Paris McCullum in action courtesy of Tom Birch/Kokomo Herald
BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. - Paris McCullum entered her senior season of softball at Kokomo High School with high hopes and expectations. And despite a loss in the Sweet Sixteen round of the IHSAA tournament, when the Wildkat looks back she will know she was part of a magical season. For her efforts, she was not only crowned as the sixth Indiana North All-Star in Kokomo history, but she will continue her softball career at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee.
“I had always seen myself at a big college,” said McCullum of her college choice. “Once I got there, I got a different feeling. I love the environment and I love what they’re about. I love to help others in my community. It’s not always about me. I like to be there for others. They’re not just about education; they’re about servanthood.”
The Indiana All-Star title is by no accident. McCullum set Lady Wildkat records for stolen bases in a season and walks in a season – both 25. She batted a lofty .482 with a slugging percentage of .783. She also knocked in 32 runs with 11 doubles, four triples and two home runs while scoring 38 times. Many of those numbers led the county stat sheet. In addition, the team set a school record with 24 victories.
“My favorite part of the game is running and stealing bases,” said the record-setting athlete. “I love sliding in head first. I think my favorite part is the hype of the game.”
Kokomo head coach Mike Susong said McCullum deserves whatever accolades head her way.
“She has been exciting this year,” said Susong, the North Central Conference Coach of the Year. “She has been fantastic to watch. I will put up her stats with anyone in the state. We really challenged her at the end of last year, and boy did she really respond. She deserves the credit. I feel she is an Indiana All-Star.”
McCullum joins Nicole Croddy (1992), Amanda Grills (1999), Kailyn Dubois (2007), Elizabeth Wagner (2009), and Carly Painter (2010) as Indiana All-Star softball players from Kokomo. But of that group of elite athletes, only McCullum led her squad to NCC and/or sectional titles. Earlier this spring, the Lady Kats won the school’s first NCC softball title, and the squad followed that with its first sectional title since 2006 (second overall).
“She has shown on the field that she deserved that chance,” said Susong on the Indiana All-Star selection process. “Paris is not only a good player but she has an infectious personality. People flock towards her and she is a good leader with a great work ethic. She is someone we are really going to miss next year.”
She said she worked hard on becoming the player she is today. And she now wants to help other young players get better.
"I was always a decent softball player, but I knew I wanted to take it to the next level. When I went to camps, I always saw girls going the extra mile," said McCullum, a future athletic trainer. "I want to be an influence to the girls in the leagues around here."
But McCullum is more than an athlete – she loves to give back to her community. This summer, she will join a group that will tour Italy and play softball against local teams through the ACIS America’s Team program.
“When I was visiting Wisconsin Lutheran, they were packing up food bags for the Rescue Mission,” McCullum recalled of her visit to the NCAA Division III institution. “When I saw that I knew I loved that. They are not selfish, and that is what I believe in too. That is why I am looking forward to this summer and Italy. I am really blessed.”
Volunteering is part of her culture – especially at the Family Worship Center in Kokomo and local youth sports leagues.
“I try to help out as much as I can there,” she said. “I want to help with daycare and Vacation Bible School in the summer. And of course I help with softball camps and at the Kokomo Girls Softball League. And I do travel ball all summer with the Howard County Thunder.”
Paris McCullum graduated from Kokomo High School as one of the best softball players in school history. The sky is the limit on what the next four years of NCAA softball will bring to the record-breaking player.