Some athletes barely remember their first sports encounter. But there’s an image etched into Kara Gremillion’s soul.
“My mom used to teach a lot of pitching lessons in our back yard,” Gremillion said. “I remember sitting on a ball bucket watching. More than anything else I wanted to be that girl. I wanted to pitch instead of whoever her pitcher was.”
That memory tells as much about the St. Amant High multisport star now as it did about her life as a five-year-old. Gremillion is fearless and fiercely competitive, things you might not understand by just looking at her 5-foot-4 frame.
“Kara’s so consistent,” St. Amant softball coach Scott Nielson said. “Very rarely does she have a bad game. She works so hard all the time and it shows.
“She leads by example, and I’d love to see her be more vocal. I told one of our freshmen the other day to be sure and listen to anything Kara does say because she may never get the chance to play with somebody else that good.”
Gremillion is predictably focused going into her senior season at St. Amant. The Advocate’s 2014 Girls Athlete of the Year is a Louisiana-Lafayette softball commitment who is expected to play a major role in three sports. She’s also an honor student who carries a 4.25 grade-point average.
“There’s going to be pressure because of the award,” Gremillion said. “People are going to expect me to be at my best in every game. I’m just trying to focus on getting better in all the sports I play. I want my last year in high school to be my best.”
It won’t be easy to top 2013-14. Gremillion earned all-state honors in volleyball as a libero while helping the Gators advance to the Division I semifinals for the first time. She had 549 digs despite missing a few games with a concussion. She was an honorable mention all-state choice in basketball after leading SAHS to a 25-6 record with averages of 11 points, four steals and two rebounds a game.
Then there was softball. Gremillion played shortstop and led the Gators (30-2) to the Class 5A quarterfinals with a .548 batting average, 15 doubles, six home runs, four triples, 62 runs scored, 38 RBIs and 29 stolen bases.
When Nielson refers to Gremillion as a “natural” comparisons to the Robert Redford movie “The Natural” do apply. Nielson told Gremillion she would be a softball starter as soon as the basketball season ended when she was a freshman. She doubled off the fence in her first at-bat and finished 4-for-4 with two doubles and two singles.
The softball success was predictable. Her mother, Claudia, played softball at Northwestern State. All of her aunts also played college softball. Two played at UL-Lafayette. Coach Nancy Ensminger of rival Dutchtown High is one of her aunts.
“Kara always wanted to play,” Claudia Gremillion recalls. “When I coached a travel ball team she wanted to throw pitches in between innings. When she was either four or five, Nancy told me Kara had a kind of aggressiveness you can’t teach. It translates to every sport she plays.”
St. Amant volleyball coach Allison Leake and agrees, noting “If she was taller, I’m not sure she’d be playing softball in college.”
Gremillion didn’t play volleyball as a freshman because she was afraid three sports would be too much. Being a libero/defensive specialist proved to be the perfect fit.
“Last year is when I started to get a lot better in volleyball,” Gremillion said. “The position I play is made for me. I love diving and getting the ball up off the floor. I live for the feeling you get when you get to a ball you’re not supposed to. It’s the most amazing feeling ever.”
Getting a feel for a new position — point guard — was the summer objective in basketball. After team camps at UL-Lafayette, UL-Monroe, Nicholls State and South Alabama, Gremillion said she is confident.
“I played on the wing before, and now I have to make sure I can see all the court,” Gremillion said. “And I have to make sure I get the ball to anybody who is open. I really like that … being in control and having the ball in my hands in pressure situations.”
Pressure situations are what Gremillion lives for. Whenever she got a new bat as a youngster, she had a ritual. Gremillion would take the bat and imagine having a 3-2 count and the bases loaded in the bottom half of the final inning.
Being a senior is the high school equivalent of being in the bottom half of the last inning. Gremillion said one thing would make her prep career complete.
“A state championship,” Gremillion said. “Individual awards are good, I’d rather have a championship.”