Editor's note: This is the first installment of "On the Record," a new weekly feature that will profile one member of the Haverhill community.
She's a two-sport star — and a lot more.
Kaisha Rodriguez, the starting right fielder for the Division 3 North No. 1 seed Whittier Regional High Wildcats softball team, also plays point guard for the Wildcats' basketball team. She is a four-year starter for softball head coach Cheryl Begin.
Rodriguez will attend Central Maine next year.
Her career at Whittier began four years ago, a time when Begin was struggling to find adequate pitching for the upcoming 2008 season.
Rodriquez stepped forward.
"She said, 'I can do it. I'll throw strikes for you, coach,'" Begin said. Her confidence helped propel the team in 2008, "the first year we made states with me as the head coach," Begin said.
Rodriguez, the only senior on this year's team, began playing softball at age 9 and progressed through T-ball, Little League and Babe Ruth before joining the Wildcats four years ago. Rodriguez lives in Lawrence and works at Atria Marland Place in North Andover as a server. Her Whittier concentration is graphic design and photography.
"Kai's respected by all her peers," Begin said. "The kid is inspiring to me. Great leader inside of the school and outside."
Rodriguez, a softball co-captain along with junior Kailah Goulet and sophomore Cassey Glode, brings a wealth of experience to the team, using humor and confidence to keep the young squad even-keeled.
"She's got that toughness, an air of confidence," said assistant coach Jim Carlson. "She'll say something funny to get a laugh. Everything's genuine about her."
Here are Kaisha's answers to questions from the Gazette:
What were your expectations coming into this season?
Rodriguez: I always expected us to do well. I saw what they could do last year.
What's your leadership style? As the only senior, what advice do you give the younger players?
Rodriguez: I motivate. That's my job. No drama. I make sure everyone's having fun, no one's crying.
What's the key to this year's success?
Rodriguez: Perfect teamwork. We all get each other. If we weren't such a team, we wouldn't have gone this far. We're all such a family. I think that's the best part of softball.
What do you like about playing outfield?
Rodriguez: There's action out there, and I feel confident out there. I know I'll be able to catch any ball.
Why did you choose Whittier?
Rodriguez: I got a four-year scholarship to Central (Catholic), but I turned it down. I wanted a fresh start.
What's more exciting — a game-winning jump shot or game-winning RBI single?
Rodriguez: RBI. An RBI always matters. Everyone gets a chance to shine with RBIs.
At what point this season did you think to yourself, this team has a chance to contend for a title?
Rodriguez: I thought that from the first practice. Everyone stepped up. Everyone was running, everyone practiced. They were all leaders.
Any college plans? Softball or basketball?
Rodriguez: Central Maine, and both. I can't abandon either sport.
What's been your favorite part of this season?
Rodriguez: The Methuen (Tournament) Championship game. It was our first time, and we rocked it. We were all so nervous.
Best advice you've received?
Rodriguez: (Coach) Cheryl always says, "If you don't believe, you don't belong." If you believe in yourself, you'll be able to catch any ball that comes your way.
Most inspirational person in your life?
Rodriguez: Cheryl. When things are hard, I go to her. She's more like a mother to me than a coach.
What do you see for the future of this team?
Rodriguez: They're going to be awesome. They always are. I believe they'll make it very far.
Final comment on this season?
Rodriguez: It's been really fun. I never want it to end. I don't even want to be a senior anymore. That's how much fun it's been.
Kaisha Rodriguez's favorites
Band/artist: Paramore. They're a rock band.
Song: "Dreams" by J.Cole
Athlete: Ray Allen, best three-point shooter ever. And LeBron.
Team: The Celtics and the Heat. The Celtics have that teamwork, but the Heat have the best players.
Favorite school subject: Art
Actor: Michelle Rodriguez. She reminds me a lot of me.
Movie: "Love & Basketball"
Food: Chicken alfredo
Restaurant: T.G.I. Friday's
Hobbies: Skateboarding and drawing, and, of course, photography