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May 17, 2018 - Image 11

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Jesse Franklin’s incredible freshman turnaround

For the most part, John Morning-
star knew what was about to happen.
The softball coach was sitting in a suite
at a Toledo Mud Hens minor league
baseball game with some friends
and co-workers watching the Detroit
Tigers on a TV at the back of the suite.
Detroit was batting with less than
two outs and a runner on first, so he
figured that the Tigers would try and
advance the man on base somehow.
The niece of one of his coaching part-
ners, a bright-eyed tween softball
pitcher, suggested that it was a bunting
situation.
Plop. Indeed, it was a bunt. The
Tigers advanced a runner. As the game
progressed, the two continued to dis-
cuss the intricacies of baseball, and
Morningstar became more and more
astounded at the child’s innate knowl-
edge of the game.
“I’m sitting here, talking to a 12-year
old girl about advanced strategy in a
baseball game like I would talk to an
adult that played the game all of their
life,” Morningstar thought to himself.
“Wow.”
That girl wasn’t the only truly pro-
phetic one sitting in the box at Fifth
Third Field. It would be years before
the girl standing next to him would
lead the nation in victories as a col-
lege freshman, compile a 32-3 record
with 0.90 earned run average and be
a successful engineering student, but
Morningstar knew that very day: he
was in the presence of a star.Her name
was Meghan Beaubien.
****
The moment Beaubien stepped
onto the sprawling green lawns of
Saint Mary’s Catholic Central High
School in Monroe, Mich., she already
had a plan. She was determined to take
the hardest possible classes and be the
valedictorian. Hardly surprising for
someone who scored a 29 on her ACT
— as an eighth grader.
As if that weren’t enough, she was
determined to play softball at Michi-
gan. Beaubien went to Michigan soft-
ball games many times during her
childhood, and she sat in awe of the
atmosphere there each time she went.
The summer before her freshman
year of high school, Beaubien was
already neck deep in the recruiting
process. Even though she had been
pitching since she was seven years
old and paired that experience with a
longstanding, acute knowledge of the
game, the possibility of high-level soft-
ball as a future for Beaubien became
closer and closer to becoming a reality.

Even though Beaubien had been to
different college softball camps like
Michigan State’s, Tennessee’s softball
camp was a watershed moment for
the left hander. No conference in all
of college softball was as strong as the
Southeastern Conference was.
She rose to the moment and clocked
in at 65 miles per hour fastball on the
radar gun. Tennessee co-head coaches
and NFCA Hall of Famers Karen and
Ralph Weekly were impressed and
congratulated Beaubien.
“Wow this is a big SEC school,”
Beaubien thought. “And if that coach is
impressed by what I did, I can impress
other coaches as well.”
Beaubien thanked the two coaches,
but the Weeklys knew they wouldn’t
have much of a chance with the Michi-
gan native.
“Look,” Ralph Weekly said, accord-
ing to Beaubien. “Call us if [Michigan
coach Carol Hutchins] passes on you,
but we don’t think she will.”
From that point on, Beaubien —
who ended up being ranked as the No.
6 recruit in the Country by FloSoftball.
com in 2017 — was a hot commodity.
Though she didn’t hear back from the
Volunteers, she racked up offers from
Ohio State, Northwestern, Michigan
State and two SEC schools. But Michi-
gan remained her preference.
The prospect of being a Wolverine
seemed almost too good to be true.
Beaubien lived less than an hour away
from Ann Arbor, had attended games
at Michigan’s Alumni Field in the past
and was well on her way to becom-
ing a strong enough student to attend
the school, with or without athletics.
Hutchins and assistant coach Jennifer
Brundage attended a few of Beaubien’s
games at St. Mary Catholic Central her
freshman year and remained in close
contact with the left-hander knowing
her interest in playing for Michigan.
The coach invited Beaubien —
like she did with many recruits — to
watch Michigan football play Ohio
State. While at first Beaubien assumed
that this was just another step in the
recruiting machine for Michigan,
Hutchins’ words over the phone stuck
out:
“When you’re there, I want to talk
about your future,” Hutchins said. “At
Michigan.”
Beaubien’s heart jumped out of
her chest. She basically had one part
of her three-part plan in the bag. Yet,
when Hutchins pulled her into the
tunnel at Michigan Stadium during
halftime of the game and extended her
an offer, Beaubien didn’t accept the it
right away. Like any smart player, she
needed time to think about and comb

through her options.
No matter where Beaubien visited
after that, though, it always came back
to Michigan.
Was this school as academically
renowned as Michigan?
Even if it was, how good is the soft-
ball program compared to Michigan’s?
Was this school the right fit?
Sure, it might’ve been easy to accept
the offer from her dream school imme-
diately, but Beaubien took time to look
at every opportunity in front of her.
About a month after the original offer,
all it took was one hour of meetings
with Hutchins and the coaching staff
to discuss academics and finances to
make Beaubien a Wolverine.
But that was just one goal to check
off her list. With three years of high
school left, Beaubien had more accom-
plishments in mind. As a sophomore,
Beaubien led SMCC to its first of three
consecutive Michigan state champi-
onships. She never allowed a run in
any of her championship appearances
— and even threw a perfect game as a
junior. All three years, she was named
Michigan Gatorade Player of the Year.
As much as she was on top of the
softball world, though, Beaubien
still had yet to quench her academic
desires. She originally wanted to take
an Honors Anatomy and Physiol-
ogy class, but didn’t have room in her
normal schedule to take it with all the
other Honors and Advanced Place-
ment classes already on deck. Rather
than just dropping the class, Beaubien
opted to take it as an independent
study.
“She is a student that does not just
settle for the average or norm,” said
Beaubien’s Honors Anatomy and
Physiology teacher Scott Hoffmann.
“She wants to know all the details and
inter-workings that go with finding a
solution or answer to a problem. She
took pride in going above and beyond
and when she had setbacks, which
were few, she took it as a personal chal-
lenge to do better.”
After seeing Beaubien thrive in
the class and find success in calculus,
chemistry and biology, Hoffmann
pulled Beaubien aside one day and
implored her to explore biomedical
engineering. The combination of math
and human anatomy piqued her inter-
est, and Michigan happened to have a
top-ranked program in that depart-
ment.
It’s not hard to see where some
of those smarts and determination
comes from. Beaubien’s dad, Jason,
was a softball coach in his own right,
while her mom, Kim, was a former
soccer player at Boston College. Jason,

in fact, coached Beaubien for much of
her early softball career and spent time
coaching with Morningstar as well.
The father-daughter duo worked
together through Beaubien’s fresh-
man year at St. Mary Catholic Central.
At that point, however, Jason realized
that maybe, Beaubien didn’t need him
anymore as a coach — he was coaching
to spend time with her rather than to
actually guide her softball journey.
“From that point on, I had to be a
supportive parent,” Jason said. “At the
time it was hard, but looking back on it
it was a great decision…I still was close
to her, but I was never on the staff any-
more. But obviously, it worked out.”
That didn’t mean that Jason or Kim
were not part of Beaubien’s athletic
life by any means — in fact, quite the
opposite. Every Sunday, the Beaubien
family would drive Meghan back and
forth from their home in Newport to
Chicago so she could practice with her
travel team, the Beverly Bandits. Jason
estimated that going to Chicago cost
the family about 10 hours in travel time
per weekend — and that doesn’t even
include cross-country trips to tourna-
ments.
To whom much is given, though,
much is expected. In those car rides
across the Michigan countryside,
Beaubien never put her feet up on the
seat and played on her phone. She did
two things and two things only in the
back seat of her dad’s car: sleep, or man-
age the mountains of science and math
coursework she was assigned. On
some school nights, Beaubien would
stay up all night doing homework, even
after long practices or games.
Coaches, teammates and others
who know Beaubien are quick to talk
about that kind of determination, her
aforementioned brand of competitive-
ness and unmatched intellect. What
they’re also eager to talk about, though,
is the side of Meghan that the average
fan might not see from far away in the
stands, or a school acquaintance might
see passing her by in the hallway.
In one of her first trips with the
Bandits, Beaubien and a group of 14Us
traveled to California for a showcase.
Before the first game, Bandits head
coach Bill Conroy and the players
met for breakfast. He noticed that
most of the players were in uniform,
or pre-game clothes, per usual. Beau-
bien, however, showed up in the hotel’s
bathrobe, donning a shower cap on her
head like it was a crown. While some
of her teammates laughed at her outfit,
the pitcher sat down, ate her breakfast
and went through the meetings like
nothing was wrong.
“She was not embarrassed or gun

shy at all about coming down less than
her stellar self,” Conroy said. “I thought
she could laugh at herself, and she has a
unique personality that I thought was
a good mix of being really competitive,
really smart but also being able to have
fun.”
It didn’t take long for Beaubien
to prove Conroy right in all three of
those phases. Beaubien pitched well
for the Bandits, who despite playing
up multiple levels to 18Us, beat the 18U
defending national champions from
Southern California in the last game of
the showcase.
At the end of games, Conroy usually
talks to each one of his players and tells
each one what she did well during the
game and where she might improve.
For players like Beaubien, that usually
amounted to a good amount of praise,
with a few adjustments for the future.
As he went down the lineup after
the victory, Conroy got to one of the
Bandits’ first basemen and paused.
He had nothing good to say about her
— she got multiple people thrown out
because she didn’t protect them and
missed a bunch of signs. Before Conroy
could say anything, though, he heard a
familiar voice.
“Xio!” Beaubien exclaimed. “You’re
so beautiful!”
The whole locker room erupted
in laughter. Conroy chose not to offer
any criticism of the player because
Beaubien’s humor served that purpose
without hurting her feelings. On the
surface, Beaubien’s comment might
just seem like a joke, but her quick
thinking showed Conroy that Beau-
bien was ready more to go far — in the
softball world and as a student.
“When you have academics and
athletic ability and you understand
how to be a good teammate from not
just a physical standpoint but a mental
and emotional aspect as well, those
are the three aspects that I look at as a
coach to determine what kind of ath-
lete you’re dealing with,” Conroy said.
Indeed Beaubien had, and still
has, all those traits. Looking back
at all those years of hard work from
Conroy’s criteria, Beaubien reached
perfection. Not only was she able to
maintain a fine balance between her
pitching life and taking the hardest
classes at her school, but Beaubien did
in fact successfully check off her goal
of becoming valedictorian and pitch at
Michigan.
Maybe it was destiny. Maybe Beau-
bien knew from day one that she would
reach those goals. Maybe her family
and coaches did too. One thing is for
certain — Beaubien, just like she did in
that Mud Hens suite, called her shot.

RIAN RATNAVALE
Daily Sports Writer

11

Thursday, May 17, 2018
The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com SPORTS

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