Mastering Sports Was Child's Play for Hildebrandt

TIMES STAFF WRITER

There's a good reason Chrissy Hildebrandt of Rio Mesa High stuck with softball after playing a variety of other youth sports.

"The very first time I played softball, I hit a home run," Hildebrandt said. "So I thought, 'I need to play this sport.' "

That was six years ago. Hildebrandt's success and dedication to the game hasn't waned.

As a four-year starter at Rio Mesa, the switch-hitting Hildebrandt batted .349 and drove in 52 runs.

Not bad for someone who spent her formative years kicking a soccer ball, shooting baskets and bumping a volleyball.

"I have a very athletic family," she said. "I can't play just one sport."

Hildebrandt, who will play for the West in the San Fernando Valley All-Star game at 4 p.m. Monday at Glendale Sports Complex, has never been one to put all her balls in one basket.

She earned 10 varsity letters in four sports and was recently awarded the $250 Spartan Pride scholarship from the Rio Mesa booster club.

As if she wasn't busy enough, Hildebrandt also was active in school social events and off-campus endeavors. She was named homecoming queen, worked two jobs and helped out at home looking after two younger siblings.

She will graduate next week with a 3.8 grade-point average.

"She represents Rio Mesa so well," softball Coach John Velasquez said. "She knows her priorities. A lot of things kids take for granted, she hasn't. She's had to grow up quickly."

Hildebrandt, who will attend San Francisco State on a softball scholarship, is a quick study.

After starting in center field as a freshman, Hildebrandt was asked as a sophomore to fill the void at third base left by Rhianna Rogers, among Rio Mesa's all-time best players.

"That was the hardest thing," Hildebrandt said. "OK, nobody knows me and I'm going to try my hardest . . . to make a name for [myself]."

Catcher is her true position, but Hildebrandt was needed most at third, playing there for three seasons.

"We built our defense around [Hildebrandt] and fielding the ball first," Velasquez said.

The plan worked perfectly. This season, Hildebrandt went without an error in 61 chances.

Her maturity and ability to follow directions made coaching easy for Velasquez.

As a junior, Hildebrandt was asked to utilize her speed, which is deceiving for the solidly built 5-foot-8 athlete. She responded with 27 stolen bases.

"The next thing you know, she's one of the top base stealers in the county," Velasquez said.

As a cleanup hitter, she led the Spartans with 17 runs batted in as a junior.

But Hildebrandt was moved to the No. 2 spot this season because of her speed and ability to get on base.

She responded by batting a team-best .378 and helping Rio Mesa win its first Pacific View League title.

"She's blue-collar to the bone," Velasquez said. "She works hard . . . and she doesn't give up."

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BY THE NUMBERS

A look at the statistics Chrissy Hildebrandt posted at Rio Mesa High:

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Year AB R H RBI AVG 2001 74 12 28 11 .378 2000 89 19 33 17 .371 1999 82 14 29 11 .354 1998 73 13 21 13 .287 Total 318 58 111 52 .349

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