“Gwen Svekis is a great catcher,” my friend Luis Altig says, “she explodes out of her crouch, fires strikes to second base and protects the plate well.” Svekis, an Oregon freshman, is also an all-around player; not only is she steady behind the plate, she leads the team in hitting with a .536 average, two homers and 13 RBI’s. “Best of all,” Luis says, “she’s tough.” Catchers have to be tough. Luis knows tough, he took a John McWilliams‘ hardball to the cup, stood up and walked four steps toward the dugout before falling over. That’s tough.
Svekis, who played her high school ball at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Davie, Florida possesses the prototypical size for a college catcher, standing 5’9″ and weighing 180 lbs. A big woman, but if you check out her film, you’ll see it’s all lean muscle. She’s a wonder woman in disguise; the No. 16 recruit in the nation last year, she had a 4.6 GPA in high school and so far this year is playing errorless ball, an almost impossible task for someone behind the plate.
Playing ball is in her blood. At age nine, her father took her to see the Marlins play the Orioles in spring training in Fort Lauderdale and she got to meet the Marlin’s great first baseman, Miguel Cabrera. She described the encounter in an interview with the Fort Lauderdale magazine:
“It was a chance to see the Marlins up close. If you came early, you could watch the players come in through the parking lot before the game. We were there and here comes Miguel Cabrera. He came up and put his arm around me. It was magical . . . “
Someday, Svekis may repay the favor to some up and coming baller; but for this year her goal is clear: if the Ducks are to reach the WCWS again and compete for a national title, they’ll need her to be at the top of her game, hit well, play errorless ball and be that player that centers the team, and as Luis says, “play tough, be tough, be a winner.”
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Raised in the Central Oregon mill town of Prineville beneath deep blue skies and rim rock, I attended the University of Oregon and during my collegiate summers, I worked in a lumber mill and also fought range fires on the Oregon High Desert for the Bureau of Land Management. After graduating from college at the University of Oregon, I swung from being budding hippy to cop work. I’m still wondering about how that came about. I was a police officer with the Port of Portland and after leaving police work, I obtained an MFA degree in Creative Writing from Vermont College. I live in Portland, Oregon with my wife, my daughter and a spunky bichon frise named Pumpkin. I’ve had short stories publishing in two Main Street Press anthologies. Harkness is my first novel.
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