Dec. 11, 2010
By Jon Cooper
When it comes to softball, Jen Yee has always been a student of the game.
That wasn’t going to change just because she graduated from Georgia Tech.
Yee has found a way to continue her softball career as well as being a game-changer and a student of the diamond at the next level. It requires moving north, which she will do next month, then begin graduate school at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
Yee called the commitment to UMass a last-minute decision — she had expected to move back her native Canada, and continue work with COMbat Sports. She’ll still work in association with COMbat, but in the States at the UMass Baseball Research Center, a facility she discovered when consulting with her advisor about grad school.
“I didn’t know it existed, honestly,” she said, with a laugh. “But when you think about it, it’s pretty necessary. The center specifically works with Major League Baseball pretty closely, because Major League Baseball has to standardize their balls and standardize their bats and make sure everything is meeting spec. Similarly, ASA (The Amateur Softball Association of America), NCAA, Little League has to certify all of their bats and all of their balls and make sure they’re meeting the appropriate specs for the appropriate league.
“The Baseball Reseach Center works closely with Major League Baseball, their whole research group will be working on dissecting balls,” she added. “They cut open balls, they weigh the leather, they test the bounciness of the little pill inside the baseball and just make sure everything is meeting spec. Those are the kinds of duties the lab has to do for Major League Baseball and we’re all kind of helping out in that respect.”
Her decision came down to a choice between working on baseball at UMass or on softball at Washington State. The tipping point between the schools had less to do with what she would study than where.
“Living in Atlanta, I’d kind of grown accustomed to the city life,” she said. “I liked the fact that [UMass] was close to Boston, close to a major airport, where Washington State is pretty isolated.”
Another major factor in UMass’ favor was that the school had a softball program, providing her an opportunity to continue training. The Canadian Olympic Team requires its athletes to train at least 23 hours a week to maintain funding. Being able to practice with UMass Lowell would allow Yee to fulfill that quota.
The door to becoming a volunteer assistant coach swung open wide for Yee, a 2010 NFCA/Louisville Slugger First Team All-American, ACC Player of the Year, and a finalist for the USA Softball Player of the Year and Honda Award.
“I wasn’t expecting them to know anything at all,” she said. “I initially sent out an e-mail to [Head Coach Sean] Cotter, just saying who I was and that I’m interested in helping him. I got this e-mail back within the hour, saying, ‘Oh, yeah. We’ve followed you from afar. I’m from upstate New York and I knew that you went to Niagara University.’ (Yee attended the school as a freshman in 2006 and was named MAAC Rookie of the Year while breaking school records for batting average, hits, runs and home runs). Softball is a really small world when you think about it. Everyone knows everyone. So it’s kind of cool in that respect.”
Life is going to get very cool for Yee, who will kick off 2011 with plenty to do.
“I’ll have a thesis project that I’ll be working on and that will be my own research,” she said. “That topic is in the works right now because it’s dependant upon funding.
“I get started in January. So I’ll finish up at Tech and then drive up and do that,” she added. “I’m real excited.”