In his years coaching football, basketball and softball at St. Charles North, not to mention his lifetime of both playing and watching sports in St. Charles, few people have seen the top athletes come and go the last 20-plus years more than North Stars softball coach Tom Poulin.
He's said goodbye to plenty of seniors in all those sports, the vast majority hardworking, talented kids that Poulin has loved coaching and will sincerely miss working with on the basketball court or softball field.
It says something then that with all those players, Poulin's reaction after Sabrina Rabin played her last softball game in a St. Charles North uniform last week at the Class 4A Bartlett sectional.
Poulin got choked up talking about Rabin, and very little of it had to do with everything Rabin accomplished on the field.
"Sabrina is a four-year player, she was very important in that run downstate (as a freshman)," Poulin said. "I don't know if I have the words for Sabrina. She's as good as it gets and that's not saying it well enough. She's the epitome of what every coach would want. Student-athlete, a leader, a captain by example and vocally. She produces. She's a leader in the tough times. She has been nothing but a joy to work with. She's very, very special."
For the second straight year, Rabin also is the captain of the Daily Herald's All-Area Softball team after leading the North Stars to a 23-8 season and a regional championship. She's the first repeat winner since 1998 and 1999 when Kristyn Ludvik from St. Charles won both years.
It's hard for Rabin to believe her high school career is in the past tense.
"It was a lot of fun," Rabin said. "It's kind of weird it's over, I don't think it's sunk in yet. I worked with a lot of great people and we accomplished a lot. It was nice to have the state experience.
"Making it downstate will be something I remember the most especially because my name will be on that state trophy but I had a lot of other great experiences too. It's hard to pick just one."
One of the best pitchers in the area, Rabin was once again even better in her leadoff spot this season, almost a guaranteed run every time she got on base with her speed on the bases.
While Poulin has had the pleasure of penciling Rabin in his lineup and watching the Northwestern recruit help his team win many, many games, coaches like Geneva's Greg Dierks have been on the other side the past four years with the unenviable task of trying to defend her.
And it hasn't been fun.
"She is the ultimate leadoff hitter," Dierks said. "She can reach base by going small or big. Once she is on, you know she is heading for second and she is next to impossible to throw out stealing. Very difficult to defend and you have to be almost perfect to keep them from scoring in the innings that she bats."
Dierks isn't kidding or overstating Rabin's impact. She stole 28 bases this year and scored 35 runs.
That's after stealing 35 of 36 bases as a junior.
And like Poulin, Dierks was just as impressed with Rabin's intangibles.
"I also like the way she carries herself as a ballplayer," Dierks said. "Confident, but not cocky. Plays all out, all the time, and she always shows good sportsmanship."
When Poulin says that Rabin is a leader in the tough times too, the North Stars faced some of it this year. One of their best players left the team early in the season.
Rabin helped hold the team together and keep winning big -- which they have done every year Rabin has been on it.
"We just stayed positive," Rabin said. "We have a lot of talent and I think at first people didn't realize they are really good players. I wish our other teams (after her freshman year) would have gone to state too, but I was proud we at least won a regional this year."
Rabin made varsity as a freshman and was a key role player on a senior-led team that had the best record in school history and finished second in state.
Once all those seniors graduated, Rabin returned and spent the next three years as the best player on a team that won 68 games, two conference championships and this year's regional title.
Rabin made the All-Area team all three years. As a junior Rabin hit .534 with a .602 on-base percentage and stole 35 bases in 36 tries while finishing 18-4 with a 1.49 ERA. She won 10 games as a sophomore with a 2.20 ERA, hit .447, stole 26 bases, scored 32 runs and had 51 hits.
This year as a senior Rabin went 13-7 with 86 strikeouts while batting a team-high .469 with 6 doubles, 5 triples, 28 steals, 32 RBI and 35 runs.
That's 89 steals the past three years.
"Sabrina has had another outstanding season for us," Poulin said. "It isn't an exaggeration when I say that there really isn't anything she can't do out on the field."
Born in Burr Ridge, Rabin was quite the ice skater growing up which she credits for her strong leg muscles. In the Math, Spanish and National Honor Societies and active in community service, Rabin recently won two more awards that have nothing to do with softball -- the Outstanding Senior Award from the math department, and the North Star Award.
For the second of those two awards, Rabin was chosen over 11 other St. Charles North seniors who were nominated for impacting the school in a positive way.
"I'm really proud of that," Rabin said.
Rabin will be traveling a lot this summer for softball tournaments in Colorado and California among other locations. She leaves for Northwestern in September where she will begin her studies with a goal of eventually becoming a doctor, while moving to center field on the softball diamond.
"It's definitely going to be a challenge but I'm really excited," Rabin said.
Poulin certainly is excited for her, but there's also a measure of sadness saying goodbye. It wouldn't be that way if the player -- and person -- leaving wasn't so special.
"She has been the definition of a captain and leader, and a joy to coach," Poulin said. "Sabrina deserves all that she has been awarded, as she has earned it. She works constantly to improve and it is no surprise that she has been as successful as she has been. Sabrina has had an extraordinary four years of varsity softball for us and we will miss her so much."