(Photo by Mark Philbrick)
Katie Manuma, or Beyoncé as her teammates call her, returns for her senior year after leading the softball team in home runs and RBIs as a junior. As a senior she wants to have an even greater impact.
“I want to lead both offensively and defensively,” Manuma said. “I want to hit more home runs than I have ever hit here and as the clean up batter drive in more runs.”
However, her influence goes beyond her softball skills as she leads the team in other ways.
“My job is to get the girls relaxed and loose,” Manuma said. “If anyone needs a laugh or a pick up, I am there. Especially freshmen coming in. They are kind of nervous, because they don’t know what to expect coming in. So as an upperclassman I try to be their big sister and get them to relax more.”
As a freshman the whole team learned the dance for “All the Single Ladies” together. Former shortstop JC Clayton said it was at this time that Manuma became known as Beyonce.
“Angie [Quiocho] knew this dance and she wanted Katie to learn it,” Clayton said. “So Katie learned it, then Bailie [Hicken] learned it and then everybody learned it. Katie was the real Beyonce in the dance because she loves Beyonce.”
For the past three years, Manuma has lived with Clayton and Hannah Howell. Howell and Clayton both completed their eligibility last year, but they still have maintained a strong relationship as roommates. Clayton said she has seen Katie accomplish this role of being a big sister.
“I saw it last year and the year before - she is very good at welcoming the new players because she is so goofy,” Clayton said. “She makes them laugh right away, and everyone loves to laugh. She helps them on the emotional side of things and helps them stay loose.”
This is a quality which will be important this year, because the softball team welcomes seven new freshmen and return only eight upperclassmen.
“Our team is almost completely new with all the new freshman,” Manuma said. “I think it is going to be a great season because of our team chemistry, and I think everyone will also be accountable to themselves.”
To help build team chemistry, Manuma mentioned there are several team bonding activities planned which they will participate in. Howell believes that Manuma will be a big help in these situations.
“Katie is a magnet for everybody because of her upbeat personality,” Howell said. “She’ll make everybody feel at home. She has good ideas for bonding and making sure everybody is comfortable because she is competitive. When we would do little bonding games like getting down bunt, she was always encouraging everybody. At the same time she wants to win, and you can only do that if you’re flowing together.”
Manuma loves to have fun, and part of that is telling jokes and dancing with her teammates. There will be times where everyone may be thinking about some negative aspect, but Manuma has a gift to say things in the right way to give them a pick-me-up. Howell was a pitcher last year and received many visits at the mound that included her first baseman Manuma.
“When she would come out to the mound she would always just have little comments,” Howell said. “Sometimes she would make jokes about the batter and there were a couple of Beyonce [dancing] moments she had out there.”
Manuma sees attitude as one of the most important factors for softball because everyone needs to be corrected at times.
“Having a good attitude is important, because you have to take criticism the right way,” Manuma said. “If you take it the wrong way, you’re going to end up with a bad attitude and hold your team back. If there were negative people around me, it would be awkward for me. Here I don’t need to hold back because this is my family, and I am just being myself - happy-go-lucky, fun Katie.”
Clayton believes there is more than just the fun Katie.
“She is fun loving, and she always knows how to lighten a situation,” Clayton said. “However, at the same time she knows how to be serious and motivate others. She is never in your face motivating but more supportive, and she always has your back no matter what.”
Manuma credits this unique talent to her upbringing in Hawai’i, and she wants to bring that same family environment to her teammates at BYU.
“I have a big family, and we’re all sarcastic and funny,” Manuma said. “I love these girls, and so I want them to feel at home like I did when I came in and I had my big sisters that helped me relax.”
Coming to BYU can be a big transition for many people especially when you are so far removed from family and friends. Katie believes that the environment that BYU provides actually made this easier for her.
“Being here is almost the same thing,” Manuma said. “The people are so loving and caring here just like back home. That is what made my transition here so easy, because I felt at home coming here.”
Her father, Via, said when she comes home that she is the one bringing the family together, but she has really changed since going to college.
“She is the jokester in the family,” Via Manuma said. “She gets everybody to do family things together like playing games. Sometimes as Polynesians we are so into our own cultural things, but she comes home and she wants to play all these games they play up at college. We laugh at her and tell her ‘Oh you’re really palagi [white] now.’ She talks with all these different accents, and she loves country music now and plays it on her radio. That’s why we laugh. She’s funny.”
Back home, one of her favorite things to do is to spend time with her family.
“We’re always getting together having a barbeque at the beach,” Manuma said. “It is like having family home evening everyday, and it is so much fun.”
Here at BYU she does much of the same thing with her teammates. She, Clayton and Howell love to eat together, and Manuma’s favorite dish is the jumbalaya made by Howell. When the jumbalaya is made, there are times when the whole team is invited to eat. Before games last year the team got together and had some fun while they ate. Besides eating, Manuma loves to go on YouTube and learn new dances with her roommates.
“Maddi Robb is our DJ, and she brings her speakers for the music,” Manuma said. “We have a little dance party, and then we get into serious mode.”
It isn’t just the fun and games that make Manuma feel at home in Provo. Although she is not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the spiritual aspects of the university have helped her feel a unique comfort here.
“The gospel is also a quality I like about BYU since I am a Christian,” Manuma said. “So being surrounded by the Spirit is nice. Other schools aren’t big about that, because they like to party and stuff. I am more of a person that likes to stay home and have fun, and here it’s the same way, which made me feel at home.”
Her father said the family is religious, and Manuma participates in the church choir and in church plays back home. When Manuma left for college, he worried about her at first because she had gone out on her own. Her other three sisters had played softball in college, but went with their friends or to familiar places. So having BYU being a religious school, among other things, helped ease his concerns.
“At first I worried about her being on her own at first,” Via Manuma said. “Having coach Eakin, Neta Le’i and a lot of Polynesians there and knowing it’s a church school, I didn’t worry as much as I did her freshman year. After talking to her when she came home, I realized she has really matured and come into her own.”
Manuma credits this religious side of things for the successes she has had in her BYU softball career.
“I would say my success has come from a lot of prayers from my family and friends,” Manuma said. “I believe God puts people in your life for a reason, and me being here has put a lot of good people in my life, like JC and Hannah. The people I have met have helped me, uplifted me and we’ve had fun. It’s the people around me that have made me great.”
When she takes the field this spring, she will have a chance to be part of the third senior class to win conference championships every year of their career. However due to conference realignment, her class has been part of four different conference: the Mountain West Conference, the Western Athletic Conference, the Pacific Coast Softball Conference and now in the inaugural season of softball in the West Coast Conference.