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Turtle Power: Kelsey Bogaards inspiration for Auburn softball
May 18, 2016

Kelsey Bogaards is in good spirits as Auburn heads to NCAA play

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala. How, someone wanted to know, did she get that nickname. Why is Kelsey Bogaards called "Turtle"?

How? Why? We want to know, and now.

"I knew that was coming..." she smiled.

Bogaards, the injured Auburn softball player who has become an inspiration to her NCAA-bound teammates, battled back from a knee injury in the fall only to suffer another after getting in the final two games of the regular season. Two surgeries have ended her Auburn career, but her teammates haven't forgotten her. They rallied around her.

Auburn heads into Friday's NCAA regional opener against Jacksonville State as the nation's No. 4 seed after sweeping through the Southeastern Conference last weekend. Coach Clint Myers says Bogaards’ fight all season, first rehabbing one bad knee, and then hurting another, has been a rallying point.

Her teammates waved a stuffed toy turtle in the dugout throughout the tournament. Turtles were waved in the stands, too.

"It's like turtles everywhere," Bogaards said. "It escalated really quick. I have a lot of turtles in my room. I've gotten a lot of turtle presents.

"It's crazy how this thing has blown up, this whole turtle thing, but it's great."

Bogaards flew to the Southeastern Conference twice and watched as Auburn won the title by beating LSU on Saturday. That completed a bounce-back performance for the Tigers down the stretch.

"I think the big difference is Kelsey," Myers said. "You saw the reaction when she showed up at the ballpark. She was in the middle of the pictures afterwards. She has a lot to do with this. The term, ‘Play for Turtle’ is something real to them. It is a symbol, it is an inspiration to be like her and go out there and play as long and as hard as you can."

But why "Turtle"?

"I got it when I was younger, growing up in Miami," Bogaards said. "I would always go deep-sea fishing with my dad, and it was kind one of my first words. When I was fishing with my dad a turtle came up to the boat, and it would follow me. At the time I was taking swimming lessons and I would swim like a turtle, supposedly, and it kind of stuck."

Bogaards dismissed one Turtle theory.

"Everyone is like, 'Are you slow?' '‘No, I just got it when I was little.'"

Still, she isn’t exactly fast at the moment, except maybe when she's wheeling around on her electric cart. Otherwise, she's on crutches.

Crutches or no, the turtle phenomenon continues, from the ones in the stands to the shirts her teammates wore to the SEC Tournament.

"I loved it. I love my team. It was great," Bogaards said.

Bogaards blew out one knee in fall practice, rehabbed for months while everyone else was playing and appeared in Game 54 on May 7. On May 8, she tore ligaments in her other knee and had surgery again.

Bogaards did it the last time starting a double play from her shortstop position as she threw the ball to second baseman Emily Carosone.

"I knew something went wrong, but I made sure Emily caught it," Bogaards said. "I felt it pop. But it was kind of like slow motion. I was watching the ball, and right when she caught it, I just kind of fell down. I heard the crowd go crazy and so I was like, ‘We got the double play.’ But, I was like, ‘I don’t think my knee’s here.'"

Coaches helped her to the dugout. She would soon pop up and try running on it. No go.

"At the moment I was like, 'Why, again?'"

But she has remained an integral part of the team.

"I fought every day in rehab to come back to them, so now they’re fighting for me,” she said. “That’s what the Auburn family does. It’s a family. It’s what this team does."

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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