Players in the National Professional Fastpitch softball league understand the meaning and importance of giving back to their communities. Whether they are putting on clinics, giving lessons, attending fundraisers or conducting camps NPF athletes have a high regard for the betterment of those around them. Akron Racers’ Jessica Williams demonstrates this concern to the best of her ability.
At Marshall University, Williams spent four years as the Herd’s starting shortstop. She ended her career in the top five of six different career categories. Williams was a four-time all-conference selection, including a first team All-Conference USA honor last season as a senior. She was also a three-year captain and earned the team’s Softball Leadership Award as a senior.
As a professional Williams has been playing in the NPF for five seasons now, having made her debut in 2006 with the Chicago Bandits as one of 28 seniors drafted to the NPF, helping the Bandits that year to become regular season champions. In 2007, as part of a four person trade, she began playing for the Rockford Thunder, acting as starting shortstop and leading the Thunder to a second place finish at the NPF Championship playoffs. She began the 2008 season as a returning member of the Rockford Thunder and ended the season as a member of the New England Riptide. 2009 was Williams’ first season with the USSSA Pride. She started in four different positions for the Pride over the course of the season and helped the team to a second place finish at the championship games. 2010 marks Williams’ second season with the Pride. She was a member of the Pride last year when they won the 2010 Cowles Cup National Championship.
Jessica talks to the NPF fans about her life as a professional softball player…
Q: You have been picked up as a free agent to the Racers....what are you most excited about to join the Racers Family? Jessica: I am so excited to be a part of the Akron Family. I have always heard such great things about General Manager Joey Arrietta and the Akron organization and I couldn't be happier to be a part of the Racers. This will be my 6th year in the League, and being on four different teams in the last 5 years hasn't always been easy, so I would say I am most excited about making Akron my "HOME."
Q: You have been apart of the 3N2 Family for a few years now, what products are you most excited to see them coming out with? Jessica: I am honored to still be a part of 3n2. It's nice to be a part of the company's growth and be there for the beginning stages. I have been impressed with their product in the past, but it keeps getting better and better. I am most excited about the new fastpitch spike "The Rally" and the new "Strike" running shoe.
Q: What have you been doing this off-season to prepare for the 2011 Season? Jessica: This off-season I actually did something a little different to prepare for the 2011 season. I got a personal trainer! He is amazing and pushes me to extreme limits. He focuses on cross-fit workouts and tries to get my body used to doing stuff I have never even seen or heard of before. On top of working out with him 3 days a week, he has prepared at home workouts for me to do on my own. I try to fit cardio in on my off days from working out with him. But most importantly I hit a lot!!!! I hit at least 4-5 days a week. The closer I get to season the more live batting practice and live pitching I like to get. I am actually starting that this week!
Q: You were apart of the 2010 Cowles Cup Championship Team....tell us what that meant to you. Jessica: Being apart of the 2010 Cowles Cup Championship Team meant so much to me! I had been playing in this league for 5 years so it was nice to finally win a Championship! The ring is absolutely beautiful and it seems I get compliments on it every day! I always say, 'Five years later, with a smile on my face...so it was well worth the wait." It was so neat the way the team came together and was enthusiastic and energized every pitch of every game at playoffs! It was a blast and being a part of that very talented roster and being able to win a Championship with them is something I will never forget!
Q:Who are you most looking forward to competing against during the 2011 Season and why? Jessica: To be honest I can't say there is one particular team I am more excited to compete against this year. I just can't wait to get out on the field, come together as a team, and have fun playing softball...the game we all love so much!
Q: In 2006, you were one of the 28 Players Drafted....what did it mean to you to know that you were able to continue your playing career after college? Jessica: In 2006, being 1 of 28 seniors drafted to the National Professional Fastpitch League was amazing. I actually remember exactly where I was when I got the call. It was on our birthday and Amanda and I both found out we were drafted to the same team. It was honestly a dream come true and the best birthday present ever. I actually was asked to play for Akron this year on my birthday as well! Doesn't get much better than that! But to know that I was going to be able to continue my playing career after college with some of the best that play this game was a blessing from GOD! Six years later I am still here, I believe in this league, and I am excited for the future of our sport and all young girls out there!
Q: Rumor has it that you and your sister, Amanda Williams, have had a handshake since you were 12....how did this get started? Jessica: The rumor is true. My twin sister and I, Amanda, do have a handshake we have had since we were 12 years old. We watched the movie "The Sixth Man" and fell in love with it. There were 2 brothers that everyone called A and K...The fans always shouted "A and K, all the way." So we have a handshake where we say "A and J, all the way, baby!" Some may think its silly, but we never took the field without saying that and doing our handshake before a game. It was our way of saying "It's on, Let's do this!" Fans, to see it in action come check out the NPF this summer!
Q: What are some of your superstitions? Jessica: Some of my superstitions include: My handshake with my sister, praying and visualizing during the National Anthem, I don't step on the chalk lines, and when playing in the infield I always draw a cross at the top of the pitcher's circle.
Q: What is a typical day like for Jessica Williams on gameday? Jessica: A typical game day for me includes getting plenty of rest. With night games, we tend to go to bed late sometimes with signing after games, having to eat, shower and get ready for bed. So I love my sleep and feeling rested and refreshed. I like to get in a small workout earlier in the day so I can loosen up a little bit. From there I eat a decent lunch, pack some snacks, get ready for the game and most days go to get extra hitting in before batting practice starts.
Q: What do you like to do outside of playing softball? Jessica: Outside of playing softball I love to spend time with friends, family, and my boyfriend. My faith is very important to me so I enjoy attending church and being a part of small groups. I also have my shows I like to watch: Friday Night Lights, American Idol, and Lights Out. But to be honest softball is part of my everyday life. In the off-season I do camps/clinics/lessons full time and very much so enjoy myself and love to make others better. This game has given me so much, so I want to continue giving back to it!