One bad break doesn’t hinder Olmstead’s HHS HOF climb

Kim Olmstead 1
2002 Hernando High graduate Kim Olmstead, holding the trophy on the right, was a four-year starter for the Division-I Colgate University Red Raiders fast-pitch softball program.
Kim Olmstead 2
MEET O’CONNELL’S – HHS 2002 graduate Kim Olmstead married 2001 Central graduate Michael O’Connell in 2008. Their Spring Hill family includes: Carter, 6, Camryn, 8, and Callie, 4.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Broken leg with six games

remaining as a senior doesn’t

halt 4-year career at D-I Colgate

BY TONY CASTRO

HernandoSport.com

Kim Olmstead was a three-time All-Gulf Coast Athletic Conference softball selection for the Hernando Leopards from 1999-2001.
Kim Olmstead was a three-time All-Gulf Coast Athletic Conference softball selection for the Hernando Leopards from 1999-2001.

One of Hernando County’s fast-pitch softball pioneers – 2002 Hernando High graduate Kimberlee “Kimi” Jean Olmstead – became the first area player to go directly to Division I with Colgate University in Hamilton, New York .

But there was a caveat.

Playing at “The Swamp” at Land O’ Lakes High School on April 5 with six games remaining in her senior year, the 5-foot-5 infielder/pitcher received a relay throw at second base.

The slick-fielding Olmstead, however, was never able to turn a possible double play. Instead, a Land O’ Lakes player heading for second base barreled into Olmstead.

At the moment of impact, then-HHS skipper Ernie Chatman told this reporter, “It sounded like cannon shot. Everybody could hear it. In an instant, I went running out there. … The end result was bad; real bad.”

Olmstead’s left leg was shattered – she had suffered a compound fracture of her tibia and fibula – and as a result of the collision, her prep career was over.

How severe was the injury?

The game was called at that point and never completed.

Christen Baldwin
Christen Baldwin

HHS sophomore pitcher Christen Baldwin pointed out to Hernando Today that the Leopards started off 3-0 after losing their leader, Olmstead.

“Tonight wasn’t easy,” said the 16-year-old Baldwin. “It was difficult at times. I really wanted to complete this game and prove I could do it. I hadn’t ever done so at home.

“When we lost Kimi, we all realized not one player can replace her,“ she added. “It takes the whole team to step up. Everybody has to give a little more effort. There’s no replacing Kimi.”

Christene Dennis added, “This game (a 4-2 win over Springstead, which served as the Purple and Gold’s last win of the season) was real important. We had to win. They thought they were better than us. The difference is we’ve been real motivated since losing Kimi.

“… We lost one of our most valuable players and everybody has to step up and do their share,” she said. “This win was for Kimi.”

Ernie Chatman
Ernie Chatman

Hernando High, without one of its most prodigious bats, finished 3-3 after Olmstead was injured and was eliminated in the first round of the Class 3A, District 6 semifinals at Inverness by Citrus to finish 15-10 overall.

Ironically, the 5-4 loss to the Hurricanes served as Chatman’s last game as the Lady Leopards’ mentor. He resigned and was replaced by Angie Svagerko for the 2003 season.

Though Olmstead arrived in New York recovering from the severe injury, to their credit, Colgate University held up their end of the D-I signing and honored the scholarship.

Colgate University Red Raiders
Colgate University Red Raiders

Kimi never admitted it at Colgate, but she never returned to form she enjoyed in Brooksville as a career .388 hitter with 135 career hits and 77 runs batted in across 110 games.

As a freshman, the Raiders did capture the Patriot League conference tournament and achieved the 56-team D-I NCAA Tournament.

She did start for four years with the Raiders compiling 477 at-bats for a career .226 batting average, mostly as third base.

Kim Olmstead collected 447 career at-bats at Colgate University as a four-year starter.
Kim Olmstead collected 447 career at-bats at Colgate University as a four-year starter.

Olmstead served as the Raiders team captain as a senior and eventually graduated with a bachelor’s degree in educational studies and a minor in sociology and anthropology.

After returning to Hernando County, she eventually earned her master’s at Saint Leo University before teaching Kindergarten for five years.

She exchanged wedding vows in 2008 with ex-Central High basketball player Michael O’Connell.

The O’Connell’s, who reside in Spring Hill, have three children: Camryn, 8, Carter, 6, and Callie, 4.

In 2016, Olmstead returned to classroom being hired as a Kindergarten instructor at Spring Hill Elementary, which received an “A” grade from the state for its efforts in 2016-17.

Recently, Olmstead’s achievements were honored with her induction into the HHS Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2017.

This year’s eight members feature: Olmstead, Tara Allen, Tracy Bridges, Mike Hamilton, Mac Johnson, Allan Leavitt, Mike Revell and Andrew Williams.

During the Sept. 15 home football game at Tom Fisher Memorial Stadium against Lecanto, seven new members (Leavitt will not be present), along with the 1967 HHS Baseball Team and first recipient of Ernie Chatman Legacy Award, Tom Bronson Sr., will also be feted.

2001 Hernando High Lady Leopards at the FHSAA State Finals
2001 Hernando High Lady Leopards at the FHSAA State Finals.

Reacting to announcement

“It took a little bit for it to sink in,” revealed Olmstead, 33. “There was a lot of excitement, especially with my kids. There was also sadness. I wish Coach Chatman could be there (HOF banquet). I love my dad, but Coach Chatman was as close to a second father that I’ve ever had.”

Lizzie Olmstead
Lizzie Olmstead

Olmstead 411

Kim was born in Hinsdale (21 miles west of Chicago), Illinois as the oldest of three siblings to Jugg and Cathy Olmstead.

Her brother, Jay, graduated from Springstead and played baseball for the Eagles and D-II Saint Leo.

Her youngest sister, Lizzie, graduated from Nature Coast Technical in 2010.

Lizzie still holds NCT’s school record for most career runs scored (107), hits (148), batting average (.428). She too played D-I softball for Charleston Southern University in Charleston, South Carolina.

The Olmstead’s relocated to the Sunshine State when Kim was 10 years old.

Most folks would believe Kimi was raised on the dusty sandlots.

Kim Olmstead But as she readily admits she was a “girlie-girl” who enjoyed gymnastics and dancing prior to relocating to Spring Hill.

That all changed one day when Jugg Olmstead enrolled Kimi in the nearby Hernando County Family YMCA softball.

“I remembering crying a lot that first day and that first week,” shared the brunette. “But after that first week, I started liking it. It turned out to be a great bonding agent for me and my dad. I started at zero and slowly started building up my game before it took off.”

From fifth grade on, Kimi played on her father’s travel ball softball team.

She remembers attending Deltona Elementary as a fourth-grader and Suncoast Elementary as a fifth grader before attending Powell Middle School.

She recalls playing basketball as a seventh- and eighth-grader and pitching for the Panthers during those same two seasons.

Kim Olmstead pitched until she was sidelined with a sore shoulder.
Kim Olmstead pitched until she was sidelined with a sore shoulder.

“As I got older my game changed,” admitted Olmstead. “I loved pitching. I didn’t pitch much as I got older because of a sore shoulder. But I loved striking people out. I enjoyed head-first sliding and running bases. I wasn’t the quickest, but I’d get a good lead and I ran smart.”

She matriculated to HHS, playing for Coach Chatman and her father, who served as an assistant.

Olmstead’s first three seasons, from 1999-01, were lined with accomplishments.

In the span, Olmstead‘s teams coincidentally collected 83 wins in 97 games (86 percent).

HHS hoisted three Gulf Coast Athletic Conference championship banner, captured an unprecedented three district titles, two regional crowns and appeared in two Final Fours.

For her efforts, Olmstead was feted as three-time All-GCAC selection.

Kim Olmstead
Colgate’s Kim Olmstead

Life after the break

At Colgate, Olmstead utilized many of the small-ball tactics honed under Chatman.

“After I broke my leg, I’ll admit I was nervous and timid. I wasn’t quite as aggressive as I was before,” revealed Olmstead. “I spent a lot of time putting bunts down and doing all the little things needed to win games.”

There was also the stark contrast between Brooksville and Hamilton, New York.

“In Brooksville, we had tremendous community support. We played at a first-class high school stadium,” stressed Olmstead. “I enjoyed my experience at Colgate, but our field was off campus. We had so many more fans watch us play at Tom Varn. We used to get the crowds; it was cool.

“I was surrounded by great teammates and we were pretty good. I kinda felt like I was a rock star,” she grinned.

“It seemed like at Hernando, we were important. I enjoyed the exposure of D-I ball at Colgate, but we didn’t get crowds. Things were different. I had to make adjustments. To play some games at Colgate, we had to roll snow off the field. I was never that cold in Florida. That never happened in Brooksville.

On whether breaking her leg altered her game, “I was raised not to make excuses. You’ve got to own what happens to you,” emphatically stressed Olmstead. “I remember vividly like it was yesterday when I was a freshman at Colgate and I thought a runner was heading right toward me at third and I was scared to death. As a result, I got uncomfortable.

“… I don’t think I had the same aggressiveness and yes, I was bitter that I had my leg broken. I was not the same,” exposed Olmstead. ”Breaking my leg, changed things. To this day, it still hurts to run.”

“…Don’t take me wrong, I loved Colgate. I received a top-notch education and played with some really amazing women. I still talk to Coach Sax.”

On this late-inning slide by KIm Olmstead, the Leopards edged Central in 2000 regional final in Brooksville.
On this late-inning slide by KIm Olmstead, the Leopards edged Central in 2000 regional final in Brooksville.

Greatest moments

Olmstead easily recalled her greatest moments on the field.

On May 6, 2000, the Leopards edged Central in the regional final and a berth in the Class 3A State Final Four behind a scintillating 1-0 nod over the Lady Bears at Tom Varn Park.

“I’ll never forget sliding past Central catcher Shauna Dampier to win that game,” beamed Olmstead. “All of those regional and state games were so exciting. We had such a following during that time. The crowds were awesome.”

HHS ousted Navarre, 6-0, in the state semifinal before being solved by Bartow in the state finals, 7-1.

“I’m not one to hold on to negative experiences, but I would’ve liked to have won that one. Still, you can’t replace the memories of that run,” detailed Olmstead.

On what made her first three seasons on the HHS softball team so special, “That group girls was never gonna settle. We had a dugout full of competitors,” explained Olmstead. “Winning games was the only thing on our radar. It didn’t matter what we missed out on to get to our objectives.”

Kim Olmstead
The O’Connell’s enjoyed Mickey Mouse. On the left includes Carter (top) and Callie (bottom), Camryn (top right), ex-Central Bear hoopster Mike O’Connell and his wife Kim.

Card of thanks

Jug Olmstead
Jug Olmstead

During the Sept. 15 HOF banquet, NCT’s current softball mentor Jug Olmstead will introduce Kimi.

Kim Olmstead 12
Kim Olmstead shares a moment with her high school coach of four seasons: Ernie Chatman. Sadly, Chatman passed away from a heart attack in July, 2016.

“I have to first thank God to have given me the talents to play and to my dad for all the time he spent with me. He put in his time and dedication,” offered Olmstead. “Softball is a game of failure and it was hard for me, especially in the beginning.

“… My mom was the voice of reason and calm. I also have to thank her for giving up on our vacations to spend time at the ballpark.“

“Right up there with my dad is Coach Chatman. He taught me a lot about the game and about being the best person I could be,” noted Olmstead. “I wish he could be there. I know he’ll be there in spirit.”

Olmstead’s legacy

One point Olmstead clearly chimed, “I wasn’t born with the God-given talent of softball. I made in roads because of the work ethic that was drilled into me by my dad,” she said. “I’m really a modest person, I don’t like talking about myself.

Kim Olmstead 7
Kim Olmstead, a four-year starter at Colgate, hit .226 as a Red Raider.

“But one thing my father did for me was set goals. My job was to set a plan and start attaining goals,” she added. “How many kids today, say they want to play D-I? But how many actually have a plan to get there? I’d tell all young student/athletes to make goals and make all the goals in between.

“… Remember practice doesn’t make perfect,” she insisted. “Perfect practice makes perfect.“

Kim Olmstead
Kim Olmstead

Prior to her arrival with family and friends at Tom Fisher Memorial Stadium, Olmstead put her current position in prospective.

“Life is good,” smiled Olmstead. “Even when I was small, I always wanted to be a mom. Now that I am, it’s challenging every day, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

“… I occasionally give pitching lessons, but I’d like to get back on the mound and give back to kids in the near future.”

By the Numbers: Hernando High’s Kim Olmstead (1999-02)

– Compiled by TONY CASTRO

 

YEAR

 

YR

 

GP

 

AB

 

R

 

H

 

2B

 

3B

 

HR

 

RBI

 

.AVG

1999*

9

31

96

19

36

3

2

1

23

.375

2000*

10

31

97

26

44

8

0

0

22

.454

2001*

11

29

87

24

38

5

2

0

22

.437

2002

12

19

68

14

17

5

1

0

10

.250

 

TOTALS

 

110

 

348

 

83

 

135

 

21

 

5

 

1

 

77

 

.388

* Denotes All-Gulf Coast Conference selection.

 

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