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Sports

The story behind UW softball first baseman's name 'Hooch'

The story behind UW softball first baseman's name 'Hooch'
SEATTLE -- Some nicknames don't stick, while others become legendary.

On Montlake, one UW Husky softball player has had her nickname since she was 2 years old.

"Dad definitely gave it to me," said Melanie Fagaly, aka "Hooch". "I was actually a little embarrassed about it at first."

"The first question is always, 'is that your real name?' " she continued. "And I have to say no, but I think it is so funny or absurd or different I guess and some people are uncomfortable with it."

She says her mom actually still calls her Melanie. "Only when she's up here does she actually refer to other parents as, 'Oh, I am Hooch's mom,' but if she ever talks to me she will not call me Hooch, she will call me Melanie."

At first, head coach Heather Tarr didn't know what to think.

"When I first started talking to her on the phone in recruiting, I would call her Melanie," Tarr said. "I was like, 'Oh, hi Melanie,' and she's like, 'please don't call me Melanie, call me Hooch.' I'm like, 'Are you serious?' She's the sweetest nicest person and Hooch sounds kind of rough and tough. It was interesting when she first said please call me Hooch. I'm like, 'are you sure?' So on my phone, it says Melanie (Hooch) Fagaly."

UW teammate Whitney Jones grew up in California with Hooch, and the first time she heard the name, she was confused.

"I was thinking to myself, like, 'Hooch?' " she said. "Where did that come from? Of course, I asked here where it came from."

On the UW softball diamond, Hooch's name has become synonymous with grit and hard work. A fifth-year senior, Hooch is the starting first baseman. This season, she has shown a flair for the dramatic with some game-winning home runs. She's been a model of consistency during her time at Washington.

"I always tell her, hey your job is to leave this program better than when you found it," Tarr said. "She's a pro's pro. Every little thing she does, how she takes care of her gear, the uniform, how she respects the game -- we're definitely gonna miss when she is gone, but she has added so much to this program and she is gonna leave it in such a better place."

A part of two College Softball World Series teams, Hooch has endeared herself to teammates and Husky fans with her hard work and her unique name -- a name that sometimes leads to awkward moments as Hooch could mean several things.

"It's kind of funny, you'll hear yourself go 'C'mon Hoochie' and then you're like, what we we just saying?" Tarr said. "If someone's just walking by, what are they thinking we we just calling this person."

It's nothing negative at all -- the name comes from Hollywood.

"The movie Turner and Hooch with Tom Hanks came out in 1990-1991," Fagaly said. "Hooch is the big mastiff with the big cheeks that slobbers all the time. Ever since I was two, I had the big cheeks and the slobber face."

Now it's safe to say the kid named after a famous Bordeaux mastiff has made a name for herself as a Husky.

"I still got the big cheeks; hopefully drool a little bit less," she said.

Hooch missed a year with an injury so she decided to make the most of her time at UW -- she has already graduated with two majors and two minors.

The Huskies open NCAA regional play Thursday night at home at 7 p.m. against Iona.
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