Pop! Pop! Pop!

The sound that resonates throughout The Yard Baseball Club sounds more like a cannon than a softball striking a mitt, but that’s the type of power young Kelsie Donaldson can generate with her arm as her mom, Rachel, sits on a bucket of balls working with her talented daughter.

Kelsie and her mom have full use of the Grain Valley facility because Kelsie is one of the premier youth pitchers from the prestigious Top Gun Academy.

“Like everything else, The Yard is closed to groups, but we are able to come up here and workout five or six days a week,” said Rachel, a former Examiner All-Area basketball player from William Chrisman High School who has traded her sneakers for a catcher’s mitt and shin guards.

“I love working with Kelsie because she is as competitive as I was back when I played basketball at Chrisman. We wouldn’t be up here if she didn’t love softball as much as I loved basketball.

“And she’s good – really good – because she works at it. She works so hard, and (my husband) Nate (a former Examiner All-Area baseball player from Chrisman) are so proud of her.”

Other than the sound her pitches make when they strike her mom’s mitt, the other striking aspect of Kelsie’s presence on the mound is that she is a lefty.

“And lefties – good lefties – are hard to find,” Rachel said. “And you know who another good lefty from the area is?”

The answer is simple – former Truman High School three-time Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year Paige Parker, who went on and won two NCAA national championships and All-America honors at the University of Oklahoma.

“Did you see my number?” asked Kelsie, grinning from ear to ear. “It’s No. 8 – Paige’s number.”

Before she became a part of the Sooners’ coaching coaching staff, Parker worked with the youngster who is a spitting image of her mentor at the same age.

“I started working with Terry (Parker), Paige’s father, and then Paige came to town and she was able to work with me because she wasn’t doing anything with college,” said Kelsie, a sixth grader at Grain Valley North Middle School.

Kelsie’s smile grows broader as she talks about the first time she met Parker.

“I was working with her dad and he asked if I would like to work with Paige, and I was so excited because she is my role model and my hero,” Kelsie said. “I dream of having a career like she had in high school and college.

“And the first time I worked with her I couldn’t even talk. The only time I talked was when I asked her to sign a softball for me when we were done.”

They soon became good friends and Kelsie gave Parker a special birthday gift before she returned to Oklahoma.

“I gave her a softball I signed for her,” Kelsie said, giggling. “I think she really liked it, and maybe one day it will be as nice to have as a softball she has signed.

“I’m going to keep working hard to make that happen.”

Kelsie has been a part of a team of all-stars that played in the All-American Games at Orlando, Fla., and her Top Gun team received a bid to play in the Premier Girls Fastpitch Nationals in Huntington Beach, Calif., which they hope to play following any delays caused by the coronavirus crisis.

“She might play 80 or more games in the summer against some of the best competition in the Midwest,” Rachel said, “and … we do this because she loves it.”

And that smile on Kelsie’s face is all the evidence anyone needs to realize that statement is true, and from the heart.