I was 9 or 10, and I started to get really serious about it at 11. Been doing it ever since.

What you’d like to be doing in 10 years? I want to be a pitching coach. Either that or I would love to do something with marketing. Whether it is marketing for my own company or something. And anything to do with something physical. I want to compete in CrossFit. I would love to get really into CrossFit and compete. So either have a career in marketing or be a pitching coach. Those are my two choices. But then when I am done with softball, I want to get into CrossFit.

Favorite high school course: My marketing class, and in particular, sports marketing. It requires a lot of creativity and team work. You get to do a lot of your own personal stuff on it. Every time we do an assignment in there she basically says, “Here are the requirements; now go do whatever you want with it.” I got to design my own logo, create uniforms, design websites, make presentations. It requires public speaking, which I love. So it requires a lot of communication and independence, which I love. I like putting my own creative spin on things that I do.

People who helped along the way: My mom and dad and my sister, all three of them. They make sure I am eating right and they help keep me stay in shape. I have grown up with a super healthy family, and they make sure my mind is right and I am work hard in anything I do. They all believed in me when I didn’t. My other really big person is my pitching coach, Stacy Tamborra. I consider her my second mom. She has been there for me through everything. She gave me all of my talent and she gave me a lot of, well, she made me who I am today.

Toughest high school opponent?: We played a lot against Pope. A few years back they had Kelly Barnhill pitching for them. She is one of the top-ranked players in the NCAA now. She is incredible. Every time we played against her it was really challenging and incredibly fun. We played a couple of games against Buford High School, which was hard. They’ve won state nine or 10 times, so anytime we played against them it was really competitive. The team we played in the championship this year, Creekview, they were very fast and made really good plays.

Favorite movie: That is hard. For me, it is anything action. It doesn’t matter what it is. I am a big superhero fan, I love the movie “Taken. I also love the movie “A Walk to Remember.” It is one of my favorites. And Disney. I forgot about Disney. I love Disney; it is so great.

Favorite song: Right now anything country. I am a big country fan and a big Broadway fan. My sister and I listen to a ton of Broadway. We listen to Hamilton.” We listen to Bring it On.” We listen to Legally Blonde,” so I am a huge Broadway fan. And country music, I love Zac Brown Band, Chris Stapleton and Keith Urban. They are my favorites.

Worst high school moment: Well, for me, my hardest time I have ever had … the year after we got second was heartbreaking. We didn’t even make it to the Elite Eight, and going from having a chance to win to the next year not even making it to the final game was awful. But then, I also have a really bad high school experience that doesn’t have to do with softball. It was my sophomore year. A 10-year-old girl that I knew and loved and was a close family friend passed away from cancer. It broke my heart. She is the reason I did my fundraiser last year for Strike Out Kids Cancer and raised some money for cancer research. Before every game I write her initials on the base, every game. So she really impacted my life. It was a really bad memory but she had a way of shaping me that made it a good memory. I learned a lot from it. Her name was Kelsey Dickson.

If you could be any other athlete on earth: Simone Biles, Simone Biles, Simone Biles or Tim Tebow. Tebow, for me, just because who he is as a person. I appreciate that he is really humble. He has gotten a lot of disrespect in his life, but he has been nothing but positive. He is always out to help others, which is what I want to do. Then, Simone Biles because she just inspires me, not only with her body, physically, but being a three-time world champion and winning the Olympics this year for gymnastics.

Money or happiness?: Happiness, absolutely. Happiness. Any day over money. My life and looking around at what makes me happy in life isn’t the money that I make or the things that I have. It is the people that I have. I have a huge family and I love all of them. I stay in touch with all of them. I have really good friends, really good teammates. I coach, all the girls that I coach, I see that as my own kids. I admire them and getting to see them be happy and getting to see them grow into their talent like I did with mine is the best. So for me, it is all about happiness.

Best word to describe yourself: Determined. Definitely. For me it is determined. I am not very tall, especially being a pitcher. I am someone you could look at and say, “Oh, I cannot believe she is a pitcher,” I don’t look like that. I have never had the body style. So I have had to work really hard to be a good pitcher. Colleges just don’t really look at girls that are 5-5. They look at lefties and girls who are tall and lanky. So I had to work really hard to get a college scholarship. I mean, everyone does, but I felt like I had to work especially hard to prove to people that I can be a really good pitcher.

View of the world at this moment: I feel we need all the help we can get. I think there is a lot of negative stuff going on. I just know that whatever I do after college I am shooting to help people and am aiming to do something good and impact the world in positive way in whatever I do.

What you would put in a time capsule?: I would put my state ring, because that was a huge moment for me. I would also put any pictures I have, whether they have to do with family or friends or any good memories. I would put a little sticker that I have that I have for Kelsey. It is a little necklace I have for her. I would put that in there. And I would also put a softball because that is what shaped the person that I am today and it is the reason I am here. And so those would be my four things.

— Seth Ellerbee, Score Atlanta