PEOPLE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD:
Those dedicated to America’s pastime feel a personal connection to their teams, or even certain players. But that devotion is nothing compared to what La Jolla native and La Jolla High School counselor Cathy Hutchins feels.
Hutchins’ two sons are both major league baseball players: Kyle Zimmer is a pitcher for the Kansas City Royals, and Bradley Zimmer is a position player for the Cleveland Indians. Both, like their mom, are La Jolla High School alumni.
Because neither son’s team advanced to the post-season, which started last week, she was able to — surrounded by photos of her sons in various stages of their baseball careers in her office — sit down with La Jolla Light to discuss what it’s like to raise two professional athletes.
When did your sons’ interest in baseball begin?
“When they were in diapers. They had a tee in the backyard and, because Bradley is 14 months younger than Kyle, he wanted to do everything his brother did. So, Bradley would go out there in his diapers and line up on the left side of the tee and swing, but he was right-handed, so my (then husband, the boys’ father) would pick him up and move him to the other side. But he’d run back to the other side, so he ended up being a right-handed thrower and a left-handed batter. Then, they started tee-ball and just loved it.
They were very active as kids, so we let them try whatever sports they wanted. They played baseball, soccer and basketball through the local rec programs. They wanted to play water polo, so they did that; and Bradley wanted to play lacrosse, so he did that. It wasn’t until 10th grade that they both zeroed in on baseball.
We were very encouraging, but at the same time, we emphasized that baseball isn’t everything. We let them know school comes first no matter what. We wanted to be very supportive, I never missed a game. I tried to be encouraging, but realistic. I didn’t want to push them if it seemed that wasn’t what they wanted to do. It’s 162 games a year, and it’s non-stop … so we didn’t want to burn them out. We discouraged travel ball, so they could have a break and be fresh the next season.
But when they were little, they both said they wanted to be pro-ball players, but I didn’t even think they’d play in high school. Then when they played in high school, I doubted they would play in college. Then it just kept going.”
Many kids say they want to be a sports star when they grow up, when did you realize your kids could actually go pro?
“Well, Kyle was first, because he’s older. He was drafted his sophomore year in college. That summer, he was sent to the Cape Cod Baseball League, which is the premier summer ball program. I thought, ‘maybe he’ll get drafted.’ (Players are drafted after their junior year of college.) It was nothing I thought would happen, but it did in 2012.”
What was that moment like for your family?
“It was crazy; we were at my ex-husband’s house and the MLB Network sent camera crews and all his friends came over. We were watching when Bud Selig said: ‘In the No. 5 overall pick, the Kansas City Royals pick Kyle Zimmer.’ My legs went weak!”
And then it happened again!
“Yeah in 2014, same living room, same house, but this time, because Bradley was a position player, we knew he wouldn’t go first, so we were warned it wouldn’t be as exciting. But it was just as exciting.”
What do you do when their teams play each other?
“That hasn’t happened yet, that the boys play each other. The teams played each other, but Kyle had injuries and Bradley had injuries or surgeries last season, so they keep missing each other. But next season, they should both be healthy and should face each other. I think the teams meet eight times.”
So what team will you cheer for?
“I don’t know! The Associated Student Body kids are so cute, when Bradley got drafted, they made me a jersey that was split down the middle to be half Indians and half Royals. It reads ‘Zim’ in red and ‘Mer’ in blue on the back. So I’ll wear that. That will be an exciting day, but I just don’t know what I’m going to do!”
Do you watch the post-season when your boys aren’t in it?
“Oh yeah! It’s shocking how much baseball I watch. Over the years, we’ve gotten to know so many of the players on all the teams … because some players get traded. So, there is always a team playing on which I know somebody, so it’s always fun to watch. The boys talk about their teammates all the time, so even if I don’t know all of them, I feel like I do.”
How did you end up back in La Jolla, working at your alma mater?
“I started working as a counselor here in 2006. Then I became head counselor. After a while, I was ready to retire, but principal Charles Podhorsky asked if I would stay on in a different capacity. He created a job for me and I loved it, so I stayed.
I’m now the co-ASB advisor and I help the students with all the dances, assemblies, fundraisers ... all kinds of stuff. Then, the rest of the day I’m an iHigh teacher, which is online learning for students who are struggling and at-risk for not graduating.
They come to my class, go onto a computer and take an online class. I might have 36 kids taking different classes and will work with them one-on-one. With my counseling background, I can look at their transcripts and see what they need to take. Technically, I’m a ‘graduation coach.’ ”
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
“I just love working with kids. My husband wants me to retire, but working with ASB keeps me current. And with the iHigh kids, a lot of them wouldn’t graduate without the program. Seeing them succeed is very rewarding.”
What do you wish parents knew to help their children succeed?
“In many cases, a lot of kids are a lot more capable than their parents give them credit for, so parents could trust their kids to do a lot of things on their own, and let them advocate for themselves.”
— Editor’s Note: La Jolla Light’s “People in Your Neighborhood” series shines a spotlight on notable locals we all wish we knew more about! If you know someone you’d like us to profile, call us at (858) 875-5950 or send the lead via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org