Annie Jenkins, a captain and outfielder on the softball team, is in the unusual position of being the only senior on the roster. She wasn’t the only one of her class to begin playing as a freshman, but even as her teammates dropped off to do other things at Emerson, Jenkins stuck with what she knew would make her happy.
Jenkins said she has always had a love for baseball, which influenced her to play softball. When she was 11, she played baseball for Woodland Little League, the same Little League organization where Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia grew up playing.
“Playing baseball with my brother made me want to be part of a team environment. After that season, I made the transition to softball,” Jenkins said.
She said her love for the sport goes deeper than the physical and mental aspects of the game.
“My family is a big sports family; we were never forced to do anything we didn’t want to,” said Jenkins. “It was always a choice to play sports. They teach you a lot about life—they are a fun outlet that keeps you disciplined in college.”
Jenkins said her coach in high school and the current head coach Phil McElroy operate their teams in very similar ways. The time commitment and pace of the game have been the biggest difference between her high school and college experience, she said.
“You have to have more off-season dedication and constant focus, and the competition level has been better,” said Jenkins. “The coaches are very passionate, very knowledgeable, and have been coaching for a long time.”
In the 2012 season, Jenkins batted .263, knocking in 11 runs, and in the 2013 season she made an appearance in 22 games, with six walks and no errors in the outfield. In the 2014 season, she saw playing time in 16 games and only made one error in the field. The Lions are currently 7-8 this season but winless in New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference play.
McElroy said he believes Jenkins’ leadership skills are one of her standout qualities.
“Being a sounding board for people is an important role for her—being that person to go to ask questions that they might not be comfortable asking me,” McElroy said.
McElroy said he saw many factors that have kept Jenkins playing all four years of college.
“[Jenkins] was recruited to play softball,” said McElroy. “She enjoys doing it, whether she is getting playing time or just being a member of a team.”
Freshman Jacqueline DeFusco said Jenkins is a “soft-spoken” and selfless leader.
“Being a captain goes a lot farther than just on the field—they make sure people do what they need to do without being bossy,” said DeFusco, a journalism major. “Annie is a good presence, has a great attitude, and allows others’ input, which adds to the great dynamic and energy on our team.”
DeFusco said it’s clear that the game brings joy to Jenkins, particularly since Emerson’s Division III athletics means that she and other players can’t get scholarship money.
“It is a huge time commitment for not a lot of reward,” DeFusco said. “It is very admirable that she stuck with it as her teammates dropped off.”
Jenkins said she is confident in her leadership role, and sees herself as “the mom,” in a sense, on the team. She said she enjoys working along with her co-captain, junior Courtney Fee, and feels she is leaving the team in good hands for next year.
“It is nice to have a co-captain,” Jenkins said. “We work together, and she will get the leadership experience needed for next year.”
Though her time playing softball will soon end, she said her values and ideas about the sport have remained the same throughout her career.
“You have the opportunity to feel like you contribute every game, and when you get your opportunity, you have to make the most of it,” Jenkins said. “I haven’t considered what it will be like when it’s over and just want to have a good year.”
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Jenkins had to play coach-pitch baseball before she played softball when she was younger. Instead, Jenkins played in the Woodland Little League, which wasn't coach-pitch, because she wanted to, not because it was a requirement for softball season.