It seems that Shorewood girls softball coach Amy Keel has always been instrumental in the success of Homestead sports.
Those efforts included playing for her dad, Dave, as the rock-steady four-year starting catcher on the 2010 WIAA state finalist Highlander squad, and being the ball girl for many seasons for Dave's highly successful football teams when she was just a child.
But the story really goes much further back, when she 'helped' her then much-distracted dad and his Homestead softball team win the 1993 North Shore Conference title.
Dave's wife and Amy's mom, Pam, said the story goes like this: She was late in her pregnancy with Amy when she went to a regular appointment with her doctor on May 20. After a few brief tests, the doctor's eyes got wide as he told Pam she needed to get to the hospital immediately, because the baby was coming.
The Homestead softball team was playing archrival Germantown for the North Shore Conference title that very day. Upon learning of Pam's situation, Dave rushed off to be with her. Retired Homestead athletic director, Hall of Famer and all-purpose coaching fill-in Phil Puerling was called in to help with the softball team.
The team wound up beating Germantown — and winning the NSC championship.
Amy arrived at 9:38 p.m., and Dave gave all the credit for the conference title to Puerling, with an assist to Amy.
Fast-forward 23 years to May 20, 2016, on a warm and hazy afternoon at the Shorewood softball diamond. Amy, in her first year of coaching, was preparing to host a late season nonconference game that was added to the schedule in the last few weeks. Against Homestead. On her birthday.
'We had talked all year about it, what with all the rainouts,' said Amy, with a laugh. 'So of course, we do it on my birthday.'
Pam arrived late, wearing a black-and-white dress with an old Homestead football comforter in tow.
If fact, while heading to the third base coaching box one inning, Dave Keel could not help but loudly question, in a humorous manner, his wife's intentions in this contest.
It was just that kind of day; the jokes were strictly in-family, starting with Amy and Dave posing for pictures when exchanging lineup cards
Dave Keel is normally chatty when in the coaching box, and he didn't let up just because his team was playing his daughter's squad. He has more than 30 years of experience as head of the successful Highlander softball program and is also well-known for leading Homestead to five WIAA football titles.
He was also just recently inducted into the State Softball Coaches Hall of Fame.
So of course, while in the box and near the Shorewood dugout, he used his wealth of experience to 'help' Amy and the Greyhounds. He kept giving tongue-in-cheek on-field scouting reports that first-year coach Amy could easily hear. His daughter, who is working hard with a still-building program, could only laugh herself and roll her eyes.
She had seen and heard it all many times before.
Celebrating after the game
It was all in good fun. In the end, the Highlanders overmatched the young Greyhounds, 14-2, but Amy Keel was pleased with the energy and excitement the team maintained from start to finish. The noise from the dugout was loud all game long — and even louder afterward when both teams serenaded her with slightly off-key renditions of 'Happy Birthday.'
The balloons came out with a cake Pam had stashed in her car, and there was much laughter and much joy as Amy, in her own way, handled with aplomb the oft-difficult and time-honored tradition of a young adult trying to impress her accomplished parents.
After all, she graduated from her father's alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, last year and now is stepping into her father's honored profession.
Her team would get a well-earned fourth win of the spring in the regular season closer against West Allis Central on May 24 (see sports wraps) as both her squad and her dad's look forward to WIAA tournament play.
She said she has definitely caught the coaching bug.
And, of course, Dad couldn't be any prouder.
'It's really an honor to coach and play against her,' he said. 'I'm proud and excited for her, because they (the Greyhounds) are getting better.'