By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Carlee Wallace knows it's unconventional, but she loves the sight of blood. Even when it's her own. Good thing, too, because the way Auburn's junior catcher plays softball, there's occasionally plenty of it on her uniform.
For her 21st birthday, Wallace asked for a suture kit for a present to replace the one she's been using, her grandfather's old Army kit.
"I've been practicing on fruit," she says.
Against Mississippi State on April 30, Wallace required seven stitches in her chin and lip after a collision. While Auburn's team physicians, Dr. Michael Goodlett and Dr. Siraj Abdullah treated her, Wallace asked a question.
"Hey, can I try?" Wallace inquired. "They said, `Do you want a scar?' I said, `Probably not.' They said, `Keep practicing.'
"I want them to explain everything to me. I want them to tell me what's going on. I want to see everything if I can. I'm a nerd about that stuff. I love anything that has to do with the human body. I'm just fascinated by it."
Majoring in exercise science, Wallace says she has been drawn to the medical field since she was 6.
"I have a love for medicine and the human body and helping others," she says.
If Wallace decides not to become a physician assistant, her other preference would be to follow her parents into law enforcement. Her mom was a sheriff. Her dad still is in San Diego.
"I feel like I have the type of personality to be a U.S. Marshal," she says. "And I love the fitness aspect of it. The good thing is, with my degree, I can go either way."
For now, Wallace will stick to apprehending would-be base stealers. She's busted six potential thieves this season, earning a spot on the SEC All-Defensive team.
Wallace also made First Team All-SEC, leading the Tigers in several offensive categories, including hits and RBI. Thirteen times this season she's been involved in game-winning plays, either scoring or driving in the winner.
The night before Wallace wanted to self-stitch, she hit a walk-off grand slam, another chapter in the legend of Carlee Clutch.
"I've sat on my couch at home and watched other girls hit home runs," she says. "My parents got to be on TV, and to get the ball, so that was a really cool feeling."
Wallace says the MSU slam ranks second only to one of her first clutch hits, a ninth-inning game-winner against Tennessee as a freshman in 2015 that gave Auburn its first SEC Tournament title.
"That was my first step in becoming who I am," she says. "That was the first time I tapped into my potential. I feel like I'm slowly but surely building, and I wish that college lasted more than four years, because I feel like every year I get better. That was the first time I really grew up on the field."
'I fit in here'
From her home in Southern California, Wallace traveled more than 2,000 miles to the Plains. Determined to compete in the Pac-12, she first committed to play for Clint Myers at Arizona State. When Myers left for Auburn in 2014, he reached out to Wallace.
"Coach called me one day and said, `Hey, I'm at Auburn,'" she remembers. "And I was like, `Where the heck is that?' He said, `It's in the South. It's in Alabama. Why don't you come visit? You can see what it's about.'
"When I came out here, I was here for half a day and only saw the softball facility. I said, `I'm sold.' He promised me, `We will win. You will be a part of something great.' I said, `Good enough for me.'
"After that, I explored. I got so lucky with the school, the fan base. The people are incredible. I fit in here a lot better than I fit in California in a lot of ways."
An only child, Wallace says it's very hard being so far away from her family -- she calls her mom "my best friend," and says of her dad, who serves as her hitting coach, "I am my father."
"It showed me that I'm a big girl and I can take care of myself," she says. "You're close to your family and that's great, but you also need to go out and explore and be okay on your own. I think this place has given me the best of both worlds."
One hour after a root canal -- another consequence of that collision nine days earlier - while most would be home resting while the anesthetic wears off and the swelling subsides, Wallace exits the dugout to practice for what she hopes will be an unprecedented third straight SEC Tournament championship.
She concludes a conversation with a visitor by clearing up what Wallace feels is a misconception.
"A lot people think that I'm kind of a brute and I'm really mean on the field," Wallace says. "But I'm actually really nice. You can ask the girls, I'm a big jokester off the field. In my spare time, I love to work out, go hard and be tough, but I also love to read. I'm a bookworm. I can spend all day in the library. People forget that part, that there's an intellectual, smart, sweet side. I'm not just this big brute on the field. Just so people know there's another side."
-- Jeff Shearer (@jeff_shearer) May 9, 2017
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer