2015 Fordham Softball – Week 8

Sunday, March 8, 2015 – Off Weekend / Bronx, New York

After four consecutive weekends on the road, we Rams were treated to a weekend at Fordham, free of traveling and games. During this time off from playing, we had the opportunity to rest our bodies and minds a bit, reflect on the past four weeks of play, and like always, use our time in the gym and at practice to improve. Check out the highlights from our off weekend:

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2015 Fordham Softball – Week 5 / Playing the Game Like Prisoners Set Free

Thursday, February 12, 2015 – University of South Florida / Tampa, Florida

We enjoyed some beautiful weather and scenery on the campus of USF.

We enjoyed some beautiful weather and scenery on the campus of USF.

It’s funny where writing inspiration comes from sometimes. For me, it’s usually through circumstances and conversations, even transitory thoughts or words that unintentionally pop into my mind. Today, it came from the back of a leather airplane seat. A most unlikely place.

For the 40 minutes of idle time during which we were stuck on the runway at LaGuardia Airport aboard our mid-afternoon JetBlue flight, I casually flip-flopped between small talk with those around me and the calming escape of my headphones, in order to ease my anxious anticipation of our impending takeoff. Just before our plane’s wheels circled towards the sky, the familiar sight of a ball field on the small, soundless television screen in front of me naturally caught my eye. Intrigued, my headphones immediately shifted from the inside of my primordial iPod into the armrest connecting me to the previously silenced words from the moving mouths on the screen.

In a matter of minutes, an impressive New York Times Op-Docs video piece took me through the story of the San Quentin Giants – a baseball team unlike any of the ones I had previously been familiar with. It featured prisoners who were afforded the opportunity to play baseball despite their incarceration at the San Quentin Bay Prison in San Francisco. Baseball not only gave these men a physical outlet away from their prison cells, but it also provided them with a mental escape from the confines of their pasts, as well as a way to learn about themselves and cope with their current realities.

I gained a great amount of perspective from watching the Times’ moving seven-minute feature, and of course, thought about how I could apply the San Quentin Giants’ story to ours.

What stuck with me most after viewing the video piece were the prisoners’ beautiful descriptions about how baseball made them feel. One man called the game “a relief.” Another said, “When I am on that field, I am not locked up.”

During a week in which it felt like we were just going through the motions, at practice and otherwise, as we were similarly (though not nearly as drastically) confined to the four walls of the Lombardi Center, these were just the words I needed to hear to be reminded about what a tremendous blessing it is to play this great game every day.

Perhaps things felt differently this week due to a combination of tiredness from school and practice, and the letdown from returning indoors after playing in beautiful Arizona weather. Whatever it might have been, I believe the reality of the 55-game grind ahead hit us collectively, whether consciously or subconsciously, and caused our week to drag a bit.

Oftentimes, the hectic lifestyle of the Division I student-athlete experience causes the actual games themselves to get lumped in with the sometimes stressful undertakings leading up to competition. As a result, it is easy to fall into the trap of feeling overwrought while playing; haunted by looming statistics and a fear of failure.

It is vital for us to remember, this weekend and always, that the practicing, lifting, and long days of classes that turn into late nights of homework are the hard parts of the experience. The games, however, are supposed to be fun; the times when our hard work and God-given abilities are demonstrated. The times when we should experience feelings of relief like the San Quentin Giants did. The times when we should relinquish the stifling grips our minds often have over our bodies, which hinder our physical performances. It’s time for us to play like prisoners set free.

2015 Fordham Softball – Week 4 / Familiar Feelings and Anything But

Thursday, February 5, 2015 – Kajikawa Classic / Tempe, Arizona

Familiarity. It’s what gives one ease about the unknowns that are to come. Familiar faces, experiences, routines, and feelings. All combined, they create an ineffable sense of security in a life, and a sport like softball, that is full of uncertainties.

A sea of clean, white sneakers on the bus to JFK airport, en route to our first tournament of 2015 in Arizona.

A sea of clean, white sneakers on the bus to JFK airport, en route to our first tournament of 2015 in Arizona.

The familiarity of this past day spent sorting through freshly cleaned laundry, packing duffle bags, double-checking lists while boarding a bus en route to JFK airport; Paige in the seat to my right, Michele in front, Serena across the aisle from her. All so familiar. Words about these seating arrangements haven’t been spoken since our first bus ride together three years ago. They are just known to us like the uniforms we wear in games and the cheers we sing from dugouts.

With buds in my ears and a glowing computer screen staring back at me while I am suspended in midair, this night spent on a crowded airplane is also familiar. So familiar, in fact, that in some ways it feels like the season isn’t beginning because it never even stopped. Like we never will stop. Like this is what we have done each week in the past and will continue to do in weeks to come.

In the midst of all this familiarity, however, are feelings I’ve never experienced before. The feeling of knowing that this is the last time for white travel shoes and the claiming of bus seats and the anticipation of the 60 games that are to come. The feeling of knowing that we have the opportunity to leave an unparalleled legacy at Fordham with our third-consecutive Atlantic 10 Conference championship and trip to the NCAA Tournament. The feeling of knowing that I’m more prepared for this season than any of the previous 15 I have endured. These feelings are new, uncomfortable even, but more than anything, exciting.

I promised my dad during winter break that I wouldn’t write this year to foster my nostalgia and cryptic musings about the end of my softball career, but simply to create something long-lasting and document the amazing journey that is to come, regardless of what happens between this first week of February and the end of May.

Serena, Michele, and me at the airport before the start of our last season together.

Serena, Michele, and me at the airport before the start of our last season together.

I’m going to abide by my word, and I’m not going to make this a farewell tour or a weekly requiem for the end of my playing days, but rather a digital scrapbook of words, videos, and pictures to celebrate the journey I’m blessed to experience and the great game I’m fortunate to play.

While I’ll certainly find solace in the familiars I encounter in my fourth and final college softball season, I’m most excited for the unfamiliars that are surely ahead in the upcoming months. And even more than last season, I want to capture and make sense of it all so that none of my now-familiars become fleeting in the future.

As I learned last year, I know that all journeys have their peaks and valleys. I don’t expect this one to be the exception. What I also know, however, is that we are on the verge of doing something extremely special this year. Call me cliché, but I can just feel it.

We have a long way to go before our destiny is discovered, so right now, my sites are solely set on the five games on tap for this weekend at Arizona State. I can’t wait for the feeling of new cleats on top of freshly raked dirt. For old uniforms that feel new again. For unfamiliar surroundings with familiar people. For our softball family to be together again. For our hard work to be put to the test. For the start of the journey we’ve been preparing for since last May. I’m ready for the familiar and unfamiliar to collide this season and enable me to write the final chapter of a story that has been 15 years in the making. I’m ready to make this the best one yet.

2015 Fordham Softball – Week 3

Game week is finally upon us! The last full week of practice is officially done, and we are all beyond excited to get outside and play on some actual dirt and grass. Week Three came with our typical hard work in preparation for the start of play, the Super Bowl, and lots and lots of snow. Through it all, we kept our sites set on Arizona, and of course, shared countless laughs in the process (just watch the video if you don’t believe me). We can’t wait to put our hard work to the test in just a few days! Before then, however, sit back and enjoy the last video before things really get fun:

2015 Fordham Softball – Week 2

With Week Two now complete, we Rams are collectively excited to head into the final full-week of indoor practices before our games begin in Arizona. This week, we saw our batters dig in a little more in the box, our pitchers bring the heat in intersquad scrimmages, and our soreness diminish with each passing day in the weight room and at practice. We are working tirelessly in preparation for February 6th, and though we all have room for improvement at this stage in the season, progress is definitely being made. Catch a glimpse of our hard work (and fun) here:

2015 Fordham Softball – Week 1

Week One of Fordham Softball’s 2015 season is in the books! During our first week back from winter break, we Rams got back into the full swing of things, on and off the practice diamond in the Bronx. Amid physical soreness, early mornings, stuffy indoor practices, and the loss of our strength coach, we managed to have a great first week back and make strides in our preparation for the upcoming season. Check out this Week One, behind the scenes look into what it’s like to be a Fordham Softball player:

NPF “Charges” Toward Expansion, Establishes Team in Dallas

Texas is a place where warm weather and southern hospitality are as common as the state’s appreciation for the game of softball. That is why it made perfect sense when the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) officially adopted the Lone Star State as the home of its newest team, the Dallas Charge, on Jan. 8.

NPF Commissioner Cheri Kempf announced that the Charge would join the league as its fifth affiliate team, and will play its home games in the Dallas/Fort Worth area at two separate locations in McKinney and Arlington. The Charge will compete against the NPF’s four other teams—the defending champion USSSA Pride, Chicago Bandits, Akron Racers, and Pennsylvania Rebellion—when play resumes at the end of May.

The addition of the Charge is big news for the NPF, which has traditionally struggled to retain franchises and maintain ticket sales over the past ten years. The league was founded in 1997, folded in 2001, and then relaunched again in 2004.

After a decade marked with folding and moving franchises and a general lack of growth within the league, the NPF now has legitimate reasons to be excited about the future of professional softball.

Fresh off its best-ever year of television coverage in 2014, during which ESPN and the CBS Sports Network covered a combined 30 games during the three-month summer season, the NPF experienced a great surge in attendance and social media attention. Kempf believes these advances, along with the opening of a new market for professional softball, could help take the league to new heights.

“With increased attendance in all markets in 2014, along with the sheer volume of our television coverage, we realize expansion will naturally happen, but to be able to permeate into one of the nation’s hotbeds for fastpitch softball makes this addition really special,” said Kempf, the NPF’s commissioner since 2007.

Don’t let the state’s nickname fool you, however, as Texas has been anything but a “Lone Star State” for softball talent. Whether in the amateur, college, or professional ranks, Texas has been known for generating quality products on its softball diamonds for decades.

Some of the sport’s best homegrown stars have been cultivated and developed at both the University of Texas and Texas A&M University, which are annually among the top teams in Division I college softball. Players like two-time Olympic gold medalist Christa Williams, All-Americans Amanda Scarborough, Blaire Luna, and Taylor Hoagland, as well as Cat Osterman, who is arguably one of the best pitchers to ever play the game, all hail from Texas and completed their illustrious college softball careers there.

With less than five months remaining until the first pitch of the NPF season, Dallas’ General Manager Kevin Shelton is hard at work assembling his team and coaching staff, with the help of marketing consultant and former NPF-great Jami Lobpries.

Shelton gained his experience in team operations while at the helm of the Texas Glory youth organization, which is one of the premiere travel softball programs in the country. Lobpries, a native of Texas and former standout player at Texas A&M, has her Ph.D. in sports marketing and branding in women’s sports, and will decide the Charge’s marketing strategies and development methods going forward.

“The NPF is growing and we are pleased to be a part of that growth to provide these gifted women a chance to compete in the sport they love as professionals,” the league’s newest GM said. “North Texas has a vibrant fastpitch community. I am confident that our entire area will benefit from a professional women’s fastpitch team’s presence.”

“Adding a team in Texas is a huge step towards growth in professional softball and the sport in general,” Lobpries, the four-year veteran of the NPF stated. “As a former NPF player and someone passionate about our sport, it’s exciting to help build a new organization in my home state and be a part of growing the game.”

If everything really is bigger in Texas, then the NPF could have found the golden market for professional softball that it has long been searching for. And if that is the case, the growth of the sport is just getting started.