BREMERTON — Olympic High third baseman Kaira Cabato won’t be the first in her family to play softball at Bethune-Cookman.
Cabato signed her letter of intent Tuesday at a ceremony that included family, friends, and teammates at the Fairfield Inn & Suites, and is following in her mother’s footsteps.
Olympic head softball coach Jessica Cabato earned a scholarship to the Daytona Beach, Florida, school and her daughter will now continue the tradition.
Kaira Cabato, an All-Olympic League first-team infielder, said it was a bittersweet moment to finally realize her dream of playing Division I softball.
“I did the recruiting process for a lot of years, and it’s a lot of work,” Cabato said.
Cabato said she would wake up at 3 a.m. Mondays and Fridays to make calls to the East coast and knew she didn’t want to keep up that hectic schedule for another year.
It’s one reason why she verbally committed as a junior.
“The school worked,” she said. “It was perfect.”
Cabato said one of her criteria was the look and feel of the campus.
“I wanted all brick buildings and that fit, and as soon as I walked on I loved it, “ she said. “Culturally, it’s a lot different, but it works. I like it.”
It also helped that Cabato had a relationship with Wildcats coach Laura Witten, who is in her second stint at Bethune-Cookman.
“That’s my main thing,” Cabato said. “I didn’t want to go out of (state) and sit until I was a junior. I wanted to go as a freshman and play and start and hit. I knew the coach, and I knew she was coming back from a different school (Maryland). It’s a growing process right now. They’re getting better. I’m just looking to make an impact.”
Playing softball was in Cabato’s genes from the start. She was one of the top junior players growing up and flashed onto the high school scene her freshman season. Jessica coached her daughter on the Kitsap-based Diamond Dusters and would take her to Sumner to play for the Sidewinders and the Seattle Sundodgers.
Jessica Cabato was a standout pitcher for Central Kitsap from 1998-2000. She helped the Cougars to a fourth-place finish in ’98 and third in 2000. Cabato pitched for two seasons at Bethune-Cookman and was named MEAC rookie of the year, first-team all-conference, and all-region her sophomore season.
But not even Jessica had to endure what could have been a softball-ending and life-altering injury before her college career started. Kaira Cabato suffered a significant knee injury in April and had reconstructive surgery not long after. Cabato dislocated her kneecap, tore her anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments. Surgeons performed six different procedures during the four-hour operation, using hamstrings from both legs to create new ligaments.
Kaira Cabato said she’s had other injuries before and persevered through them.
“I knew I could do it,” she said. “This one just happened to be intensive. I think I was lucky the way it happened because I committed (to Bethune-Cookman) in November and tore it during high school season. Things worked out well.”
Kaira Cabato is the oldest grandchild in her family and said she’s happy to pave the way for her cousins.
“It’s good that I’m going,” she said.