By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
Catherine Hou seems to have her future all planned out already. The 14-year-old Palisadian wants to go to a good college and pursue a career in commercial real estate. Oh, but before all that she’d like to lead her Santa Monica Girls Fastpitch 14U Gold All-Stars to the USA Softball National Championship.
A natural athlete growing up, Hou played AYSO soccer, basketball at the Palisades Recreation Center and started training at Broadway Gymnastic School when she was 3. She tried softball when she was 8 and that has been her sport ever since.
“I was in third grade when my dad [David] took me to Legoland and there was a game in the arcade where you had to throw a ball at these clowns,” Hou said as she warmed up for practice Monday at Clover Park. “They were standing up so that if you hit them they’d fall over and I really liked that.”
Shortly thereafter, a fateful trip to Pioneer Bakery with her mother Evelyn secured her destiny: “There was a flyer about Santa Monica Fastpitch signups and I told my mom ‘You have to call them!’ We joined that spring.”
After going to Carlthorp School for elementary and Marlborough for middle school, Hou is looking forward to attending Palisades High in the fall and hopes to make the Dolphins’ varsity team.
“I’ve always gone to small private schools,” she said. “So I’m excited to try a big one like Pali.”
Hou lives in the Riviera neighborhood with her rescue dog Buddy (a cocker spaniel-poodle mix she calls a “cockapoo”) and three siblings: 11-year-old Caroline, 9-year-old Colin and 4-year-old Charlotte. Caroline and Colin both play soccer and are rooting for Brazil to win the World Cup.
Hou’s 14U squad has won all six tournaments in which it has participated this summer, losing only once along the way. The latest triumph came at the Los Angeles/South Bay District Championships two weeks ago where it routed Pico (15-3), Los Altos (19-2), Torrance (11-2) and Torrance again (14-3).
Hou belted a grand slam in the game against Pico and has five home runs already this summer. She is batting .660 with a .698 on-base percentage, a 1.528 OPS (on base + slugging) and a whopping .830 slugging percentage.
“My favorite pitch is a fastball low and outside!” she said, eyes lighting up. “The hardest part about softball is striking out in a big situation. It hurts your ego and you feel bad because you let the team down.”
Hou played outfield for Samo’s 12U team that placed seventh at state and ninth at Nationals last year. She thinks her current team can finish higher.
“I had the best time at Nationals [in Portland], where they had a bar serving great food like burgers and wings,” Hou recalled. “Most of our players are returning. We just have to focus on the end goal.”
Head coach Spencer Schneider has since moved Hou to second base and she has taken a liking to her new position, where she has played all but one game.
“She does a good job of charging the ball, she’s smart and she’s not afraid of anything,” Schneider said. “Her strength is fielding but she’s very vocal. It’s like having a coach on the field. It’s infectious. She can talk her teammates through any situation. As for batting, she’s deceptively strong and she’ll only get better as she refines her hitting mechanics. She’ll be a great asset to Pali’s program.”
Assistant coach Russell Gillespie agreed: “It’s all about intelligence. Catherine’s position requires quick thinking. You have to be able to process all the scenarios in your head instantaneously.”
Titles at the Tune-Up Tournament (Moorpark), Diamonds in the Rough (Newbury Park); Memorial Day Classic (Penasquitos); Summer Classic (Fountain Valley) and Summer Heat (Poway) earned Hou’s team a No. 1 seed for the state championships tomorrow through Sunday in Lancaster.
“You have to have a lot of stamina—they test your bats to make sure they’re legal and sometimes you have to play four games in a day,” Hou said. “It’s really hot out there. Last year it was 115 degrees.”
“My favorite moments so far would be the grand slam and turning a triple play on this field two years ago in our league championship game,” Hou said. “I caught a line drive over second, stepped on the bag and threw to first base for the third out!”
She has lived in the Palisades since the age of 1 and there is no place she’d rather be. Three years ago she won The Yogurt Shoppe’s “Kids on Bikes” contest and rode in the Fourth of July Parade.
“I love living in the Palisades,” Hou says. “I like going to Robeks, getting my nails done at Bellagio or hiking in Temescal Gateway Park with my family.”