Favorite athlete: Derek Jeter
Favorite team: Philadelphia Eagles
Favorite memory competing in sports: Winning ASA nationals
Most embarrassing/funniest memory competing in sports: I fell over a collapsible fence and was not able to get untangled but still tried to throw the ball
Music on mobile device: Hip-Hop, R&B, Country
Future plans: Continuing my education and softball career at Gettysburg. Later hope to attend Law School
Favorite motto: “You have to be a beginner before you can be anything else”
One goal before turning 30: To become a morning person
One thing people don’t know about me: I collect coins from around the world
By Mary Jane Souder
Roll back the calendar three years to the first spring workout for Hatboro-Horsham's softball team. Kyleigh Dinnien – then just a freshman - was looking to make a good first impression.
"I'm so competitive, and I wanted to show everybody - I'm here to stay,” the Hatboro-Horsham senior said.
Dinnien accomplished that and then some when the diminutive outfielder – who measures in at 5-4 - ran to the makeshift base that was used for the indoor practice in the gym.
"I was giving 110 percent running through that base," Dinnien recalls. “Speed is one of my best traits for softball, and I actually slipped because it was one of those little rubber bases.
"I hit that base and dove into the door of the gym and just smashed through, helmet pressed on the door handle and outside the door to the ground. The door completely opened when I hit it, and I fell outside on the concrete. The whole gym went in complete silence. Everyone thought I broke every bone in my body. I got back up, and while some of the older girls were sitting down like, 'I don't want to run anymore.' I still wanted to show, 'No, I'm okay' and got back up and kept running.
Coach Joe DiFilippo knew immediately he had a keeper.
"I said to my assistants, 'We've got to keep this kid,' and ever since then she's started in the outfield for me," DiFilippo said.
It was a moment that not only earned Dinnien a spot in the lineup, it also underscored a style of play that is the now senior captain’s trademark.
"She dives, she's in the dirt all the time, she does whatever has to be done," DiFilippo said. "She's just an old-fashioned player who does whatever she has to do to get the job done.
"She's been hurt her share of times. Sometimes she goes all out and ends up doing something stupid because she's trying to make something happen."
Dinnien has made a career out of making things happen and won't let a few bumps or bruises keep her down.
"I play through injuries, get them fixed after the season is over," she said.
Dinnien isn’t boasting. It’s just a fact.
“Sophomore year – during one of my games, I dove for a ball and I broke my wrist,” she said. “This was in the middle of the season. I never went and got it checked. Everyone said it’s fine.
“So I finished the month and a half of the season and then I got it x-rayed. They said, ‘You broke your wrist.’ I got a cast for the summer. I want to play. I don’t want to be out of the game, no matter if I’m hurt or whatever.”
Dinnien is a difference maker out of the leadoff spot in the Hatters’ lineup.
“She does a great job,” DiFilippo said. “She knows how to run the bases. There’s a difference between being really fast on the bases and able to beat everything and just plain knowing how to run the bases.
“As she goes, our offense goes. When she’s on, she usually scores. When I have a game where she’s not getting on, we’re in trouble.”
After playing left field for three years, Dinnien anchors the Hatters’ outfield in center.
“She has a very good arm, she’s very good at reading a fly ball, very good communication between the outfielders,” DiFilippo said. “Having her in center field is like having another coach in the field.”
Dinnien grew up in a family that loved sports with two older brothers – Chris and Mike – who played baseball and wrestled.
“I would tag along and watch them, but we were always in the backyard throwing the ball, doing anything,” she said. “It wasn’t always throwing a softball or throwing a baseball. We would throw the football out there, whatever we could get our hands on.
“They would definitely encourage me to come outside and have a catch with them. Even just shagging balls when they were hitting at practice – I loved being there in the environment of it. My brothers really made me love (sports), and they’re still my big supporters today.”
Softball was always Dinnien’s sport of choice, although she did play soccer and basketball through middle school.
“I grew up playing softball because my dad played baseball, and he was always coaching me,” she said. “The second I could start playing travel ball – I started playing it.”
After playing for the Horsham Heat as a youngster and the Banshees through middle school, Dinnien has played for DiFilippo’s Thunderbirds the past four years, anchoring the outfield in center as well.
“It’s not only that I enjoyed playing softball, but it’s the people that I was with,” Dinnien said. “I think that’s why I haven’t gone with travel teams further away. “I’ve stayed local with the same girls that have grown into my best friends today. I still get to play with them at the high school, which is a great honor.
“I’ve been with them so many years, and I think they’ve kept me in love with the sport. That along with my dad being my coach and always encouraging me to be better.”
Dinnien has been a four-year starter for a Hatter squad with a strong tradition on the diamond.
“It was a huge honor being able to play freshman year,” she said. “It was just a crazy thing – I didn’t really think I had that shot, but that’s what I strived for, that was the ultimate thing.”
While her kamikaze dive through the door may have been what caught DiFilippo’s eye, it’s not what put her in the lineup or kept her there. Rather, it’s Dinnien’s singular goal of always being the best she can be that has made her such a valued asset.
“I think that type of attitude carries over into my life in general,” she said. “My schoolwork – I even have that hard work drive where I want to get everything done and just have everything organized, ready and know if I have to give a presentation I’m giving 110 percent.”
It’s that attitude and ability to lead that made Dinnien a natural choice to serve as one of four generals from the senior class – two for the red team and two for the black - for the school’s annual Red and Black Night.
“That was something that was hard – you interview for it,” she said of being named general. “You dress up like a professional interview, and you’re interviewed by teachers you never met before, so really trying to put myself across to people that never met me before was kind of a struggle for me. I was nervous to say the wrong thing to them, but I did end up getting it.
“It’s one of the best experiences of my high school career. That’s a really special night at our school, and I’ve loved it since freshman year.”
Dinnien also is a member of Student Council, Pride Pack and the school’s Adventure Club. She is a straight A student.
“I work hard just like everybody else in the school,” she said. “I’m in two APs now, which is a lot to take on senior year when everyone else is talking about how they get to go home and don’t have any work to do.”
This fall she will be attending Gettysburg College, majoring in business with her sights set on one day becoming a lawyer. While Dinnien will continue her softball career at Gettysburg, her decision to attend the Centennial Conference power was based on the school’s academic reputation.
“I wasn’t a person who wanted to play DI softball,” she said. “Softball is something I love, but I know after the next four years it’s not going anywhere else from there.
“I know that after that I want to have a really good job, and I’m going to get it at that school.”
Dinnien had an opportunity to play Division I softball at Drexel.
“It didn’t really entice me as much as playing at Gettysburg,” she said. “I fell in love with the coach at Gettysburg, the program and the whole school. I walked on that campus and I fell in love.”
For now, Dinnien and her teammates have some unfinished business on the softball diamond. The Hatters – who are poised to clinch the SOL American Conference title - are looking to make some noise in the postseason after last year’s first round exit from the District One 6A Tournament.
“That was definitely disappointing, especially for the seniors and all the girls who left because I know how badly they wanted it,” Dinnien said. “Everybody wanted it just as badly.”
The senior captain will be counted on to lead a young Hatter squad down the homestretch.
“She leads by example, but she’s not afraid to say something to people too,” DiFilippo said. “I’ll miss her when she’s gone.
“I’ve had a lot of kids that started as freshmen, and when they come to the end, you miss them, and she fits into that group.”