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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Jordan Strickland Steps Into Justin's World

Texas is known for a lot of things: Big cowboy hats. The 'cowboy way'. Great food. And the marvelous sports, both collegiate and pro.

Jordan Strickland / Photo: (c) Baylor
Softball Shots
Softball also falls into that category - though there's been no professional presence until the last two years, college ball in Texas sports some fine teams and even better players. Among the finest to suit up for the Baylor Bears is former shortstop Jordan Strickland.

Twice an all-conference honoree and a member of the 2014 Women's College World Series' all-tournament team, Strickland lit up opposing pitching all throughout her career, making a habit of getting on base and doing her job of making the other team's life difficult.

2014 was by far her finest season; traditionally, up to that point, not a power hitter, with just four home runs to her name, she ended her junior season with fourteen roundtrippers that season alone, adding forty-nine RBI and a .291 batting average. She led her squad in home runs and tied for the team lead in RBIs.

Strickland ended her career as the program's all-time leader in postseason hits, finishing up with twenty-seven base knocks to her name. In the 2014 postseason, during which time the Bears made it all the way to Oklahoma City and the Women's College World Series, she hit .413 with three home runs and nine RBI. She owns a share of a World Series record thanks to a two-home run performance against Florida State in the WCWS that same season.

Justin’s World: How did you get your start playing softball?
Jordan Strickland: I started out playing co-ed tee ball at age 4. From there it was pretty much history… I started playing travel ball around age 8 and was a life-long Texas Glory girl, playing mostly under my dad’s coaching! I loved softball and loved the people it brought into my life so it just became a part of who I am and gave me a platform to do so many incredible things!

Justin’s World: Why Baylor – what about the school and softball program drew you in and made Waco the place you wanted to play ball and get your education?
Jordan Strickland: It was very important to me to stay relatively close to home so my family could watch me play as often as they wanted. They helped me chase my dreams since I was a little girl so it was only fair to me that they be able to join me for the full journey. It was also a dream of mine to play in the Big 12 under coaches that would push me to be the best, yet also be a family to me.  Baylor is about 2 hours away from home, was getting better and better as I committed and was coached by an awesome staff that shared the same Christian morals I did and promised to love me like their own. The minute I stepped on campus, I fell in love and felt like that was home. I was more than excited that they wanted to give me a chance to play for them! The great education Baylor offers wasn’t a bad deal either!!

Justin’s World: In your own words, what does it mean to you to be a Baylor Bear?
Jordan Strickland: I take a lot of pride in being a Baylor Bear. I pray that I never took a day for granted in that uniform and that I gave everything I had to that program and university. Being a Baylor Bear means so much more than just being a student-athlete… to know that you’re representing your university on a national stage and that you’re representing Christianity through sports for every person in the country to see is nothing short of an honor. You want to do everything you can to make sure that brand is never diminished and strive to make it even better. Baylor had years and years of being the underdog and even the joke in just about every sport, I think it’s evident the kind of pride that we take in our school by seeing how hard our coaches and athletes have worked over the years to make sure that Baylor is no longer that silly school on the Brazos. Those are a few of the many reasons that make me so proud to be a Baylor Bear.

Justin’s World: Tell me about playing for Coach Moore.
Jordan Strickland: I am almost 99.9% sure there is not another coach in Division I athletics like Coach Moore. He loves softball and will coach you all day long but he loves Jesus more and realizes that this game is nothing more than a game. He is concerned with who are as people and he molds us into better people through softball. That is not to say that I have not had some of the hardest, trying times of my life playing softball for him, but it is to say that he understands the bigger picture and I’ll always be thankful for that. He is really big on trusting his team to do their thing on their own and take care of business, which is great because I do think that coaches can get in the way of a team’s success at times. He will step in at any point, though, make no mistake about that! He made us eat McDonalds for breakfast on my senior day because we played poorly the day before. I’m not sure I’ll be able to forgive him for that for a long time! I’m kind of joking, kind of not…

Justin’s World: Describe to me the experience of the Women’s College World Series and the feeling when you took the field for the first time in Oklahoma City.
Jordan Strickland: The Women’s College World Series was insane (in the best way of course). I still remember so vividly stepping on that field for the first time! It was easily one of the best experiences of my life. It’s an overwhelming nervous excitement, but as soon as the first pitch was thrown it all went away and it was time to play. The atmosphere makes those games so fun. The crowd, the music, the fact that you’re playing for a national title! It gives me chills just thinking about it. I had the time of my life playing in OKC and I think of that experience often. It was just surreal knowing that I created that dream with my dad at 8 years old and that my entire family was there to watch me live that out. I definitely believe that without the exact group of girls I was there with, the experience would not have been as great. That was my absolute all time favorite team and we had a chemistry that is hard to ever replicate. It was such a fun and special year as a whole. It’s not something I’ll be forgetting anytime soon J

Justin’s World: Talk to me about the pressures that come with being a Division 1 athlete and how you handle those same pressures when you’re squarely in the spotlight year-to-year.
Jordan Strickland: The title of Division 1 athlete does come with some pressure but it’s a good pressure! It often reminds you that so many people, little girls in particular, are looking up to and wanting to be just like you one day so it’s important to keep that in mind and represent yourself well through your effort and attitude. We were all that same little girl once, just amazed by college softball players, so it’s humbling to have so many sweet faces greet us after the games! The pressure becomes what you make it, though. It can either make or break you but it’s all up to you; you take it in stride or you let the stress get the best of you. Softball is supposed to be fun and adding too much pressure just takes the fun away, so I always tried to just let the cards fall where they may and play ball!

Justin’s World: Fill me in about the Bears’ mission trips to Africa and why you feel so strongly about participating in those and the work that is done through them.
Jordan Strickland: Africa was incredible! I am so glad I was able to join the team, even though I was a part of last year’s squad. We were able to introduce softball in the country of Ghana, where baseball and softball is not really a thing. In fact, no one we had interacted with had actually seen or heard of the sport before so it was quite the experience being able to teach them our game while they taught us their culture and shared SO much love with us. I think all of us Baylor people agreed at the end of the trip that we were supposed to go over there and teach them the love that the Bible shows us and they are the ones that taught us and blessed us immensely! 

Justin’s World: Was playing ball past college, either domestically or overseas, something you considered pursuing?
Jordan Strickland: I honestly didn’t think too much about it. If opportunities arose, I definitely would’ve looked into pursuing them, but nothing really came up so it was time to move on!

Justin’s World: What kind of plans do you have to stay involved with the game of softball?
Jordan Strickland: Currently, I give lessons and coach travel ball as well as announce Baylor home games on the radio. For now, that’s about the extent of my involvement. I am hoping in the future to continue to find ways to stay a part of the game!

Justin’s World: When all is said and done, and with your playing career now through, what do you hope people remember as the legacy that you have left on the game?
Jordan Strickland: I would like people to remember me for my character rather than the skills I possessed on the softball field. I hope that every person I interacted with as a Lady Bear was positively impacted and that my effort and attitude in softball showed that there is a bigger picture beyond this game. It was an absolute honor to play at Baylor and I will always cherish it, but I will cherish even more the relationships that I made and how the people surrounding that program changed my life, so I hope that people can find some good in how I interacted with them as well!

Justin’s World: And from a serious question to my favorite, one totally off-the-wall! Say you were stranded on a deserted island for an undetermined period of time, but you can take three things with you. No boats, no phones, but anything else tangible goes. What would you take?

Jordan Strickland: Hmmmm… this is tough! I am very fair-skinned so sunscreen is a MUST; then I would probably take the most comfortable hammock ever and some sort of weapon (machete maybe…?!)

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