Quince Orchard High School center fielder Grace Toohey gets a lot of hits. She was batting .714 through her first six games, and as the team's leadoff hitter, she comes to the plate more than anyone else.
But discussing her slap hitting — a skill she picked up as a sophomore in order to combat varsity pitching — literally can be groan-inducing for the senior.
“I felt a little one-dimensional at times,” Toohey said. “It's hard, because at first, teams questions you. ‘Are you bunting? Are you slapping?' But then, sometimes it's a little intimidating when the whole team moves in for you.
“Some boys on the baseball team will be like, ‘That's so cheap you do that every time.'”
Mention Best Buddies, though, and Toohey beams.
“I'd love to tell you,” said Toohey, president of the Quince Orchard chapter, before launching into a detailed explanation of the program's mission.
Essentially, Best Buddies pairs people with disabilities to people without disabilities and works to foster a friendship between the two. Toohey and her Best Buddy, Jennifer Bowers, have gone horseback riding, gone out for meals and watched movies together.
“I love it, and I'm going to definitely continue doing it in college,” said Toohey, who plans to attend Virginia or Maryland to study journalism.
She's also an editor-in-chief of The Prowler, Quince Orchard's student newspaper. And a valedictorian. And class secretary in the student government association. And a basketball player. And a soccer player — until she gave up that sport last fall.
Instead, Toohey pursued her passion of helping people with disabilities by helping coach Quince Orchard's unified track and field team, which is comprised of students with and without disabilities.
“I don't regret it for a second,” Toohey said. “It was so much fun.”
Fun might be the defining trait for all Toohey's pursuits. Colleen Kelly, who coached Toohey in basketball and coaches her in softball, said Toohey brings enjoyment to whatever she does.
During the basketball season, Toohey organized a spirit week for the team. For each practice, Toohey and her teammates dressed in costume — corn-rowed hair, a tank top and baggy shorts on Mobster Monday; multi-colored socks and a tie-dyed shirt for Wacky Wednesday; old-fashioned high white basketball socks, short shorts, a throwback jersey and a sweatband on Throwback Thursday.
As fun as that was, and as fun as catching fly balls is — Toohey's absolute favorite thing to do on a softball field — Best Buddies stands above her other activities.
“It's definitely the most rewarding, and I have the most fun with it, and I have some of my best friends in it,” Toohey said. “I think so, but I love them all.”
As Toohey's final softball season winds down, that feeling is mutual.
“She's quite a character, that's for sure,” Kelly said. “She's a lot of fun to have around, and she's going to be missed next year — both position-wise and just as a person.”