WESTFIELD She has set records and made headlines since she was 10.
Westfield native Donna McLean, now 40, was feted on the Frank DeLuca Hall of Fame Field of the Stratford (Conn.) Brakettes on the evening of Aug. 6 to mark her 13 years with the team and her "retirement" at the end of the season. On hand were family members from Westfield and Chicopee, as well as friends and fans from across New England who cheered her on from the stands.
The Brakettes, founded in 1947, have won 26 national titles and are the reigning ASA Women's Major Fastpitch National Champs.
Prior to the start of the evening's doubleheader with the Adirondack (NY) Ice, McLean and her mother, Bonnie McLean of Westfield, were escorted on the field by John Stratton, field manager for the Brakettes, for a plaque presentation from the team. The inscription read: "Thanks for your commitment, dedication and enthusiasm during your 13-year career. You will always be part of the Brakettes softball family."
McLean's family on hand for the festivities also included her maternal grandmother, Thelma Josephson of Westfield, and her brother, Ian McLean of Chicopee, with his daughter, Ashley, and son Ian.
Both Ashley and Ian McLean were beaming with pride and echoed the same sentiments when asked their feelings about McLean's retirement from the game.
"I don't feel she should retire because she is young and she should go pro," said Ian McLean. "I have seen her play a lot and I think she likes it too much to give it up."
"It's her decision to retire and I am proud of her for playing so long and as hard as she did," said Ashley McLean.
McLean's story begins in 1975 when she made history in Westfield for being the first girl to play baseball in Westfield's Little League. She played left field for the Moose Club for four years and was named to the Little League's All-Star Team during her second year of play.
Then, fast forward to Westfield High School where McLean made varsity softball playing center field during her freshman year. During her sophomore year, she learned how to pitch and was one of the team's pitchers for her sophomore, junior and senior years. During her high school career, McLean received three MVP awards for softball and two MVP awards for basketball.
At Westfield State College (WSC), McLean played center field during her freshman year and came in for relief pitching. For her last three years, she pitched. She was named an All-America and All New England softball player from 1984-87. A double threat as a pitcher and power hitter, McLean still holds 22 school records, according to the WSC Athletic Department. In addition, McLean was a four-time all-conference and All New England selection, and led the Owls to an NCAA Tournament berth in 1985 and the 1987 ECAC championship.
She holds career hitting records for doubles (26), triples (12), home runs (12), and RBI's (98). McLean's career batting average was .387, with a season-best .448 in 1987 when she had a school record 17 doubles. Also, McLean holds nearly every WSC pitching record, including innings pitched (174), strikeouts (121), and victories (16) in a season, and innings pitched (456), victories (39), and strikeouts (354) in a career, according to WSC. This fall, during Homecoming Weekend at WSC, McLean will be inducted into the college's Athletics Hall of Fame along with five others.
During her years with the Brakettes, the team has won four national titles in 1988, 2002, 2003 and 2004. She has made second team All America and first team All America. She has also been a batting champion by hitting .414 during a season. She played left field during her rookie year and has since played in right field. On Aug. 7, she once again reached a milestone when she had her 500th career hit with the team against the Stratford Seahawks during the first game of a doubleheader that evening.
How does McLean feel about her "retirement" from softball?
"It will be a sad day," she said. "I've been on this team for 13 years and made a lot of friends and met a lot of fans. I will miss playing high competitive softball, my coaches and teammates, and especially the fans who have been great to me."
McLean cited the Brakettes schedule of games this year 71 as one of the factors for her leaving the game. Also, the Brakettes will become the seventh member of the National Pro Fastpitch League for the start of the 2006 season, and McLean would be unable to participate in many of the away games.
McLean, now a Torrington (Conn.) resident, works full-time as a supervisor in the advertising research department at Nielsen Media Research in Shelton, Conn. She has also served as an assistant softball coach at Stratford (Conn.) High School, and was an assistant coach at the University of Bridgeport (Conn.) from 1996-99.
McLean choked up when she reminisced about her 13 years on the team. When she was asked for her favorite memory with the Brakettes it was an easy answer.
"In 1987 I hit for the cycle grand slam, homerun, triple, double and single with 10 RBI's in one game," she said. "Ten RBI's in one game is the Brakettes' record."
A record that is yet to be broken.