Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Where Are They Now: Reina Gaber

Who is she? Reina Gaber, a former star outfielder for the Houston Cougars.

What is she known for?  Gaber spent four seasons as a member of the Cougars, from 2010-2013. A four-time conference Commissioner’s Honor Roll member, she also recorded conference & national offensive honors during her career. She finished her career in the Top 5 in all-time batting average for the Cougars.

You might not know...
 that Reina, as she is well-known throughout softball, is not actually her given name. A childhood nickname, most things and people related to her softball career know her as “Reina”, though her given name is Anne.

What's she up to now?  Reina is presently a 10th-grade English teacher and head softball coach at Eisenhower Senior High School in Houston. This upcoming season will be her second at the helm of the softball program. She completed her first year with a 3rd-place finish in the district and a berth to the playoffs. Both are record finishes for the school.

Contact information: You can find Reina on both Facebook and Twitter (@CaliforniaCoog). 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Six Degrees of Separation: Jason Segel to Courtney Ceo

Today, we're going to continue our Six Degrees of Separation series by connecting How I Met Your Mother star Jason Segel to USSSA Pride rookie stud Courtney Ceo.

Jason Segel and Amy Adams co-starred in The Muppets.

Amy Adams and Reese Witherspoon were both featured guests on Matt Damon's takeover of Jimmy Kimmel's show (one of the greatest episodes in the history of the show, by the way).

Reese Witherspoon starred in How Do You Know, which also featured Amanda Freed.

Amanda Freed and Cat Osterman were teammates on the 2004 Olympic-gold-medal-winning Team USA squad.

Cat Osterman and Courtney Ceo are presently teammates on the USSSA Pride.

So from Jason Segel < Amy Adams < Reese Witherspoon < Amanda Freed < Cat Osterman < Courtney Ceo, we have our connection in FIVE DEGREES.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Bandits Interviews, Parts 3-5

When we partnered with Johngy's Beat to provide increased coverage of the NPF and the Chicago Bandits, one of our goals was to at least try to be able to talk to each member of the Bandits throughout the season. We've already brought you interviews with league home run leader Brittany Cervantes and head coach Shane Winkler.

Today, we are continuing our partnered coverage by bringing you three new interviews conducted at the Ballpark in Rosemont. As you'll see, featured below are interviews with Bandits assistant coach Roman Foore; Rookie of the Year candidate Emily Allard; and last night's hero, pitcher Sara Moulton.

Enjoy the interviews and be sure to subscribe to the Justin's World Youtube page to be the very first to see new videos as soon as they are posted!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Team USA Women's Baseball Tryout Roster Announced

The 40-member roster for Team USA women's baseball tryouts was announced last week. The highlight of the team's competitions will be the Women's Baseball World Cup in Japan in September.

The roster includes many names that will be familiar to even casual softball fans. Kendall Dawson, who was the starting catcher for the 2012 WCWS-winning Alabama Crimson Tide squad, is one that particularly stands out.

In a couple of weeks, we'll have an in-depth look at the US Women's Baseball team thanks to an interview with Alexa Maldonado, who was a member of the 2012 team and is again on this year's tryout roster.

Notable names on the roster include Jill Barrett, who is currently tearing up the NPF as a member of the Akron Racers; Dawson; Jenna Marston, a Mizzou grad and 2013 NPF draft pick that chose not to go pro; and 2012 holdovers Anna Kimbrell (UAB '13); Maldonado (Notre Dame '12); Clarisa Navarro (Arkansas '14); and Michelle Snyder (Florida State '09).

For a look at the complete roster, click here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Trio of Coaching Moves

A trio of big-name coaching moves have been made over the last several days, and we've yet to cover them. So today, we're going to combine those three into a single article to make sure you're up-to-date on all of the collegiate off-season's goings-on.

Stake Takes Reins at Valpo
L-R: Roark, Fico, & Stake
Another Division 1 head coaching position has been filled, as former Hofstra assistant Kate Stake was named the head coach at Valparaiso. Stake brings a veteran's resume to the position, with eight seasons as a D1 assistant under her belt. This is her first head coaching job. Prior to the last two seasons serving under Bill Edwards at Hofstra, Stake was on the staff at the United State Military Academy ("Army") & Eastern Illinois. At Valpo, she replaces Jordan Stevens who led the squad to a 24-34 record in his final season at the helm of the program.

Fico to Mentor Beard, Jaguar Staff
Though a few days old, this one was incredibly popular on Facebook. Former LSU pitching standout and 2013 Akron Racers #1-overall draft pick Rachele Fico has been named the pitching coach at South Alabama. Fico began her coaching career fresh out of school as a graduate assistant at LSU last season. This is her first full-time position. She assumes the position vacated by Mark Ryal, who spent one season in Mobile before moving on to Oklahoma State this off-season. Fico will mentor Jaguar stud hurler Farish Beard, as well as help guide the USA pitching staff as they must make up for the loss of All-American Hannah Campbell.

Roark Replaces Pauly @ Upstate
And finally yesterday, Chris Hawkins' South Carolina-Upstate announced a new pitching coach in ex-Virginia Tech great Kenzie Roark. Following the retirement of Rick Pauly, the position came open and Roark will now assume responsibilities. Despite the losses of Hannah Alexander and Anna Miller, the 2014 staff ace, the Spartan staff still boasts Lexi Shubert, a standout freshman hurler in 2014, and several incoming freshman and dual threat offensive players that can also toss from the circle. After a year of graduate coaching at her alma mater, Roark spent the past several years as the assistant coach at East Tennessee State. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chelsea Hawkins Steps Into Justin's World

There's a stockpile of previously-conducted interviews in a folder on my desktop, and today I have the privilege to feature one of South Carolina's finest daughters, Chelsea Hawkins.

Photo cred: J Blas Photography
A starting outfielder for three of her four seasons under Beverly Smith, Hawkins was always at or near the team lead in many offensive categories. Defensively, she was sure-handed with only three fielding errors to her name in those same four years.

For those of you who didn't pay attention to or don't remember the postseason, here's a link to a write-up of the USF game we mention more than once in the interview.

As is often said but rarely true, Hawkins is a social media star, with more than 1,100 followers and one of my all-time favorite Vine videos to her name. Since leaving SC, she continues to impact the game by giving individual lessons to young girls. (More info on her future plans are part of the interview, below).

You can follow Chelsea on social media by clicking on any of these links to take you to her profile on each of these respective sites: Twitter. Facebook. Instagram. Vine.

Justin’s World: How did you first get started playing softball? Was softball always "your sport”?
Chelsea Hawkins: I first got started playing when I was handed a bat at 4. It was something that just came easy to me. I fell in love with the feeling of having a bat in my hand. It's always been my first love, but I also played basketball and volleyball.

JW: This one is phrased simply, but the answer may not be. Now that your playing career is done, what will you miss the most?
CH: What I'll miss the most is simply having 20 something sisters to come and compete with every day. More importantly, just getting to do what I love and also represent USC at the same time….Having the little girls who look up to me is really something special. I love knowing I am a role model for them.

JW: Why did you choose SC?
CH: I've always been a Gamecock! My aunt was also someone I always looked up to; she played here starting in 2001, so she was a big part in making me want to continue my career in college.

JW: What was your favorite thing about playing in the SEC?
CH: Just the competition itself, knowing there is no game guaranteed to one team. Anyone can beat anyone on any given day.

JW: What about playing ball after college? Is that something you thought about or were/are interested in?
CH: It was something I had thought about before- coaches told me I should consider it, but I want to get my Masters degree and it's something I am scared to put off. I want to do it now and go ahead and get my foot in the door for coaching jobs.

JW: How do you plan to stay involved with the game of softball now that you're collegiate playing days are done? Do you think you might coach at some level?
CH: Yes! That is what I want to do, coach college ball.

JW: Let’s say you were given the opportunity to go back in time and change one moment, one happening from your life and/or career. What would you want to change?
CH: I would change the USF game obviously. Both teams play hard, but overall I think we deserved that win. Julie pitched an outstanding game, hitters were making good adjustments, and it would have put us in the final game. FSU is a great team, but I think we would have given them a good game in the final games, would have had the chance to come out on top.

JW: If you can, describe the feeling when USF came from behind and beat y’all. It’s got to be incredibly difficult to know your career is done, but to have it end like that? Was that even harder for you to stomach?
CH: It was honestly the feeling of getting punched in the gut. I think it was more because I didn’t expect it, none of us did. I thought we had the win, so I didn’t have time to think about how this could really be my last game in the last inning. One minute I was ready to go all out to make the last out, and then the next minute I was walking off the field. It all happened so fast.

JW: Do you have any superstitions? Have to eat the same meal before a game, can’t step on the foul lines, same routine every time you step into the batter’s box, etc?
CH: I’m sure if anyone has watched our games, they see me killing some bubblegum, so one is that I have to have Dr. Pepper gum for every game (don’t knock it until you try it, it’s delicious). I have the same routine every time I go up to bat. I stare at the pitcher and look her right in the eye, then I put one foot in the box, take a deep breath, look at a small part on the bat that says, “One Pitch” then I step in the box.

JW: Let's say you were given the opportunity to spend a full twenty-four hours in another person's shoes. Who would that person be and why would you want to trade places for a day?
CH: Ellen. She is so funny and even though her job would be hard not to enjoy, she is hard working. And plus, she meets the coolest people, and also helps in any way she can for them to reach their dreams; I would love to do that for people.

JW: If you were stranded on a deserted island (Robinson Crusoe-style), but were allowed to take three things with you, what would you take? No boats, no phones.
CH: Steak, my puppy and my little brother. I'm pretty handy so I could somehow build something if I needed to, I love steak, and I'm too much of a people person to be alone.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Laura Winter Joins Fordham Coaching Staff

Following a stellar four-year playing career for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Laura Winter has already accepted her first coaching position. In an announcement today, Winter was named the new pitching coach for the Fordham Rams.

Winter's career as a player has been well-documented and she joins an already star-studded list of 2014 grads that have joined the coaching ranks fresh out of school. Winter was a member of the all-conference first team in each of her four seasons, leading the Big East for her first three seasons and the ACC in her fourth and final, after the Irish changed conferences. Winter also was a four-time all-conference selection, taking home second-team nods in her freshman & sophomore seasons and first-team selections in her final two seasons. A two-time pitcher of the year, she was honored as the conference Player of the Year following her junior season.

Statistically, Winter was one of the finest pitchers in the country and certainly in Notre Dame history. A 112-34 lifetime record and an ERA of 2.12 are quite impressive in their own right, but her strikeout/walk ratio of more than 8/1, as the school's release notes, could be her most impressive statistic.

Winter was drafted 7th overall in the 2014 National Pro Fastpitch draft, selected by the Akron Racers. She had to forgo her rookie season due to a surgery following the collegiate season, and looks to make her pro debut in 2015. (Under NPF rules, the Racers will still hold exclusive rights to her.)