It doesn’t matter that Kristi DiMarco has proven herself to be among the region’s best high school softball players the last three years.
It doesn’t matter that DiMarco has the type of academic background that might have gained her entrance into a prestigious university.
In the world of college softball, what matters is exposure. And DiMarco, who starred at Palmdale High, had next to none.
“I tried so hard in high school and did pretty well,” said DiMarco, an All-Southern Section Division I selection.
“And it didn’t get me anywhere.”
While many of the region’s best graduated athletes pack their bags and head off to college on scholarships over the next few weeks, DiMarco is staying put.
The valedictorian of Palmdale’s senior class of 550 and a Times’ All-Valley choice the last three years is going to . . . Antelope Valley College.
“It’s frustrating, but what can you do?” DiMarco said. “I can’t dwell on it. It’s partially my fault.”
DiMarco, a center fielder who on several occasions threw out runners at first base, clearly has been overlooked by Division I coaches.
A career .414 hitter with 125 stolen bases in four varsity seasons, DiMarco never played softball for an Amateur Softball Assn. affiliated club team during the summer.
College coaches attend ASA national tournaments en masse during the summer, tracking athletes from age 12 through 18, looking for their next recruits. As many as 300 coaches reportedly attended 16- and 18-and-under tournaments in Aurora, Colo., in June.
DiMarco learned the hard way that no matter how stellar your high school career, travel ball is where athletes get recognized.
“I really had faith in the high school program,” DiMarco said. “I didn’t realize how important [playing for an ASA team] was. I didn’t know any better.”
Instead, DiMarco, who also played four years of varsity volleyball, has been playing in the Antelope Valley Little and Big leagues for the last eight summers since age 10. She liked playing for the local softball organization and being able to attend summer volleyball workouts for the upcoming fall season.
“And it would be too hard to go down to the [San Fernando] Valley for [softball] practice and games and stuff,” she said.
In 1996, DiMarco led the Antelope Valley Big League All-Stars to a world championship title in the Big League World Series in Kalamazoo, Mich.
Still, most college coaches pay little attention to associations other than the ASA. Why would a college coach travel to a small tournament to see one or two potential players when at an ASA tournament there might be several dozen possible prospects?
Unable to generate any interest with her superior play in high school, DiMarco took her future into her hands. But even she admits, she waited too long to take the initiative.
In late April, upon hearing that Cal State Northridge was looking for outfielders, she contacted Matador Coach Janet Sherman.
Sherman came out to watch DiMarco a couple of times and asked DiMarco to consider walking on at Northridge.
Turned down, DiMarco said Sherman upped the ante slightly by offering to pay tuition.
But after DiMarco and her father sat down and assessed their financial situation, they realized in-state tuition at a Cal State school didn’t amount to much.
“By the time we paid for housing and books, it was still going to be boo-koo bucks,” DiMarco said.
So, DiMarco, a right-handed leadoff batter who blazes down to first base faster than most left-handed slap hitters, will try to generate some interest again at the junior college level.
“Actually, I didn’t have that many options,” she said.
Still, asked if she would join an ASA team during the summer if she had to do it over again, DiMarco balked.
“I don’t think I would have traded volleyball to play on a travel team,” she said. “I really enjoyed [volleyball].”
Although disappointed by the lack of interest from coaches, DiMarco refuses to pout.
“We’ll see what happens after a year,” she said.
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Kristi DiMarco’s Career Numbers
Yr. Avg. AB R H 2B HR RBI SB ’95 .455 66 20 30 3 3 18 26 ’96 .405 79 24 32 3 1 14 31 ’97 .378 90 29 34 5 2 14 32 ’98 .427 89 23 38 5 3 21 36 .414 324 96 134 16 9 67 125