COLUMBIA — Jamie Holmes is the type of softball player coaches love to coach but hate to play against.
The senior is a selfless teammate who doesn't mind playing different positions, who does whatever she can do to help the team win. She is a player who can pitch and catch and play third base, shortstop or first base — and do it all well, according to Columbia College coach Wendy Spratt.
Holmes is a defensive expert who cares more about preventing runs than producing them, even though she's leading the Cougars in almost every major offensive category. She has committed one error in 72 chances through nine games this season.
Holmes is a natural talent who isn't afraid to abuse her body if it means preventing a bloop single to shallow left field. An athlete who, on such a play, tore the labrum in her right shoulder in her fifth career game for the Cougars but finished the game and played the next one, too.
Team first, Jamie second. It's just how she was taught to play the game.
Holmes first picked up a bat and glove when she was 4 years old.
Her father, J.C. Holmes, fondly remembers her at that age. He remembers tapping ground balls to his daughter and her brothers with a tennis racket in their garage in Republic, Mo.
He also remembers how competitive she was with her four brothers growing up.
"You couldn't send them to bed without it becoming a race," J.C. Holmes said by phone.
She was competitive enough that her father signed her up for T-ball a year early. Jamie Holmes wasn't supposed to start until she was 5 years old, but she wanted to play. Her father wanted her to play, too. It wasn't unusual in the Holmes' house. She was born into a baseball family.
J.C. Holmes has been coaching travel and high school baseball and softball teams for about 20 years, on and off. When he coached his daughter, she didn't exactly get special treatment.
"I was kind of rough on her when she was younger," he said. "If she wasn't giving 100 percent, I would get on her really hard, more than other players."
"We got into fight after fight constantly," Jamie Holmes said.
"It was more of me shouting," her father said.
The verbal scuffles with her father upset Jamie Holmes, but it taught her self-discipline and composure on the field.
J.C. Holmes recalled a game when his daughter was about 15 years old. Jamie Holmes pitched that day for her father's travel team, and afterward the umpire approached the coach.
"The umpire told me how relieved he was my daughter had pitched today," J.C. Holmes said. "He said he knew that if he made a mistake, Jamie wasn't going to react on the mound or try and show him up. She finally got it."
He paused. "She finally got it."
Jamie Holmes and her father rarely fought after that game.
Somewhere, from the age of 4 to 16, Jamie Holmes got it from her father, and it took her from Republic High School to Crowder College in Neosho, Mo., and finally to Columbia College in the fall of 2011.
Jamie Holmes never cared what position she played. Her father wanted her to be comfortable everywhere, just in case. She was all for learning new positions and never had trouble juggling multiple duties, even at the collegiate level.
"Growing up I always paid attention to other positions," Jamie Holmes said.
"I made her think about other positions and to think two plays ahead," J.C. Holmes said. "I wanted her to know what each position should do in every situation."
Before her injury, Jamie Holmes was the Cougars' starting shortstop. Now she is the starting first baseman.
Jamie's ability to play multiple positions has kept her from missing any time this season while she continues to recover from the shoulder surgery she underwent almost a year ago. She wants to eventually go back to shortstop but still experiences sharp pain if she throws too hard or too often. First base involves much less throwing and allows Spratt to keep her .464 batting average in the Cougars lineup.
Because of the lingering injury, Jamie prefers hitting instead of playing the field for the first time in her softball career. She had always put defense first.
"I never really liked hitting a whole lot (growing up)," Jaime said.
"I always told her if you don't give up runs the other team can't win," J.C. Holmes said.
Her father wanted to teach his daughter about softball and also about life.
J.C. Holmes demanded his daughter become someone who was in complete control of her actions. Someone who blocked out the negative emotions and internal pressure. Someone who never took a play off. Someone who would never let the opposition see her defeated.
Someone who wasn't going to make excuses when doctors told her it was going to be a long and painful recovery process.
Jaime Holmes hasn't been the same softball player since she dove for that bright yellow ball headed for shallow left field last March in Florida. She knows that truth, and her coach and father know it, too. Determination only gets you so far when injuries, in this case to her shoulder, inhibit ability.
She refuses to give up or let the injury ruin her senior season the way it did her junior season. She has come too far. She remembers when she couldn't lift her arm over her head.
Most importantly though, Jamie Holmes remembers everything that her father has taught her over the years.
"I honestly think that's why I'm here, because of him," Jamie said about her father.
J.C. Holmes said that is not entirely true, though.
"It's always been her," he said. "That girl has a lot of drive."
Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.