'I knew I was meant to be here'

Tolmie sisters share the softball field together for the first time

Senior Abbey Tolmie, left, and freshman Keira Tolmie, right, pose for a portrait, Monday, Feb. 12 in Moore Hall. The sisters play on CMU’s softball team.

One day, Central Michigan softball senior Abbey Tolmie got a call to come down to the coaches' office at CMU. She didn’t know what to expect. 

There, standing in the office, was her sister Keira Tolmie. With Abbey looking at her confused, Keira said “guess what?” and with that, Abbey jumped in her arms, knowing that they would finally be teammates. Keira had decided to come play softball at CMU. 

For the first time ever, the two would play on the same team. Before then, they didn’t think they would be able to. 

When Abbey was going into her senior season at Clarkston High School and Keira was a freshman, they both knew it was a possibility of playing together. However, just after Keira got the news of making varsity, their season was canceled due to COVID-19.  

“She made the team and then the very next day, the first practice was canceled,” Abbey said. “So, it was like a long time waiting to get to that point. 

"I know you were still playing (with dolls) at my softball games, when we first dreamed about playing varsity together, and that was ... the big goal,” she said to Keira

When the season was canceled, the chances of the two playing on the same team for the first time became small. Abbey moved on to college softball while Keira continued her high school career, playing basketball and softball. 

Then came the time where Keira had to make the decision of where to play college softball. Her first visit was Central Michigan; however, with advice from her parents, she decided to also look at other schools. 

After going through the whole recruitment process, and with no persuasion from Abbey, Keira decided to join her sister and call Mount Pleasant home. 

“Our parents always influenced us, like 'do not just decide to go to Central just because your sister's there' because obviously (she’s) leaving after this year,” Keira said. “So, I did the whole recruiting process. This was my first visit, but then I went to a bunch of other visits, I checked out every school and every opportunity, and then my heart just took me back here because it was a no doubter.”

During the decision-making process, Abbey felt it was necessary to not try and persuade Keira to come play for the Chippewas, so Keira was choosing CMU for herself.

“I tried to never force it to be like, Oh, well, Central's the place,” Abbey said. “But, I think just seeing the love that I have for CMU and the culture here, and my teammates and my phenomenal coaches … I think just seeing all the love that I have for this program and my team (led to it).”  

“(She) really didn't influence me at all,” Keira said. “It was just, I knew I was meant to be here.” 

Junior outfielder Abbey Tolmie reaches for a pop fly during game one of the MAC softball tournament against Ohio on Thursday, May 11 in Oxford, Ohio.

Finding the love of the sport together 

The sisters both started softball at a young age, thanks to their parents, who had a connection to the sport. As both of them started to find their own love for it, Abbey began travel softball when she was around 7 years old while Keira started when she was around 5 or 6. 

“The love for softball came from our parents, definitely,” Abbey said. “We played every sport. We started with ... gymnastics, soccer, every sport like most kids do. And then (we) really dove into (softball).” 

Even before they were on the same team, playing the same sport helped their relationship grow. Apart from the teams they played on, Abbey said their parents motivated them to put in the extra work, which led to them working together. 

“I think it's really special because we haven't been on the same team together ever, but I think (she’s) always been my teammate,” Abbey said. “We're always doing the extra work, our parents pushed us extremely hard outside of our practices and ... with our actual teams growing up.” 

“We've always been extremely close, our parents instilled in us from a very young age that we are so lucky to have each other like we're going to be best friends for life,” Keira said.

Keira said that her favorite memories as a kid always included Abbey, most importantly visiting family in Canada. Now, being able to create new moments on the same field as teammates is something they both won’t forget. 

“Outside of being together, our other favorite memories have been from softball, so now we get to put those two together, which is pretty special,” Keira said. 

Sharing the field for the first time 

As the 2024 season has begun, the two are finally able to put those two things together. 

In eight of the first 20 games this season, the two have batted in the first two spots of the lineup, with Keira following Abbey in the batting order. In the matchup against University of Alabama at Birmingham, Keira secured her first triple in her college career, scoring her older sister on the hit. 

“When she's up to bat, I'm way more nervous than I am when I'm up to bat because I want her to do so well.  ... That's my main concern,” Keira said. “But then when I'm up there… (I’m) loose and excited.”

They said they have been each other’s biggest cheerleaders throughout their softball careers, and have always pushed each other to be the best players that they can be. 

One of the biggest supports they offer to each other is holding the other accountable and pushing each other. When Keira was coming to CMU, she looked to her older sister for advice. 

That’s when Abbey started telling her about how hard their lifts are, and that everyone on the team can do a pull up, knowing that not everyone could do it. But to push Keira to be stronger, Abbey told her that. 

With the advice from her older sister, Keira pushed herself waking up every morning before school her senior year of high school and doing 50 pull ups. 

“I totally believed it, and I asked my parents to buy me a pull up bar to go over top of my bedroom door,” Keira said. “I come here and not everyone on the team can do a pull up, but she just got me prepared for it, so now I'm stronger than I would have been if she didn't do that to me.” 

Keira also said that Abbey has taught her how to enjoy the game of softball instead of feeling the pressure that comes with the sport. 

“If you come to a softball game, you'll see (Abbey) smile before every single at bat,” Keira said. “Instead of being tense, I just look at her and she's over there smiling and having fun, so I'm like, 'I love this, this is fun.'”  

They both have learned a lot from each other, not only on the softball field but in life. Abbey said that Keira has taught her to be confident in herself. 

“Keira loves really hard, and she doesn't really have any regrets,” Abbey said. “I think (I’ve learned from her) to be unapologetically myself. I know that (she’s) so confident in who (she is), and that (she’s) just able to live life and not worry about what everybody else thinks of (her), so I think I've learned a lot about that.” 

Photo Courtesy of CMU Athletics

Importance of family

One of the most important things to the sisters is family.

“Our parents are incredible,” Keira said. “They would drop anything for us, and they've always done everything that they can to make sure we had the best opportunities to succeed in softball and academically.” 

Their family has always been their number one supporters throughout their softball careers, whether that's watching every game, hanging banners in their front yards or traveling around the country to get them to tournaments. 

“My parents have given everything to allow us to be here,” Abbey said. “Also our two grandparents on my mom's side; they watch every single game, even through COVID when they couldn't cross the (Canadian) border. 

“That was really hard for all of us, just because we're so close. It's only an hour away, but at the same time it was so far.” 

This season, their parents will get to watch them take the field together for the first time, instead of having to split up like they had to on tournament weekends during travel season. 

“For the first time in our whole lives, they're all going to be at the same place watching the same game, because for years, it'd be like Mom's with me, Dad's with (her) and then switch because we'd be playing at the same time,” Keira said.  

Leaving a legacy 

Abbey is a senior and is in her final year for the Chippewas, where she has been a consistent player, starting in 155 games through her first three years. 

In her career, she has hit a .350 batting average with 206 hits and 58 RBIs. On the defensive side, she has been a force in center field for the Chippewas with 257 putouts and a .985 fielding percentage. 

Along with that, she has been named to the Second Team All-MAC three times. 

“Our team talks a lot about legacy,” Abbey said. “So I want to leave a legacy … called a butterfly effect. ... (I want) to give what I've learned and pour into others and let them feel that and it bridge out into everybody else. … I don't want to have regrets where I would leave the game without giving it all I got. I know that's not the type of person I am.” 

Keira has been able to watch her sister be the consistent player that she is at CMU and reach her goals. 

“She has been an extremely successful player, and that just makes me very proud,” Keira said. “But it also shows me that I can do it because I know that we compete with each other. And just seeing her be so successful just puts it into perspective that I can do this too.” 

Being a part of this team has not only helped Abbey grow as a player, but as a person. She said she will take that with her for the rest of her life. 

“I have grown so much; I really noticed this year that I'm just like a completely different person,” Abbey said. “I find that I'm empowered by all the people I'm surrounded by. I've never had true friends like I have at CMU.”

Abbey gives a lot of appreciation to her coaches and teammates who have helped her every step of the way in her college career. 

“I also think our three coaches have been ... the biggest supporters for me,” Abbey said. “I think they've really shown us the importance of mental health and just being well-rounded because if I can be my best mentally, physically, emotionally ... putting it all together is going to be my best on the softball field.”