Missouri catcher Sami Fagan keeps calm to overcome obstacles

Wednesday, April 30, 2014 | 8:41 p.m. CDT; updated 2:04 p.m. CDT, Thursday, May 1, 2014
Missouri catcher Sami Fagan crouches before a pitch during the softball game against Creighton on Tuesday. Mizzou won the first game 11-6 and the second 2-1.

CORRECTION: The headline on an earlier version of this article misspelled Sami Fagan's name.

COLUMBIA — As the Tigers prepared for its series against then-No.3 Florida last weekend, Missouri shortstop Corrin Genovese said that they just wanted to "beat them really badly."

But then she added, "For Sami. For our teammate Sami, especially."

Missouri catcher Sami Fagan was released from the Florida softball team after her freshman season in 2012 due to an altercation on the team. She then sat out the entire 2013 season at Missouri as a redshirt. The series last weekend was the first time she had played against her former team as a Tiger — and on their turf.

One might think she'd be emotional about the encounter. But as usual, Fagan displayed a calm, quiet demeanor. Even after changing schools, redshirting for a year, switching positions and facing her old teammates, Fagan remains even-keeled. It is this ability to calmly deal with change that has allowed her to succeed on the softball field.

Before games, though, she's boisterous and friendly.

While warming up for the series finale against Georgia, Fagan and second baseman Ashtin Stephens threw to each other in the outfield. Stephens would catch the ball and then strike a pose, almost like a gymnast sticking a landing. Fagan would then catch the ball and repeat the pose, both of them laughing.

Afterward, the two came together and performed an elaborate handshake with their hands, their arms and their legs.

But after her handshake with Stephens, she's different. That's when she'll be off on her own again, throwing an imaginary ball, going through the mechanics to get it just right, standing with her hands on her hips, just watching the field and thinking.

Missouri softball coach Ehren Earleywine, for one, was surprised by Fagan's composure during the Florida series.

"I know it's probably been marked on her calendar for some time," Earleywine said. "Really, the odd part of it was that, if anything, she showed a lack of emotion."

At Fagan's first at-bat against the Gators, she singled through the right side of the field. She went on to record four hits in nine at-bats, as Missouri took the series two games to one.

And through it all, she maintained her quiet demeanor, perhaps forcibly so.

"She typically does that (has a quiet demeanor) anyway, but it was even more subdued, which was interesting just to kinda watch it all unfold," Earleywine said. "You wouldn't have known there was any past issues or that she had been released from the team or anything like that."

Fagan simply approached it like any other game. She was happy her family came to watch and was happy to be there with her new team.

"I'm glad we won," she said.

Switching from Florida to Missouri hasn't been the only major change for Fagan.

In a recent game against Ole Miss at University Field, the announcers introduced Fagan as they usually do, second in the batting order, right after center fielder Taylor Gadbois. Except this time, instead of saying "shortstop" before her name as they had all year, they said "catcher."

She'd played catcher a few times in high school, but the decision to have her change positions was spontaneous. Earleywine didn't think the other catchers were producing offensively, and putting Fagan behind the plate would create more options in the infield.

"All of a sudden, I go, 'Hey, by the way, you're catching,'" Earleywine said. "So that part's been unfair."

But Fagan hasn't complained.

"I actually like catching," Fagan said. "It's a lot of fun, especially catching pitchers that hit their spots well, and our pitchers do that well, so they make me look good."

She's not perfect at the new position yet, though, and she knows it. She's still working on the mechanics, and Earleywine wants her to pick up the tempo and throw more runners out. He's not sure if she'll stay behind the plate heading into the postseason, but it's an option.

"She's a hard worker, so there's a chance it could happen," Earleywine said. "And I'm just praying that's the case."

With all the change, people wanted to hear from Fagan. She's conducted her interviews in her usual manner — quietly and to the point. 

But when she finished, she got up and said "Peace" before leaving, showing a glimpse of the goofy side that emerges during her throws with Stephens.

Supervising editor is Sasu Siegelbaum.

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