It behooves Eckerd College softball coach Josh Beauregard to find out everything he can about recruits, but one thing he didn't know about shortstop Emma Docking is that she worked out with the Ipswich High football team last summer.
Docking wasn't trying to rock the boat or anything of the sort. She just thought of it as a valuable step in preparing for the softball season.
"She did what?" Beauregard, the rookie coach at Division 2 Eckerd in St. Petersburg, Fla. said when he heard about Docking's football connection. "I wasn't aware of that. I'll have to (jot) that down."
The kid that Ipswich softball coach Doug Woodworth calls "the most focused player I've ever had" will indeed be playing for the Eckerd College Tritons next season.
Docking will be coming off an outstanding senior season in which she hit .459 with 16 RBI and eight stolen bases and was an exemplary leader for Ipswich, which set a school record for wins (19) and reached the Division 3 North semifinals. Docking took it up a notch in the state tourney, too, batting .500 (5 for 10).
Beauregard, 27, who is originally from Swanzey, N.H., is committed to a brick-by-brick building of the Eckerd program, which suffered through an 8-47 record this past season. If that seems like a hopeless cause, consider that Eckerd had the second hardest schedule in the South Region, which consists of three conference. Six of the nine teams in the Sunshine State Conference, which Eckerd plays in, were ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation in Division 2 and one of those schools, Barry University, was ranked No. 1 in the country.
Eckerd doesn't have the athletic scholarship resources of some schools, but Docking is such a great student that most of her financial needs will be taken care of through academic scholarships. The bigger question for her, at least initially, was whether she could make the leap to Division 2 college softball.
"I had a little doubt about whether I could play in Division 2, but I've been told by different coaches that I can do it," said Docking, 18, a slap hitter who provides quickness on the bases. Defensively, she has excellent range and a strong arm. Overall, she is known as an intelligent player.
"Coach Beauregard saw a video of me and he thinks I could possibly start," said Docking, who was born in Chertsey, England and moved with her family to Ipswich at age 10. "I can't worry about that yet. I just want to be in good shape when I get there and make a good first impression."
That first impression was supposed to be made last January when Docking was set to play in the Rising Stars Tournament in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., an event that draws more than 250 softball teams and many college coaches. Docking rapped a triple in her only at bat before she took a bad hop grounder in the eye during an individual workout.
Playing with stitches wouldn't have been a problem for Docking, but she couldn't see and had to shut it down for the duration of the tournament. The lack of exposure could've hurt her chances to end up at Eckerd, but Docking's coach with the Concord Raiders Junior Olympic team, Lisa McGloin, was a major advocate. McGloin sought out Beauregard and essentially told him Docking was the kind of player and person he needed to help rebuild the program.
"The coach (McGloin) hunted me down and just told me how great Emma was, so I went back to the video I had of her," said Beauregard, a former Eckerd College baseball player who was drafted by the Oakland A's in 2003. "Overall, I'm most impressed with Emma's dedication and heart. I see it as a win-win situation for everybody involved.
"We have open spots everywhere," continued Beauregard. "We had only 12 kids on our roster this past season and we're losing five, so we're looking at the equivalent of a whole new team. We want to change the mindset around here and we're looking for girls who are willing to go the extra mile. We want kids with a lot of character that we can build around. I told Emma that I can guarantee her a spot on the team, but I don't guarantee a starting position. Kids have to do that on their own."
Docking wouldn't want it any other way, and the prospect of playing for a team that went 8-47 doesn't faze her at all. She realizes the Tritons won't turn it around overnight. It's a process.
"I feel that even by losing games, you're getting something out of it," said Docking. "Coach wants to build a roster. He wants to have a base for what he wants to do (in the future). I won't get discouraged."
She wasn't shy when it came to working out with the Ipswich football team last summer. Watching Docking play in the state softball tourney recently, Ipswich head football coach Ted Flaherty raved about her work habits and performance in a football atmosphere.
"She was unbelievable," said Flaherty. "Emma was really serious about the whole thing and she got a lot out of it. We'd start at 5:30 (p.m.) each day and if she thought it was 5:31, she'd say, 'Coach, I'm sorry for being late.'"
Docking never felt uncomfortable as the only girl going through the preseason football routine. Part of it was that the boys made it a welcoming environment. Part of it was that Docking was going to do what she needed to do.
"The guys were nice. They weren't stuck up. But even if they thought it was awkward, I didn't care because I had to have those workouts," Docking said with a laugh.