Jan. 15, 2011
By Jon Cooper
No one has to tell Christy Jones, “You’re not in Kansas anymore.”
The Wichita, Kansas, native is well aware of that, although the weather in Atlanta over the last week could have led to moments of confusion.
“It’s been crazy. I went home for three weeks and I didn’t see any snow,” she said. “Usually I’m stuck in my house in Kansas for a while because of the snow, but my first snow storm was here in Atlanta. It’s been really interesting to see how the South deals with it. But it was a very decent snow with a lot of ice. I know that people are ready to get it over with so that we can start practicing and go on with our normal routines.”
For Jones, that normal routine includes preparing for softball season, where, coincidentally, the same expression about not being in Kansas — in this case, the rather condescending, backhanding of the heartland in comparison to the big city — applies to the Georgia Tech Softball Team.
Jones recognizes the difference there, as well. The senior outfielder/second baseman has been a part of both Georgia Tech ACC Championship-winning teams but also precedes it.
The Maize High School grad. was the first recruit signed by Head Coach Sharon Perkins prior to the 2008 season. So, as she prepares to begin her final season on The Flats, she knows first-hand that the program’s status hasn’t always stood as palatial as it currently stands.
“Obviously our field is a huge improvement,” Jones said, referring to award-winning Mewborn Field, which opened in 2009. “Right next to it is the indoor facility, giving us a lot more opportunity when it’s cold outside or when it’s raining to have practice, at least be able to hit and the pitchers can throw.”
Then there is the perception of the program from the outside.
“Georgia Tech has definitely gone up in the level of softball since I’ve been here,” she said. “Many people before were like, ‘Oh, Georgia Tech.’ They’d heard of Georgia Tech as a school but now when you talk to somebody, they’re like, OH YEAH! I saw you play on ESPN. You guys have a very good softball program.'”
That means raised expectations, something the squad has learned to keep in perspective.
“I know my freshman year we were preseason ranked but I don’t think preseason rankings tell much about your team, because that year, we obviously didn’t have a great year,” said Jones of the 32-31 Yellow Jackets of 2008, who sandwiched the ’07 team that won a school-record 54 games, and the ’09 squad that took home the first of the back-to-back conference championships. “Any coach wants to win and all players want to win, so it’s pretty easy to have high expectations. It’s whether you meet your expectations or not. With the recruiting that Coach Perkins has done over the past couple of years, she’s gotten a lot of good players. We’ve been able to meet those expectations.”
At the moment, the team would be happy just to meet their expectation of having a clear field upon which to play, something that should happen in the coming days. Until then, as with most other sports — men’s and women’s basketball, swimming and tennis notwithstanding — they’re simply making due.
“We’ve focused a lot in the weight room on trying to get stronger, taking it kind of as competition with each other,” Jones said. “It’s been a lot of fun. I think a lot of people have gotten stronger.
“We’ve been doing conditioning work,” she added. “Last [Wednesday] was our first day back with our weight trainer since we did not have practice. We had an hour of weights and we also had an hour of conditioning, just trying to get us back in shape and to be prepared to go full go when we finally are able to use our field.”
Getting on the field will also mean getting to use the brand new locker room facilities.
“We actually haven’t gotten into it yet,” Jones said, with a laugh. “We’re definitely looking forward to it. It was part of the whole snow thing. But I know everyone worked really hard to have it done by season. So we’re all looking forward to it.”
As the temperature starts to rise, melting the snow and ending the cabin fever outbreak, Jones can look back on the week that was — and practice that wasn’t — in better humor.
“It’s been a little funny,” she said. “It’s been interesting because where I’m from we usually just get snow, but not a lot of ice. So the fact that we had that layer of ice over the snow, no one can drive on that, especially those first couple of days. After that, it would melt then it would re-freeze again. It was interesting to see how that snow and ice worked.”