With the last name Carpenter, working with pine was a natural fit.
However, these three Carpenters don’t craft furniture or build gazebos. They build team chemistry, hammer home runs and saw down runners at the plate.
Carlee, Katie and Mike Carpenter share a close bond. The love of softball and family devotion. The Carpenter softball legacy started with Mike and his father.
“I always used to help my dad,” Mike said. “I used to help him coach teams when I was not much out of high school. I always enjoyed coaching kids.”
While Carlee and Katie were being raised, they were brought up with one main idea.
“The only thing my dad emphasized was staying active and doing something to use the abilities we were blessed with,” Carlee said. “It just so happens my sister and I probably both picked up softball the easiest of three sports we both played. Thankfully, my dad had the knowledge, ability, patience and determination to help us enhance our performance over the years.”
The two sisters played softball growing up and were involved in much of the culture.
“Softball was something that I have been around since I was born,” Katie said. “From my dad’s slowpitch to my sister’s games to mine, it is the one thing that I’ve grown up with.”
Growing up, Carlee and Katie played three main sports — basketball, volleyball and softball. Mike says that softball just seemed to be the natural fit for them.
“They love all three sports, equally,” Mike said. “They never really chose one over the other until when they got to be a junior or senior and have to make a choice. I think Katie has made that choice that she is going to go on and play at the college level. It was a no-brainer for Carlee. There were some volleyball and basketball opportunities. Softball was a good fit for her with her size. Katie is going to be the same way.”
In 2002, Mike got the opportunity to start coaching at the middle school softball program at Mill Creek, after coaching travel ball teams.
“After a few years at the middle school, I got a call from Bandys principal Michael White,,” Mike said. “He asked if I would transfer over ther and build a softball program. We’ve been real fortunate and real successful.”
During the 2008 high school softball season, the Carpenters were united on one team, as part of the Bandys Lady Trojans softball program. Katie said that year was special to her.
“Having Carlee on the team with me was something that I’ll never forget,” Katie said. “It was like we automatically connected on the field. We didn’t have to say much because we both knew that we had each other’s backs. She taught me in one year how to be a leader of a team full of girls. It was amazing.”
Mike’s wife is also involved in the Carpenter’s softball adventures.
“I’ve got the best wife in the world,” Mike said. “My wife works on things I should be doing because she knows I’m at the high school still working. She has sold concessions and does a lot of my bookkeeping for the team. I could not do this without my wife. She is unbelievable.”
It was a difficult time for Mike, who had the task of balancing family and his team.
“The hardest thing a man will do, if he has integrity, is coach his child because he is going to coach them so hard,” Mike said. “It is the back of your mind all of the time about what people are thinking or seeing and if you are being fair. I have tried so hard to the point, where I’ve pushed my kids too hard at times. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is because you are coaching your children.”
Once Carlee graduated and went to Lenoir-Rhyne, she missed the special bond with her family at Bandys.
“It was wonderful,” Carlee said. “Until I got to college, I didn’t realize what a special thing it was.”
Overall, Mike is happy that he has had the chance to be together with his family and also share the game of softball.
“There is nothing more special than to be part of something your family can share with you,” Mike said. “It is just so special to have your family together in one place and doing something you enjoy so much.
“Right now, we are going in different directions. I am with Katie most of the games, and my wife is trying to get to Carlee’s games. When they were together on the team, it was special for us because we knew we were there for each other. That was special.”
Carlee says the softball bond is special, but it goes past sports.
“Softball is merely a game, but to my family, including my mother, it is something we can share,” Carlee said. “It gives us an opportunity to travel together, play together and make a mark together. The experiences I have had playing softball with my family by my side are some of the dearest memories I have.”