Gebelein seeking the perfect pitch
by Staff Writer
Rachel Gebelein is giving up one thing she loves for another.
Gebelein, a Lake Norman Charter softball pitcher, is passing up opportunities to pitch in college. It’s hard to walk away from a sport that’s gripped her since age 4. Next fall, she’ll attend the University of South Carolina and concentrate on a double major – music (with an emphasis on performance) and psychology.
Watch Gebelein pitch and you realize she’s been nurturing a talented right arm.
Listen to her sing and you realize her talent extends beyond the softball diamond.
“I have two passions, and they’re kind of tied,” Gebelein said. “I started playing softball when I was 4 and have been pitching since I was 8.”
She’s been Lake Norman Charter’s pitcher for four years, and has played on travel and tournament teams year-round.
Gebelein’s life has been surrounded by music. Her dad, Wayne, was a classical guitar major while her mom, Linda, was a music major and teaches piano. Her grandfather was a musician.
“They brought me up in a house filled with music,” Gebelein said. “Good classical rock and good classical music. I got the best of both worlds.”
She took voice lessons at age 14 and was hooked. Performing on stage isn’t much different from being a pitcher. You’ve got to be talented and able to perform under pressure. Most eyes are on you, whether you’re holding a softball or a microphone.
“It’s just something I can’t live without,” Gebelein said, referring to singing. “It’s a really fun way to express myself. On the (pitching) mound, it’s that fierce, go-get-’em attitude. But when you’re singing, you can sing something that’s sad or amusing, or happy and joyful. Having something like that where I can let myself go a little bit is really enjoyable. I didn’t want to give it up when I went to college.”
She fielded offers to play softball from several colleges, most on the NCAA Division II level. But her heart told her to go in a different direction.
“She told her mom first,” Wayne Gebelein said. “Then she got up the nerve to tell Dad. I told her, ‘Sweetie, I had my four years (of college). You need to do what’s best for you.’ It was a hard decision for her.”
Softball has strengthened Wayne and Rachel Gebelein’s father-daughter bond. Wayne coached her teams since she was 8. He became her practice catcher, dragging buckets of balls and achy knees to wherever they were needed.
He cherishes the time he spent with Rachel, be it car rides to tournaments or sweaty afternoons refining her drop-pitch.
“And, she has a lovely voice,” Wayne Gebelein said.
Rachel recently auditioned and was chosen to perform in the chorus at the Mars Hill Choral Festival, which included about 400 of the state’s top high school performers.
“It’s been fun because music is so expressive, and there are so many different genres and types for you to explore,” she said. “It gives me a lot of different things to study. For instance, I can sing Italian arias and operas, but also sing musical theater. It has more of a belt range to it. That’s fun.”