St. Al’s Booth gets perfect attendance on diamond

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 5, 2000

Keiko Booth hits the ball during practice Wednesday as she prepares to play in her 124th straight game for St. Aloysius at Veterans Field today. (The Vicksburg Post/PAT SHANNAHAN)

When Keiko Booth steps onto the field today, it will mark the end of a Cal Ripken-esque streak for the St. Aloysius standout.

Booth has played in every game for five years and will play for the final time against Madison-St. Joe at Veterans Field. Booth will have started in all 124 of St. Al’s games since its slow-pitch softball program began in 1996.

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“We can’t replace Keiko,” said Lady Flashes coach Gene Rogilio, whose team will not advance to the playoffs despite an 12-3 division record. “We’ll put someone at her position, but we can’t replace her … She came up with the program and is the only one that has played for five years.”

When the school started a team, Booth, just an eighth-grader, got a letter sent by Rogilio urging everyone to try out.

She was sold immediately.

“The first day we had practice, I loved it,” said Booth, who has a .417 average and well over a .900 fielding average. “So I stuck with it all these years.”

Booth will still play fast-pitch in the spring and that’s what she will play in college, if she gets a chance.

“I’m more fast-pitch, anyway,” said Booth, who was on St. Al’s first fast-pitch team last year.

Booth has been a mainstay at shortstop after replacing Kim Stewart at that position her freshman year. Booth played in the outfield in her first season.

After that, though, she established herself at shortstop and Rogilio can’t imagine looking onto the field and not seeing the player who has been there for the same number of games he has.

“She’s steady. You can count on her and you never have to worry about her giving 100 percent you know she’ll do that,” Rogilio said. “… I look up and expect to see her and next year she won’t be there. We’ll look up and realize that this is the end of an era. The original team is gone.”

Booth led the Lady Flashes to a division title in 1998 and the playoffs twice. Her steady fielding and hitting have produced many wins.

She said more than wins and losses, however, she will miss the team bus rides and the camaraderie. Winning just makes the rides a little nicer.

“I liked winning and being with my teammates after the game, enjoying the moment,” Booth said. “I’m disappointed (about not making the playoffs), but we’ve had some good years, so I’m OK with that.”

The Lady Flashes were supposed to play against Warren Central on Oct. 12, but a conflict with the Lady Vikes playoff series forced the two teams to cancel.

Fittingly, Booth, who has never played a true “home game” will end her career on Warren Central’s field.

“I’m going to miss her on the field, her leadership,” Rogilio said. “Next year, there’s just going to be a void there… No disrespect to whoever the replacement will be, but they will have some huge shoes to fill.”