Palomar catcher becomes first virtual recruit for Michigan State

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SAN MARCOS, Calif. – A star athlete at Palomar Community College has become the first virtual recruit for a Division I school.

Kendall Kates, a sophomore, looks forward to playing Division I softball next year – a dream she had ever since she picked up a bat. The Poway resident had planned to impress recruiters this year until the season shut down at Palomar Community College, forcing Kates to do her own recruiting virtually.

“It’s really hard to play softball at a Division I level and do nursing at the same time and at the same time stay in California because that’s what I wanted to do out of high school,” said Kates.

A four year varsity starter at Mount Carmel High School, Kates turned down several collegiate softball offers until she found the right fit in an unexpected place at Palomar junior college.

“The coaching staff really held us to a higher standard and I think that’s what helped me the most,” said the catcher. “Coach Mark has been in the program for 43 years, he started it so that instilled a lot of confidence in me that I was playing and getting the opportunity to show my skills.”

In her freshman season, Kates was named a first-team All-American after the Comets went 41-7 and finished second in the California state championships. As a sophomore this season, Kates was preparing to impress four-year university recruiters until that plan changed due to the Coronavirus.

“We were all kind of stressed out because we didn’t know what it was going to take to get recruited now that we’re not going to get the exposure,” she said.

But thanks to a teammate it wasn’t long until Kates got in touch with Michigan State University, a power five Division I school looking for a catcher.

“With the technology like Zoom it makes it easy to have those face to face conversations and you can get a feel for what they’re about and my parents we’re on the call with me so the coaching staff could get a feel for us too,” said Kates. “So I think that part really wasn’t disconnected but obviously I can’t go out yet and see the school until the fall so that was the only part that I was kind of struggling with so it was a really big leap of faith for me.”

After finding she was the right fit academically, athletically and financially, Kates became the first virtual recruit for the Spartans athletic program.

“Ever since I was a little girl I always wanted to go power five,” said Kates. “You see the women’s college World Series and you say that will be me one day hopefully and I’m just excited to meet new people and get a really good degree.”

Kates says she plans to earn a degree in kineseology before pursuing nursing.

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