Michele Granger's name is synonymous with excellence in softball. But the world-class pitcher, who graduated from Valencia High School on Friday night, says that some people may have the wrong idea about her.
"After a game, others think that I am conceited," Granger explained. "I concentrate so hard in a game situation that I think about my performance afterwards, and often I'm not aware of what's going on around me. This works to my advantage and disadvantage.
"But my major goal is to try to meet a lot of people and prove that I have other interests."
In her four years at Valencia, people learned that Granger, despite her superstar status, is not spoiled by media attention. On the contrary, she is a sociable person who is very much aware of others and easily approachable.
"The thing about Michele is that she just acts like herself," said Debbie Fassel, Valencia softball coach. "She acts just like one of the kids. She's very approachable, very willing to do interviews--although, and rightly so--she tires because (reporters') questions become redundant."
This spring, she began working on the school newspaper.
"I enjoy writing editorials, but it is a little different," said Granger, who is more accustomed to having articles written about her than writing them herself.
"Writing on the paper has helped me in interview situations," she said. "I have an idea of what questions are going to be asked and how to answer them."
Granger, who was once again named to The Times' all-county softball team this year, believes that the media exposure she has received would probably be the same anywhere in the country, but the local competition makes her accomplishments seem even greater.
"Southern California is the hotbed for softball," she said. "Factors that make competition so tough include the attitude of the people involved (players, coaches and parents), the weather and the quality of the athletes."
Granger has done a lot of traveling during a softball career that began when she was in the eighth grade. She has pitched at the Olympic Sports Festival in North Carolina, the Pan-American Games in Indianapolis, the Junior World Championships in Oklahoma City and the women's world championships in New Zealand. She topped off last summer with a trip to Japan, where she appeared as a celebrity on a television game show.
While she enjoys making friends on the road, the wear and tear of travel causes her to seek occasional refuge.
Granger said she winds down by going to the beach, watching old movies and eating chocolate. She likes listening to music, reading, cooking and shopping.
Some parents have taken to pushing their softball-playing children to copy or imitate, if you will, the Michele Granger image.
"Personally, I am in my own world," Granger said. "If people want to achieve some success, instead of trying to model me, they will attempt to create their own rewards."
The playfulness she exudes is seen on and off the softball field. Whereas other pitchers, during a game, may be tense and nervous, Granger is almost always smiling. Sometimes she even laughs, but never at an opponent.
"Michele cracks jokes and playfully trades insults with her teammates," said Valerie Finley, who has been Granger's catcher for four years at Valencia. "Michele is very friendly, wants the team to succeed and pushes the team as well as herself."
Granger's high school softball career ended with her team never winning a Southern Section title. In her last game, June 1, Valencia lost to La Mirada, 1-0, in a section 3-A semifinal game that lasted 25 innings and two days. She pitched the entire 5-hour, 6-minute game, striking out 40 and giving up only five hits. The winning run was unearned.
In all, Granger finished with national high school career records for strikeouts (1,407), no-hitters (35) and perfect games (8). She holds national single-season records for strikeouts (509) and perfect games (3), and she tied national single-season records for no-hitters (11) and consecutive strikeouts in a game (21).
If her softball career isn't enough, consider that, despite her travel schedule, she found time to play four years on the school's varsity volleyball team and has been enrolled in the honors program since her freshman year.
She served as student body vice president this year and was president of the junior class last year.
"One part of student government that I've liked has been arranging events like prom," she said. "I also like the job because I can deal with people very easily and because it teaches me responsibility."
Erin Eaves, a senior member of the school's student council and newspaper staff, said of her close friend: "Michele has very high expectations of herself. She probably can be labeled as a perfectionist. Sometimes she does not believe how well she performs. She comes off as conceited, but she is very honest with herself as well as with other people. Also, she knows in critical situations when she can be better."