Story and photos by Kurt Johnson
March 17, 2015 could have been a tragic day for the Allman family and the Provo High softball team which has been such an integral part of their lives. Instead, Kacie and Shane Allman have turned a difficult situation and found positive results.
Shane, currently in his first year as the head coach of the Bulldogs, was an assistant there a year ago when his youngest daughter was involved in a serious on-field incident. Kacie was playing shortstop for Provo and, in going back to catch a short fly ball, she collided with the incoming left fielder.
“I remember going back for a ball and I remember hitting with her and just screaming,” Kacie said. “I don’t remember anything after that. I remember bits and pieces in the hospital, not much though because I was on a lot of stuff. Really I don’t remember anything after I hit with her. I’ve never collided with a girl before, until that point.”
For her father and for her older sister, Emily, who was pitching that day, it was an obviously difficult situation.
“It happened maybe 30 feet in front of me,” Shane said. “I saw the collision. I’ve seen worse collisions, but I could just tell by her expression on her face when she looked at me that it was serious. I just ran out there and she said she couldn’t feel her legs and she couldn’t move.
“The first thing I thought was a back injury, she was holding her back. So, I was really nervous about that. All the way up until the doctors did an exam on her, I was still thinking it was a back injury. The way they put her on the gurney and rushed her to the emergency room, I was nervous that she was paralyzed because you hear these horror stories about things.”
The softball field at Provo High is right across the street from Utah Valley Medical Center so emergency response was quick. It wasn’t until a thorough examination that they knew the nature of the injury – a lacerated kidney. After nearly two weeks in the intensive care unit at the hospital, Kacie began the long, slow recovery process.
“Luckily, it turned out to be a kidney and she also had a punctured stomach along with that,” Shane said. “With the combination of the two, I was just nervous and she was in the ICU for 12 days. The whole time, as a father, I was very concerned.”
The Allman Sisters
Kacie is the third and final Allman sister to suit up for the Bulldogs during the time Shane has been on the school’s coaching staff. She played her freshman year alongside her senior sister Taylor, and Emily, who was a sophomore at the time.
That 2013 team was the high point of the Provo High softball renaissance. That team finished 21-9 and third at the Class 4A state tournament. The three years since have been a roller-coaster ride for Kacie and Shane, with that 2015 season as the midpoint of that struggle.
“We were playing pretty good in that game (against Wasatch), and then that (the injury) happened and the whole team just kind of fell apart,” Shane said. “The other thing is her sister, Emily, is pitching. Emily and Kacie are really close. When Kacie was rushed to the hospital and Emily had to continue pitching, Emily fell apart. It was just an awful game from then on out. We got beat pretty good that game. The rest of the season, we got beat up pretty good.”
Coming off of that, Kacie was determined that she would be back for the 2016 season, ready to finish what her sisters had started. The three are bound to each other and to their father by their experiences on the softball field.
“I don’t think I’d be as close as I am with them now without softball,” Kacie said. “Me and my dad have the best relationship, and I think it’s because of softball, just because we spend so much time together. We’re always with each other. I don’t know how to explain it. With my sisters, playing softball with them is completely different. I never really fought with them, but it made us closer together. During softball season, we were unstoppable, always with each other, pretty much read each other’s minds.”
The Allman sisters have pushed each other, supported each other and challenged each other, and all three have succeeded at a high level. After spending a year at Snow College, Taylor sat out the 2015 season in the midst of a transfer to Dawson Community College in Glendive, Montana, where she was reunited with Emily for the 2016 season.
Taylor’s sophomore year at Dawson earned her conference pitching MVP honors for a season when she had a 13-4 record with a 2.13 ERA and 133 strikeouts in 138 innings pitched. She was also a force in the batter’s box with a .389 average and 23 RBI. She will move on to Division II Nebraska-Kearney next season to finish out her college career.
Emily was one of the top freshman performers at the community college level this past season. She hit .404 with 13 doubles and 38 RBI for Dawson. Kacie says that Emily may opt to join her next season at USU Eastern in Price, where softball competition will return for the 2017 season.
Father and Coach
“I took my kids when I played and between games I’d pitch to them, and then when Taylor started playing, Kacie was right there, so when I pitched to Taylor I had to pitch to Emily and Kacie,” Shane said. “She’s (Kacie) actually played more ball than both of her sisters. She and her sisters work hard and their success is because of that.”
As if his full-time job as a graphic designer and all of the time he spends coaching everyone else’s daughters on the diamond were not enough, Shane has had the privilege of being worked to exhaustion while raising three talented softball players.
“To be honest with you, they’ve worn me out,” Shane said. “There’s times I just want to come home and eat, and it’s, ‘Just a few more pitches.’ Kacie for sure, every practice she stays after. This year is no different than her freshman year. She’s been consistent and she’s always putting in extra work. People see her after practice, but they don’t see her on the weekends and at night.
“The other thing is I’ve never asked them to stay after to put extra time in, they’re always the ones who’ve asked me to stick around. Luckily for my sake, they’ve performed and earned their spot and earned the respect. I tell them you don’t demand respect, you earn it and my girls have definitely earned the respect of parents and teammates.”
Kidney injury aside, being the last of the Allman sisters to put on the Provo uniform has made this senior campaign an interesting one for Kacie and for her father.
“It’s hard just because I have a lot to live up to,” Kacie said. “My sisters set the bar pretty high. It’s hard. I think that’s one thing that makes we want to become better is that bar that they set. I miss them a ton, though. I wish I could play more with them.”
Shane considers it a major blessing to have coached his daughters, not just on the high school team but on all kinds of competitive teams over the years. Having it come to an end is bittersweet for him.
“I’ve been very, very fortunate to be able to coach my kids because I’m with them more than anybody because we’ve played so much softball,” Shane said. “Because of that, me and my daughters are very close. We have a good, tight relationship and the good thing too is I can be critical of them, and they know I’m critical because I love them and want them to succeed. It’s not to be mean or critical. It’s brought us closer together.
“Now that Kacie’s the last one, on to bigger and better things. I get to watch them play college now and I can just sit back and watch. On senior night, Kacie and I got pretty emotional. After the game, she gave me a hug and told me she loved me and how much she appreciated me and I just told her it’s been a pleasure to do this with her. We got pretty teary-eyed and emotional about it. I love it. I love being able to be around them. I can’t imagine not being involved in it in some way.”
Kacie’s Long Road Back
After the kidney injury a little over a year ago, there were suggestions by some of the medical people that Kacie should sit out even through this high school season. For her, there was never a doubt but that she would play her senior year.
“Softball’s my life. My family does it, I love it,” Kacie said. “The hardest thing through that whole process, was watching my team play without me. It was just hard, so I can’t do this for another whole year and just quit. I never thought once that I would quit from the time that happened.
“There was not a doubt in my mind. When I first got hurt, they were saying you can’t play next year. You’re going to be out for a year and a half, maybe, and I was like, oh really, because I’m playing next year. There’s no way I’m sitting out. I didn’t really focus on the year limit, I just focused on getting better as soon as I could, so I could play again.”
The first few months after the injury were particularly hard for Kacie. The rehab was difficult and the hardest part was being away from the game she loves.
“It was awful. It was so hard just sitting there watching my team,” Kacie said. “I couldn’t do much, couldn’t do any jumping, couldn’t work out. I couldn’t play softball for a while, it was awful. After a couple of months, I could start doing little things. They just said the best thing is biking and swimming, so I did try that. It’s really, really hard just because I get exhausted really easily.”
Kacie still remembers the first time she took the field, although she wasn’t really supposed to be out there.
“I wasn’t supposed to play,” Kacie said. “It was during fall ball and we didn’t have enough players so I just stood at first, couldn’t move, didn’t hit. We didn’t have enough players so they just put me on the field where you don’t move at all. It was scary and I got really tired really easily. I only played for one game, just because my dad said, ‘That’s enough,’ because I wasn’t really supposed to.”
Her official return to the field came for this high school season, and while she has had amazing success, it has not been without lingering issues.
“At the beginning of the season, it was really bad,” Kacie said. “I would have to sit out multiple games at a time and then…I try not to think about it too much because then it gets to me, but I’m slowly getting better. It still hurts every once in a while, and when it does hurt, it hurts bad, but I try not to think about it because I know if I do, I’ll sit out and I don’t want to sit out my senior year.”
“They say her kidney could do one of two things,” Shane said. “It’s marbled with scar tissue and it can react in one of two ways, it can either act as a shield for that kidney and she can endure a lot of things or it can just be really fragile. Sorry to say, I think it’s gone to the fragile part because after every game or practice, she struggles with inflammation. You can actually run your hand across her back and you can feel the swollen kidney. She has some really rough days even now and it’s been a year. She’s the toughest girl I know.”
Kacie has learned a lot of things through this experience, but moderation and patience are at the top of the list.
“It gets really swollen really easily,” she said. “It’s like a huge ball off my side when it does get swollen when I work out too much, if I play softball too much. When that gets pretty bad I have to sit out during practice sometimes. When we went to St. George in the beginning of the year, I sat out two games. Whenever it gets really bad I can’t do anything about it. The doctor said I’ll never be 100 percent ever again, but I’m hoping gradually it will get better and just forget about and it won’t be as bad as it has been.”
It’s likely that Kacie’s desire to be on the field with her team for this senior season has led her to do too much at times.
“I went in a few times because I had an infection and they told me, ‘You can’t do anything, you’re moving too much,'” Kacie said. “I would try to sneak a workout in my room when I locked my door. There were some times when I did move too much and they said, ‘You have to take it slow.’ They said when it gets really bad, just come in. I had to get a CAT scan a month ago just because it got really bad. It’s just shaped differently, so it acts different and I’m not used to it.”
Being father and coach simultaneously puts Shane in an interesting position when it comes to monitoring Kacie’s playing time and the amount of time she spends working on her game.
“She’s a perfectionist and an overachiever, so she’s always pushing herself beyond what I think she should,” Shane said. “I’d say ‘Kacie, just take it easy,’ and I’d say, ‘I’m just going to play you an inning here and an inning there.’ She’s a tough girl and she’d be hurting for two or three days afterward and couldn’t move, but she continued to just keep going after it and the thing that motivated her more is her team.
“She said, ‘I don’t want my team to think that I’m quitting and taking advantage of my injury,’ so she did a little extra, more than she should in my opinion just to prove a point to her teammates that she wasn’t using it as a crutch or an excuse or something like that.”
Adjusting Her Game
On the field, Kacie does see an impact to her game due to the injury. She is a different player now than she was before the collision.
“I can tell a difference when I play now,” Kacie said. “I’m not as mobile. I get really exhausted really easily. When I first came back, I couldn’t stand up for very long before I had to sit down. When I’m playing short, I can’t get to balls as quickly as I used to. It gets to my head a lot, just because I remember how good I used to be and now it’s kind of not as well. My hitting’s a lot better, but my fielding is killing me…it’s not killing me, it’s just a lot harder, physically and mentally.”
Kacie still plays shortstop, so what happens when someone hits one of those little pop-ups in the hole between her and the outfielders behind her?
“There’s a lot of balls hit right there,” Kacie said. “I’m really hesitant and my dad tells me that all the time, ‘I know you’re scared but just go for it because if you’re scared, you’re going to get hurt again,’ but yea, it freaks me out now. I mean I still go for it, but I’m a lot more cautious of it.”
While he may be telling her out loud to go for it, something a little different is going through Shane’s mind when one of those balls is in the air.
“Every time the ball’s hit over shortstop, between shortstop and left field, I hold my breath,” Shane said. “She goes 110 percent after it, she goes all out which is amazing to me. I’d be a little leery out there because you don’t know what your teammate’s doing. Every time that happens, I hold my breath.”
As her high school career came to an end in May, as Kacie and her father looked back on who she has become as a player, they focus on the growth. She came back this year to hit .388 with 10 doubles, four triples and three home runs, similar stats to those she posted during that amazing freshman year.
“Freshman, sophomore and junior year, she wasn’t necessarily a role player, she was more of a supporting player,” Shane said. “She was always in the backdrop, playing, not very vocal and just doing her part. This year has been quite different. She’s stepped up to be a leader. Everybody respects Kacie because of her work ethic.”
He credits her future college coach at USU Eastern, where Brittani Richins will be heading up the new softball program next season. Kacie is in her initial recruiting class and according to Shane, Richins has already impacted his daughter as a player.
“One of the best things that happened to her this year was her coach for next year, Brittani Richins, pulled her aside early in the season and said, ‘If you’re going to play with me I need you to do a couple of things: Be a little more vocal as a leader and use your time wisely, be a coach on the field,'” Shane shared. “So those two things she’s really worked on and I’ve seen how it’s affected her as a person, it’s given her a lot more confidence.
“Now she knows how to talk to people and how to get her point across without being rude or mean or anything. I could see Kacie being a great coach some day if she decided to, just because of the advice Coach Richins has given her.”
Kacie has noticed that growth in herself as well.
“We have a lot of young girls, so I kind of have to be like a coach too,” she said. “All of us (four) seniors, we have to guide them, not necessarily coach them, but guide them. We’re doing better, I think we’re getting better, but we’re still learning. This year has been the best. I feel like we’re so close.
“I’ve had to learn about attitude and being positive, because that was the hardest thing for me last year and the year before. I was so used to my freshman year winning all the time, being consistent and then slowly, gradually lost that. Sometimes you get really negative, and my dad had to remind me, ‘Be positive Kacie, that’s what’s going to help you.’ I’ve learned how to be positive and have a good attitude, but it’s hard.”
The severe kidney injury has played a part, along with the ups and downs of high school softball in general, in the development of Kacie Allman, the person and the softball player. No one wants to see anyone go through an injury of this nature that will impact not just her athletic career, but the rest of her life. However, both she and Shane know the life lessons it has taught are beneficial.
“I think it’s been a huge blessing for her,” Shane said. “As the process has gone on, she’s had some pretty rough days. We talk and say in life there’s going to be some pretty rough days and you’re just going to have to battle through, so I think later on when she has some trials and struggles, she can look back and think, ‘Well I made it through that, I can make it through this…’ It’s given her a lot more confidence and toughness. It’s been a blessing.”