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Wells shined on softball diamond

Vallie Wells Takahashi has made an indelible mark on Forest Grove softball

When it comes to the Forest Grove softball program, Vallie Wells Takahashi’s DNA is all over it.NEWS-TIMES FILE PHOTO
 - Vallie Wells Takahashi receives Pacific's female athlete of the year award from then-athletic director Judy Sherman in 1999.

In the 1990s, Takahashi developed into an all-state second baseman on powerhouse Viking teams. Not long after an All-American softball career at Pacific, she returned to her roots and started coaching at her high school alma mater.

Takahashi has remained there ever since, and for her contributions to the program, she has been chosen as a member of the sixth class of the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. This year’s ceremony is scheduled for Sept. 26 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains.

To make the year even more special, on Oct. 2, Takahashi — along with her husband, Guy — will be inducted into the Pacific Athletic Hall of Fame as well.

“You’re honored to receive one, let alone a second one, so it was definitely a surprise,” Takahashi said earlier this month. “It’s an honor to be nominated, but then to be chosen and to be chosen for two, it’s pretty special.”

It is special — and rare — but Takahashi’s accomplishments hold up. She ranks among the most decorated and most versatile softball players Forest Grove has produced, and her star continued to climb during her days as a Boxer.

“Vallie is one of those few players that she literally could play anything on the field,” said former teammate Jaime Prickett, who graduated from Forest Grove in 1995, the same year as Takahashi. “The only reason she didn’t pitch was because she didn’t want to. She is such a good athlete and it seems to come so naturally to her that no matter where the coaches put her, she was solid and played absolutely pretty close to errorless ball.”

Takahashi’s career actually began on a baseball diamond. Her father, Lee Wells, is a former college baseball player, and he often coached the youth teams that Takahashi and her older brother, Ty, played on together.

Eventually, Takahashi made the fulltime transition to softball and she never looked back. Thanks in no small part to her father’s efforts and to her playing catcher to Prickett’s pitcher as the two girls grew up, Takahashi developed into a smart and skilled softball player.

“Honestly, she’s one of the few catchers I’ve ever had that would just gladly catch me when I practiced,” said Prickett, the 1995 state player of the year. “So we practiced together so much that when we played ball, we were in sync before we got to high school, because we knew what we wanted to throw.”

The two formed an impressive battery on Forest Grove’s junior varsity squad as freshmen until they got bumped up to varsity. Prickett’s call came first, though Wells also went along for the Vikings’ playoff ride, all the way through a 1992 Class 4A state runner-up finish.

Takahashi spent her sophomore season in a new position, playing in the outfield to fill a hole on the squad. She did well but hadn’t found her true place on the team quite yet.

“I loved the challenge and it was fun, but one year in the outfield was definitely enough for me,” she noted.

She found a home at second base as a junior, when the Vikings earned their second Metro League title. After all of her experiences, including with Prickett, second base was a perfect match for Takahashi’s skills and abilities.

“With Jaime pitching and as hard as she threw, a lot of the balls went to that right side, because all the batters were behind her,” Takahashi said. “And so I got a lot of action at second base. I loved it.”

She excelled too, earning second team all-league honors after smashing a school record for total outs thanks to her 61 assists and 33 putouts.

“She was one of the best defensive players that I’ve ever had,” said Ron Thompson, Takahashi’s high school coach.

The 1994-95 school year was Forest Grove’s first in the Pac-7, and with Takahashi batting leadoff, the Vikings went undefeated in league play. With a veteran outfit and Prickett in the circle, state title talk was in the air that season, but the team dropped a 2-0 heartbreaker in 13 innings to Centennial in the semifinals. Takahashi led the Vikings with a .460 batting average, 29 hits and 15 RBIs, and was named first team all-state.

She stayed home for her college career as a middle infielder with Pacific and reached her zenith her junior season. The year before, Takahashi tore the rotator cuff in her throwing shoulder and had surgery right after the season ended. Still recovering during the 1998 season, she still managed to post team highs in batting average (.370), at-bats (135), runs (32), hits (50) and several other categories.

“I took hundreds and hundreds of reps of grounders but never threw the ball,” Takahashi said. “All my grounders that I fielded just went into a bucket. I always had buckets next to me and just saved my arm for games.”

That year, Pacific went 30-11 and snapped Pacific Lutheran’s 11-year conference win streak, won the Northwest Conference of Independent Colleges title, and played at the NAIA Pacific North West Regional in British Columbia.

After graduating, Takahashi spent the following school year student teaching, working as a substitute teacher and serving as a Boxers assistant. She then was hired as a physical education teacher at Tom McCall Middle School, where she worked for 11 years before moving to the high school.

She rejoined the Forest Grove softball program during her first year in the school district and she has remained with the Vikings ever since, serving as an assistant under several head coaches and also coaching alongside her father.

“You know they’ve had fun and they feel good about the Forest Grove softball team when they come back and help,” Thompson said.

In 2007, she was on staff when Forest Grove upset Central Catholic in extra innings to claim both the softball program and school’s first-ever team state title.

Married for 13 years, Takahashi lives in Hillsboro with her family, which includes two athletic daughters, Makaila, 11, and Kailea, 8.