Oct. 24, 2010
by Jon Cooper
Jessica Sinclair will do anything for the Georgia Tech softball team.
That means anything.
“If they need me to get them water or they need me to get a ball, I’m here for them,” she offered unapologetically. “I’m here to do anything that they need me to do that I’m capable of doing.”
Of course, during Fall practice, the Marietta native’s capabilities were limited to things like getting a teammate water or a ball — unlike the usual assists the strong-armed outfielder gets — as she was on the last legs of rehabilitation on her surgically repaired left knee. She had torn the anterior cruciate ligament and the meniscus in her left knee late last season.
Those capabilities are going to improve drastically, and very soon.
“The doctor says. I should be full-go by the time the season starts,” said Sinclair. “Watching them play Fall Ball is disappointing and it’s frustrating but when I can get in the weight room and then get in the training room and feel myself getting stronger, that’s always positive. I’m just ready to get back out there.”
Sinclair’s presence will help the Yellow Jackets in their quest to add another ACC Championship to their résumé then help them advance in the NCAA Tournament. It won’t be easy, but is something she looks forward to.
“There’s a lot of pressure in it but we accept it and we have a lot of fight in us,” she said. “But we’ve been there. We’ve done this before. It’s not a big deal for us. We know what it takes to get to that level and what it takes to win that.”
Sinclair does a lot of the little things that it takes to win, as she is one of the team’s top returning defenders (her .975 fielding percentage was best among outfielders last season), and is the kind of hitter who does the little things that can get buried in a stat sheet — she led the team in triples (2), was third with nine doubles and hit .333 with runners in scoring position and .366 when it came to advancing runners..
She’s also a quiet presence in the clubhouse, as one of the 12 upperclassmen (six of them seniors) on the roster, preferring to lead by example and personifying the hard-nosed attitude of the squad.
“It’s kind of us against everybody else because everyone is out to get us,” she said. “Nobody wants us to win [the ACC] a third time. It makes us fight that much harder and it makes us that much more feisty. We want to defend it. It’s ours and we’re not just going to give it up easy.”
Sinclair surrenders nothing easy.
She showed her feistiness even after suffering her season-ending injury, which came in practice prior to the team’s last regular-season series, when she landed wrong trying to avoid a home-plate collision. A little more than a week out of surgery, she insisted on accompanying the team to the ACC Tournament in Blacksburg, Va., even if it meant something of an uncomfortable bus trip.
“I wasn’t going to miss it for anything. I got on the bus in my little surgical wrap, had my medicine,” she recalled. “It was a rough trip, but it was better to be there than not to be there, and to share it with them and know that I helped them get it there and then they took care of it for me and just playing for me was good.
“I was out there helping people get balls or just doing something. I couldn’t really sit down,” she added, with a laugh. “I was told to sit down a few times, but I had to find something to do and just being part of the team helped me instead of just sitting home and watching it.”
Her support of her teammates has been reciprocated by them during physical rehab, an often lonely process.
“They’ve been great,” she said. “They’re cheering me on when I’m on my bike. They’ll be like, ‘Yeah, Jess. You can do this.’ ‘You can get through this.’ We have had a few girls on the team that have gone through injuries and that have had surgery, so they know where I’ve been. They can help me through it.”
She also had the support of her dad, Ken. While it’s not surprising that a parent is in his or her child’s corner, it is a nice bonus when that parent has played pro ball, as Ken did in the St. Louis Cardinals’ chain.
Father and daughter have always been close, anyway, and it’s not a stretch to call Jess a chip off the old block.
“We’re like the same person,” she said. “We’ve had our moments but it was always great to have him there and for me to know that he understood what I was going through. If I was having a hard day, he’d always be, ‘It’s going to get better. You know this game is a failure sport but you push through it. You have those moments where you succeed and that’s what you thrive off.'”
Dad’s perspective also was vital in her rehab.
“I’d get maybe a two-page-long text from him every week saying, ‘You know this happens for a reason. It’s a challenge but it’s just to see what you’re made of. Obviously, you’re the best in my eyes.’ Stuff like that,” she said. “He knows what it feels like to watch other people play when you want to be playing but you can’t because you’re being held out because of an injury. He’ll be like, `When you come back, you’ll understand why this happened and you’ll always be able to push through it.'”
Fortunately, that push is almost over.