Lindsey Hodgen-Kelly-softball is in her blood

Lindsey Hodgen-Kelly grew up with athletics in her blood.

Her mom was an athlete, her father was a baseball coach, and her older brother pitched his high school team to a class 2A State Championship. Naturally, she grew up wanting to participate in sports and has been playing softball since she was old enough to swing a bat.

This season, Lindsey, a 5-8 senior, majoring in psychology, will be trying to swing the Brigham Young University softball team out of mediocrity and into the Mountain West Conference spotlight. The task will not be easy as the Cougars are only in their second season of NCAA Division-I play. However, according to Kelly, the BYU program is no longer a secret and will not be a surprise team this season.

"My dad is a baseball coach and my older brother played baseball, so I spent a lot of time at baseball games," Kelly said. "I have been playing since I was big enough to swing a bat."

Although Kelly has participated in other sports throughout her life, she has always loved softball. In high school, she played basketball for four years and volleyball for two, and was even an honorable mention all-conference basketball selection her senior year.

"Softball has always been my favorite sport," Kelly said. "It is the toughest sport I have ever played. I knew it was my favorite sport because I have always looked forward to practices. I enjoy practice and being outside when it is warm. I love it (softball) no matter what. I never liked basketball practice, I just liked to play in the games," Kelly remembered, laughing.

Tucker, Lindsey's older brother drove her to be a better player. "He motivated me because he was so good at everything, but I wanted some of the spotlight, too," Lindsey said. "He was such a good role model, not only because he was naturally gifted, but because he was also so mentally strong."

Kelly garnered many awards in her high school softball career, including being a three-time all-conference selection, an Offensive Player of the Year and an all-star selection. All those awards pale in comparison to what happened to her during her junior year of high school.

Before her junior year in high school, Lindsey had no prior knowledge of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or BYU. "I had two friends who were members of the church, but I didn't know anything," she recalls. "All I knew is that Mormons have lots of kids, go to church all day Sunday, and drive minivans.

"I started talking to one of my friends about the church and asking him a lot of questions," Kelly explained. "He introduced me to the missionaries and I became interested. I couldn't get enough of what they were teaching, I wanted more.

"When the missionaries asked me to be baptized and become a member of the church, I didn't hesitate," she said.

For Lindsey, the decision to be baptized was an easy one. "I followed the crowd too much, and I wasn't happy with my life. I wasn't the person I wanted to be, and I wanted to be responsible for my own decisions," Kelly explained.

Lindsey's decision to join the LDS Church was not a popular one with her friends. "My friends didn't support me. They turned their backs on me," she said. "I didn't change, just my lifestyle changed, but they weren't comfortable being around me with the decisions I made."

Instead of remaining in her hometown of Pendleton, Ore., after finishing high school, Lindsey decided to leave family and friends to attend college at Utah Valley State College in Orem, Utah.

"I wanted to get away form everyone and have a chance to start over," Kelly explained. "UVSC had everything I wanted at the time. It had the environment I wanted. I was going to get to play softball and my schooling was going to be paid for."

Starting in centerfield for UVSC, Lindsey was a star on an extremely good Wolverine team. Her awards included first team NJCAA All-American, first team Louisville Slugger award, first team all-conference, Female Scholar Athlete of the Year, Athlete of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year and a member of the NJCAA All-Star team. She holds UVSC school records with a .945 slugging percentage and a 30-game hitting streak, while holding the single-season record with 20 doubles. She also had a .545 batting average with 90 hits, 10 homeruns, 47 RBI, eight triples, 17 stolen bases and 64 runs scored, her sophomore year.

Kelly's most memorable softball moment came in a game against Snow College while playing at UVSC.

"The score was tied, and coach told me that I basically had to hit a homerun," Lindsey recalls. "I hit the ball to the rightfield fence, and the girl caught the ball but ran into the fence, and the ball popped out and fell to the ground. I was rounding second and stopped, because I thought she caught the ball. I didn't see that she had dropped it. My coach and teammates were screaming at me to run, so I started running as fast as I could. I remember my coach telling me as I rounded third that I better score. I slid by the catcher and touched the corner of the plate and was called safe, and we won the game."

Lindsey decided to bring her heroics to BYU, mainly because three of her teammates at UVSC were transferring to BYU and it had the environment she wanted, especially the religion classes.

In her first season as a Division-I player, she started in all 43 games for the Cougars, batting .283 with a team-high 39 hits in 138 at-bats. The team, however, did not experience the same success as her UVSC teams. The Cougars struggled to a 16-27 overall record, including a 7-13 conference record, finishing in fifth place.

"Last year was a learning experience, but we don't want to repeat it," she said. "We know we are capable of doing better."

With all the highs and lows, the triumphs and defeats, in athletics, Lindsey always has a support-her father.

"He never fails to call me after a game," Kelly said. "If we are on the road, he will get the number of the hotel we are staying at and call me after the game. He never hangs up without saying, 'I'm proud of you,' and that means a lot to me."

Another support system is her husband, Brian, with whom Lindsey has been married eight months.

"Brian is very supportive," she said. "We are on the road a lot, so it can be difficult, but he is so supportive."

The games are only part of the time Lindsey dedicates to softball and school. She also has practice, weightlifting, classes and homework.

Most sports can somehow be related to life, and softball is no exception.

"Softball is a team sport, and life is a team sport," Kelly said. "You have support in softball just like you do in life. You need others to succeed and be happy. You can't give up in softball, just like you can't give up in life. You have to be the best you can be."

Luckily, Lindsey has support. She has support from her father, her husband, her teammates and many others who want her and the BYU softball team to succeed.

This season Lindsey wants to be the best she can be. She has a goal to be a first-team all-conference selection, but more importantly, she has a goal of winning the conference title.

"I expect us to finish nothing less than first in the conference," she said. "We are no longer a first-year program."

The expectations are high, and Lindsey wants to play her final season with no regrets.

After all, she has athletics in her blood, and she intends to keep it that way.

"I would like to be a coach someday," Lindsey said. "Softball has always been a part of my life. I've learned and gained so much from it, and I want to pass that on to others. I like to see others progress like me."