Out of left field: Dare leads on and off diamondBy Kelly Ward | 03/24/2016 9:27am
When she was young, Chandler Dare broke her thumb, forcing her to learn to bat left-handed. CW | Layton Dudley
It’s not unusual to find Chandler Dare at Rhoads Stadium taking ground balls in the infield when the team’s not there or spending time in the batting cages attached to the clubhouse before practice starts.
“We always taught at an early age that if you want to be successful at something, you have to work, you have to put in the time to get better at it,” her father Austin Dare said. “Talent only takes you so far, so you have to be willing to put in the time to work. She does that.”
She did that this past summer, when she and her dad went and worked on her defense and hitting. One day, Alabama softball head coach Patrick Murphy went to get something from his office at Rhoads, when he nearly ran into Chandler and Austin on his way out.
They were on their way from the field to the cage to hit for an hour or so.
“It shows a lot to her teammates that she’s going to pay the price,” Murphy said. “She’s going to be another one of those kids we’ve had that when she’s done, she’s going to look at herself in the mirror and say, ‘I did everything I could to get everything out of my body,’ and that’s what you hope for as a coach.”
But that’s typical Chandler.
She's been playing T-ball, baseball and softball since she could pick up a bat. Unlike many left-handed hitters who throw right-handed, she didn’t switch to the left side by choice, but rather by circumstance.
When she was young, she broke her left thumb falling off a play castle.
She broke her thumb –
“And found out I was left-handed,” she said.
In order to still play T-ball, she learned to bat left-handed. It turned out she was better from the left side.
Now, she’s a threat from the left. In high school, she set three of the top four records for single-season batting average in Alabama. She owns the state record for career batting average (.669). The next closest on the list is teammate Haylie McCleney who hit .587.
In college, she faced an adjustment. As a freshman, she wasn’t an everyday player. While she played in 52 games, she only started six and put together 24 at-bats. She hit .333 with a triple.
Last year as a sophomore, she started 39 of the 59 games she played. She had 100 more at-bats than her freshman year and hit .347, including two clutch hits against Oregon in the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.
The difference, Chandler said, was taking the experience in and having fun with it.
“Just play like a kid, like give it all you’ve got every single time,” she said. “You know, go in there with just a fun attitude, a happy attitude, kind of like you don’t have a care in the world, just you’re having fun playing what you love to play.”
This year, she’s hitting .408 with 76 at-bats in 30 games. She’s started 27 of those. She also leads the team in stolen bases with 11 on 11 attempts.
In the field, she can play anywhere she needs to. She can play anywhere in the outfield and three positions in the infield.
“She’s just one of the most athletic kids I think I’ve ever been around,” McCleney said. “She’s a great utility player, she’s got a cannon of an arm, and she gets it. She works her butt off every day. She’s in here hitting balls before practice. She’ll stay after if she needs to. She’s all about the work.”
Beyond moving around in the lineup, she’s moved on the field too due to necessity. With sophomore infielder Demi Turner out with a dislocated elbow, Chandler has taken her spot in the lineup (two-hole) and started at second base six of the seven games since.
When she isn’t roaming the outfield or playing on the dirt infield, the junior is preparing to graduate a year early. She has already been accepted into Alabama’s graduate program for sports business management.
It’s all in line with her ability to put the work in to get what she wants out of something. She’s a public relations major, computer science minor, who will go into sports management with a focus in marketing in grad school.
All the while, she’s working for Google.
She’s a student ambassador, which includes learning about the company’s products and helping Google understand each campus and its culture.
“She’s got her life together,” McCleney said. “She’s going to go far in life. Softball is just a little baby part of who she is, and she’s very good at it, and she’s very successful, but off the field, she’s exactly who you want to be like.”