SOUTH PORTLAND – Danica Gleason could have played any position on the softball field and excelled.

Actually, the recently graduated South Portland star did play every position this season.

After making one pitching start, catching because of a teammate’s injury, and playing first base, the Red Riots’ shortstop went to Coach Ralph Aceto with a proposition.

“Finally I said to Ralph, why don’t you just play me at every position? So that’s what we did,” Gleason said.

“She could have probably been a standout at pitcher if she’d really put her mind to it,” Aceto said. “She definitely can play anywhere and be one of the best at that position.”

But it was at shortstop where Gleason’s physical gifts were best suited. Aceto likes to tell the story of the first time he saw Gleason taking grounders in the gym as a freshman.

“We had just graduated our shortstop. I saw Danica take a couple ground balls and I said to my assistant, ‘well, we solved that problem,’ ” Aceto said.

Despite starting the season less than four months after she dislocated her kneecap and suffered an MCL sprain in basketball, Gleason tore through the SMAA’s strong pitching. She batted .667 with an .820 on-base percentage, 35 RBI, six doubles, four triples and six home runs as South Portland finished 15-3.

Noble Coach Rick Melanson said Gleason’s offensive output “just jumps off the page. Forty hits in 16 (regular-season) games? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that.

“But the thing that separates her from everyone else is her defense. It’s just her quickness. She has a rocket for an arm and then she gets rid of the ball so quick.”

Gleason intends to play both softball and baseball at St. Joseph’s College while studying physical education.

“I think she could have been D-I. I think she’s that good a ballplayer,” St. Joseph’s Co-Coach Dick Bailey said after Gleason received the Miss Maine Softball award.

Gleason said she almost walked away from the diamond, briefly trying lacrosse as a 10-year-old.

“I hated Little League,” she said.

Then she joined a 10-and-under ASA travel team. There she found some like-minded and similarly talented players.

Pretty soon she was honing the training she’d received from her father, John Gleason, a member of the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame.

“I’ve never really taken many hitting lessons. My dad was always the one who gave me hitting lessons and stuff like that,” Gleason said.

Her thirst for trying new athletic challenges continued through high school. She ran cross country one year, helped start a volleyball program and, as a senior, played field hockey.

“How often do you see a kid who goes from never having played field hockey to starting on a field hockey team?” Aceto wondered. “She’s just a natural athlete.”

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at:

scraig@mainetoday.com