When Kevin Willis heard that Alexandria Chmura was looking for a place to play college softball, he wanted to make sure she ended up at Alpena Community College.
After all, it's not every day that a small-town college softball team gets the opportunity to add an all-state pitcher to its roster and ACC's assistant softball coach made sure he got the chance to sign her before anyone else did.
Chmura, a high school senior who recently moved back to Michigan from Fairbanks, Alaska, made her choice official on Thursday when she signed a letter of intent to play softball with the Lumberjacks beginning in the 2012-13 season.
News Photo by James Andersen
Pitcher Alexandria Chmura, center, signs her letter of intent to play softball for Alpena Community College at Park Arena on Thursday. Chmura, a high school senior, will play for Arenac Eastern this spring and join the Lumberjacks for the 2012-13 season. Pictured with Chmura is ACC assistant coach Kevin Willis, left, and her mother Dawneen Chmura.
"I'm ecstatic. I can't wait. It's something I've always dreamed about; just to accomplish something I've dreamed about since I was little," Chmura said. "This will be my 15th year playing ball, so finally being able to accomplish that dream and take that next step and being signed is just amazing to me."
As a sophomore, Chmura earned all-state honors playing for Lathrop High School in Fairbanks and helped the Malemutes to a 20-3 record and a second-place finish in the Mid-Alaska Conference. She was one of two Lathrop players named to the Railbelt All-Conference team last season.
Last summer, Chmura pitched with the Alaska North Stars 16U team and won three games at the North American Fastpitch Association Western Nationals in August.
Chmura will play for Arenac Eastern this spring in her last semester of high school and then bring her talents to Alpena where the Lumberjacks will be anxious to add her skills as a versatile player. Chmura primarily will be a pitcher, but possesses the skill to play any position on the field.
"She's got unlimited potential. She's real raw, but very coachable," Willis said. "She's pretty versatile. She plays infield, outfield and is fast and strong."
Chmura's mother Dawneen initially contacted ACC, inquiring about the school's nursing program where Chumura is hoping to pursue studying next fall. When that happened, Mike Kollien, ACC's admissions director, contacted Willis alerting him to the fact Chmura was looking for a place to play softball.
"Mike Kollien got ahold of me and said 'hey this girl plays softball, she's from Alaska, just moved back to Michigan.'" Willis said. "It's been her dream to play college softball so I called her up and had her come up for a tryout."
After coming to Alpena for a tryout a few weeks ago, Chmura was impressed with the coaching style of Willis and head coach Pat Anderson and the camaraderie she saw amongst members of the team. She'll be part of a recruiting class that includes former Alpena High pitcher Cassandra Shaw, Rapid River's Ashleigh Monticello and Sault Ste. Marie's Katie Wollan.
"It's a smaller team so everybody plays everywhere which is what I like," Chmura said. "Also the coach is really particular on small items that you have to really watch whether that be your footing (or) how you throw. They break it down into really small steps and they push you to go farther."
Coming to play softball in Michigan will be quite a change for Chmura, who's used to a shorter softball season in Alaska and said before Lathrop's first games last season the softball fields had to be shoveled before play could begin.
But she's looking forward to coming back to the state she grew up in to fulfill her lifelong dream.
I grew up here so it's like coming back to where I started," Chmura said. "I look at it as another chapter in my life. It's been a dream every since I was little and I've worked hard for it."