The first time Shea Moreno saw this team in powder blue, she was star struck.
As a 10-year old, Moreno stood transfixed in front of the family TV, mesmerized by the action of the UCLA Bruins hitting, fielding, scoring and winning. And then she became hooked.
A recent graduate of Sheldon High School, Moreno now sets aim on becoming all things UCLA.
The Bee's Softball Player of the Year will head to Los Angeles later this summer to become a student and dive into the softball action. To know Moreno is to understand she craves to compete, especially as a catcher, where she can control a game.
"It was the first time I watched a game on TV, and I remember the intensity, the fight, the drive to win," Moreno said. "I was standing in amazement. I thought it would be a dream to play there."
The dream started to become reality when, as a freshman, Moreno was offered a scholarship by UCLA. She was on a visit to the campus and was asked if she'd like to be a Bruin.
"I said, 'Of course I do!'" Moreno said, laughing at the memory. "I was so excited that I broke down in tears. It was surreal, and then I had to earn it."
She earned it with four years of stellar play as an all-time program great for Sheldon, a run that included three Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championships and four Delta League crowns. A fourth title run fell short in the final of the D-I bracket to Tracy, but Moreno's impact is clear.
"She's the total package, a great player and leader," Sheldon coach Mary Jo Truesdale said. "She had a terrific career for us. UCLA is getting quite a player."
Moreno hit .495 with 11 doubles, seven home runs, 44 RBIs and 38 runs for the 25-5 Huskies. Over her four-year career, Moreno batted .441 and had 29 doubles, nine triples, 15 home runs, 129 RBIs and 122 runs for teams that won 109 games.
But Moreno did perhaps her most significant and moving work out of uniform.
Her younger sister, Jordan, has autism. Moreno became a "protector and advocate for her sister and has taken on the role of activist and advocate for children with autism," said Moreno's mother, Krystal Moreno.
For her Sheldon senior project, Moreno coordinated an Autism Awareness softball game for kids with or without the developmental disorder. The project, presented to a panel of school judges, was in the spirit of inclusion and acceptance.
Said Moreno, "I want people to become aware of this condition. There are too many who suffer from autism. The ultimate goal for my senior project was to give these kids a chance to participate in activities that maybe doctors and our society said they could not partake in and to also give their parents the chance to see their kids do the things people said they would not be able to do.
"Just seeing how bad my sister wanted to be and do 'normal' kid things, I knew she wasn't the only one who felt like this."
Moreno credits her mother for guidance and strength.
Krystal played softball at Sacramento High, Cal, Sacramento City College and Adams State in Colorado as a utility player. She still competes in slow-pitch games across the country.
"Mom means everything to me," Moreno said. "She's been the main person in my life, always there, pushing me to be the best, supporting me. She made me the person I am today. She taught me how to love the game, play the game, and how to be a good person. "Softball has made our bond even more special."