It is not often that a high school player makes varsity all four years of high school. It is even rarer that the player starts those four years and nearly unheard of for it to be done at arguably the most important position on the field, but it just happened in Paso Robles. The Bearcats star shortstop Brooke Milder has been a defensive anchor and leader for the past four years and capped off her senior season by taking home the Mountain League Co-MVP with Claire Lohayza from Atascadero.
Milder perfectly personifies what it means to be a student-athlete and a leader. There is not a person on the team, around the team, or perhaps even around the community that doesn’t rave when asked about the softballer and the proof was no more evident than at her signing ceremony in February that had the performing arts center practically at standing room only.
Milder, who also played volleyball at a high level for Paso Robles, sat on stage flanked by her parents as teammate after teammate sang her praises, but it didn’t stop there. Not only did her coaches and teammates show love but even school counselors found their way into the auditorium to say how proud they were of her for her hard work and attitude.
It is clear that Milder is not only a star on the diamond but in all that she touches. Aside from being a four-year varsity starter and Co-MVP of the softball team, she also finished high school with a 4.5 grade point average and held down the school’s ASB Vice President position her senior year, not to mention the other positions she held as an underclassman.
She is most comfortable on the diamond but it is her love for sports that has driven her to push herself off the field. Milder began playing softball at the age of 5 in the Paso Robles Youth Softball and was drawn to shortstop because that is where all the action was taking place.
Once secure in the position, she began to learn that shortstops must do more than just field balls and throw to first, they must also lead.
“I felt like that was kind of the leadership role on the field was shortstop,” Milder explained. “And when I was younger and wanting to be shortstop and wanting to communicate with other people and wanting to be that leader on the field, that helped me in wanting to be a leader in other aspects of life, too.”
It is sad but true that Milder has been the most consistent thing in Bearcat softball over her four years. During her first three years at Paso Robles, she had three different head coaches and didn’t get any stability until her senior year when head coach Billy Tidwell coached his second consecutive season this past spring. Unsurprisingly, Milder made her biggest jump from her junior year to her senior year putting up career highs in average (.395), hits (32), runs scored (29), doubles (5) and triples (4) and upgraded from honorable mention to MVP.
Some kids are forced to fall in love with certain sports because it is the lifeblood of their family but that was not the case in the Milder household, quite the opposite in fact. Brooke took up softball after trying her hand at soccer and fell in love.
“I think part of it is that I just feel so much more comfortable out on the diamond than I have anywhere else,” Milder said. “I don’t know if that comes from playing for so long, I don’t know, I just love everything about it. I love the competitiveness and even though it's not a contact sport you still have contact. You get to run, you get to field, you get to hit, there are so many different aspects to it and sometimes I feel like some sports are so repetitive.”
In most households, it is the overzealous dad or mom dragging their son to practices hoping their child will reveal some hidden athleticism dwelling just beneath their generally pudgy exterior, but for the Milders, it was their daughter that began summoning her parents for more practice time.
“My dad didn’t even really play baseball or anything I think that they just realized that I always like to be outside and I was always playing around, just something to do,” Milder said. “They put me in softball and I was hooked and then my dad coached me for all of my youth and then even into all-stars when I was 10. He even helped a little bit my sophomore year with coach Berk Baker.”
Seattle University will be a big leap for the small town girl from Paso Robles. The division 1 campus holds around 7,000 students which is quite a leap from 408 in the Bearcats graduating class and will also be far from her family.
“I think it is going to be a hard adjustment for them and a hard adjustment for me being so far away,” Milder said. “It’s only four years though, it isn't permanent.”
Not only is the senior smart, but she is self-aware. Milder knows that it is her athletics that has given her the ability to attend college at a discounted rate but knows that her future is in her schooling.
“I put school first before sports and extracurriculars,” Milder explained. “Because that is what is going to take me to the career I want.”