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PHU's ace won't stop in quest to get better

Scholarship? Check. State title? Check. Player of the year award? Check. But you wouldn't know it by watching Dani Hofer.

By MEYLA HOOKER
Published February 15, 2005


PALM HARBOR - It's Friday afternoon. The wind is picking up, and the temperature is quickly dropping at Palm Harbor University's softball field.

It's easy to spot Dani Hofer, the team's ace who will pitch for LSU in the fall.

Seven players are out sick with a bug going around campus, but Hofer is right where she needs to be. Actually, Hofer is here because there is no place she'd rather be.

The senior leads the way as the squad takes four laps around the field during warmups. She never stops moving as she goes from stretching to throwing to the cage for batting practice.

Hofer doesn't take shortcuts; especially not during practice. There's only one thing on her mind this season: keep getting better.

"Dani is a unique person," PHU coach Chuck Poetter said. "I've had a lot of great players, but she has outworked everybody. She's committed to being as good as she can be. She just wants to be one of the girls. She's not satisfied."

It's that determination that helped Hofer finish 22-2 with a 0.13 ERA and 381 strikeouts last year.

So how does a player improve on those stats?

"I want my teammates to know that I still have their backs," Hofer said. "It could be easy to not work as hard when you get a scholarship. But they know that's not me. We want to accomplish so much and maybe be even better than last year. I'm going to play each game as if I were fighting for colleges to look at me."

At this practice, there is no talk of last year's Class 5A state title or District 9 championship. Hofer isn't boasting about her county player of the year honors or striking out 21 of 22 batters in a playoff game. This is a new year, and she is just being one of the girls.

Hofer just happens to be one of the best girls in the county to ever play the sport.

"Dani is a bit of a perfectionist," Poetter said. "When she was a sophomore, her dad would drop her 2 miles from her house because she wanted to run the rest of the way. How do you teach a kid that? You can't."

--Meyla Hooker can be reached by phone at 727-445-4224 or e-mail her at mhooker@sptimes.com