Friday, May 1, 2015

Courtney Ceo Steps Into Justin's World

In softball, as with any sport, there are good players; there are great players; and there are players that you fit the "once-in-a-lifetime" label. Oregon great Courtney Ceo fits that latter moniker.

The 2014 Ducks seniors - Courtney Ceo; Alexa Peterson; Kailee Cuico
In contrast to what seems to be the usual occurrence, Ceo got *better* as her career went on. She finished her senior season with a  .493 batting average and three single-season Ducks records in her name.

A three-time all-conference honoree and a member of the Pac-12 all-freshman team in 2011, Ceo ended her career with her name atop the program record books in three different categories - hits; batting average; and runs scored.

Drafted #6 overall in last year's NPF draft, she joined the USSSA Pride and helped guide them to the championship, earning herself a champion's ring in her rookie season.

Now on tour putting on clinics and other events nationwide, you can follow Courtney's offseason adventures by connecting with her on Twitter @CourtneyCeo22.

Justin's World: How did you get started playing softball?
Courtney Ceo: Both my parents played the game. Dad played baseball, mom played fastpitch and slow pitch, so I grew up around the game which intrigued me. Around the age of 8, I asked to start playing and from that moment on I was hooked.

Justin's World: Why Oregon? What about the school & program attracted you and made you want to become a Duck?
Courtney Ceo: When I was recruited, I wanted to play in the PAC10 back then, but PAC12 now. I focused on the schools within the PAC, but when I went to Oregon, it felt like home. The scenery and surrounding area were very similar to my home town and the people were incredibly nice. I wanted to be the type of player who helped develop and change a program, not necessarily a player who followed in the footsteps of other championships. I was motivated by being a part of a team who would build new traditions and 1st-time championships!

Justin's World: Tell me about Coach White – what he brings to the table as a coach and how you benefitted under his tutelage.
Courtney Ceo: There is no way in words, without writing a book, that could explain Coach White and the coaching staff I was fortunate enough to play under. From the minute I made my verbal commitment with Mike to the time I left, I thought nothing but amazing things about the way he coached.  His endless knowledge of the game, both physical and mental portions, improved each of his players. If you were willing to learn every day, he would teach you something that could make you better. At times, I must say, in my early years, I didn't do as much learning as the later years but once I opened up and was ready to change and improve, I learned the most important part of the game from him and that was the mental side of it. Mike is second to none in the coaching world and fully dedicated to not only winning but continuing to build a championship program and family atmosphere that young female athletes can succeed in. 

Justin's World: You played all four infield positions in college; what position do you feel most comfortable in, and to what do you attribute your ability to star on the diamond no matter your defensive position?
Courtney Ceo: Through college, I was someone of a jumping jelly bean. I played shortstop, 3rd, 2nd,1st, and catcher. I was recruited to be a shortstop but learned quickly how to become a utility player. Mike and I had a clear understanding that he would position me where he felt best was best for "team success" and all I cared about was being in the starting lineup. My main positions over the four years were shortstop and 3rd base. I finished my career up at Oregon playing 3rd base, which I loved, and became the most comfortable position for me.  Little did I know this movement in college was just preparing me for playing in the NPF where I have also developed a 2nd base starting position. 

Justin's World: Your trophy case is chock-full, from regional honors to an All-American award in 2014. Is there one award or honor that holds special meaning to you or that you might consider a “favorite”?
Courtney Ceo: I would absolutely say that my most favorite award was my All-American award in my senior year (2014). When I set goals to play in college back when I was younger, that's the one thing I told my parents I wanted to do. I wanted to be an All-American. This goal didn't come easy for me; I had to work extremely hard through my 4 years to be acknowledged as an all-American, but it was an amazing feeling when I accomplished that goal.

Justin's World: Describe the World Series experience to me, if you can. The competition, the atmosphere, a championship just outside your grasp…
Courtney Ceo: The World Series had ALWAYS been a dream of mine and although during my career at Oregon we never won the World Series, I was able to attend twice. The atmosphere was incredible with the amount of fans and the energy they brought, and simply the feeling of being in the finals. The quality of teams was undeniable; each one had fought their way to the end and it was anyone's game at that point. Rankings didn't matter, the name across the jersey didn't matter... it was simply who's better in that moment. My sophomore year was the first time in school history that Oregon had gone to the World Series, so we were the rookies: young and not sure what to expect. Two years later, my senior year, we were ranked #1 and the feeling was much different. We were confident, had amazing team chemistry, and were on a serious mission. Although we fell short, we knew we belonged there. Finishing 3rd and losing to Alabama was emotional since it was our senior's last game but we couldn't be sad with how our team played. We fell short but that 2014 team had accomplished much more than we would ever expect at the beginning of that year. Winning PAC 12 conference for the second consecutive year, had multiple All Americans, finalists for player of the year, regional and super regional wins and as a team we grew more mature, building traditions and standards which would help the next generations and teams coming through Oregon. From managers, the girls, our ops personnel, the trainers and the coaches, we were a legitimate family. Although the season didn't end with a win, it was an absolute success. 

Justin's World: Fill in the blank: If not for softball, I _______________________
Courtney Ceo: If not softball... This question took me a long time to answer. I haven't exactly known a life without softball... But if softball wasn't apart of my life, I would have hopefully traveled. One of my most favorite things in life is traveling and exploring new places so "if not softball... Traveling the world" would be first on my list. 

Justin's World: When and how did you first hear about the NPF and decide that playing in the league was something that you wanted to do?
Courtney Ceo: The first time I heard about the NPF was when I came to college. My junior year, I started thinking about playing in the league and my senior year finalized that when I was drafted to the USSSA Florida Pride. 

Justin's World: Could you foresee a long-term career in the NPF or professional softball in general?
Courtney Ceo: I absolutely see myself having a long career at the professional level. I am fortunate enough to play on the USSSA Florida Pride and want to sustain a career on that team. I intend on playing as long as I can. 

Justin's World: What is your favorite moment or memory from your career thus-far?
Courtney Ceo: I don't think it is possible to pick a single favorite moment but I can list a few that are at the top of my favorites list... Winning the PAC 12 for the first time in school history; World Series appearance for the first time in school history; ranked #1 for the first time in school history; announced as an All-American; and my senior year in general due to the countless memories with my teammates and coaches that I respect the game to the fullest, played well 

Justin's World: Who would you say is the toughest opponent, whether an individual or team, that you have faced?
Courtney Ceo: I would say Florida was the toughest opponent I faced while at Oregon. They were an extremely well rounded team.

Justin's World: Is coaching college ball your ideal career path? If not, what do you hope to do outside of softball?
Courtney Ceo: I think for my future, coaching is absolutely in the cards and could be a path I potentially take for a career. I would love to try to step into the coaching world and continue to have softball apart of my life. 

Justin's World: Years into the future, what do you hope people remember when they hear the name “Courtney Ceo”?
Courtney Ceo: I hope that when people hear the name "Courtney Ceo" hard work, dedication, and respect for the game comes to mind. I can only hope that when people talk about the way I played, they talk about me giving everything I had every time I stepped on the field. 

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