If you were to walk through the Philadelphia airport earlier this spring, you may have run into six freshmen softball players walking through the corridors in their batting helmets and shirts covered in ketchup and mustard.
To the casual observer, it may have seemed like a food fight gone awry.
To those who know the upperclassmen on the Temple softball team, it was the result of freshman initiation.
This stunt, as well as others, earned senior outfielder Lynsey Grace the role of the “Joker.” As the Owls begin conference play, Grace has accepted another role: the leader.
Grace has been a mainstay in the outfield for four years now. Since arriving here she has started all but one game out of 176. She currently leads the team in five offensive categories, including runs, hits and RBI, and is second with a .357 batting average. Grace jump-started the offense last Friday, going 3-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored in Temple’s 8-1 victory over Rider.
Her numbers match up with some of the top players in the Atlantic Ten, but it’s Grace’s intangibles that make her the heart and soul of the team.
“[Lynsey] has showed some great leadership with what focus means: hard work, determination, not getting down on yourself,” coach Rocci Pignoli said.
Off the field, Grace has what Pignoli calls, a “dynamic personality.” Her charisma has given the six freshmen and two transfers an immediate sense of belonging.
On the field, Grace walks a careful balance between maintaining her focus throughout the game and keeping the situation loose so her teammates can relax. The balance Grace carries is one handed down from her parents.
“My mom has it all together,” Grace said. “She is always calm. My dad is the funniest guy in the world. He’s better than Chris Rock.”
Grace’s family, who has traveled from Massachusettes to watch her play every weekend, is also responsible for instilling in her the importance of helping others.
“I am kind of like that older sister who likes to cater to others’ needs,” Grace said. “If someone is having a bad day, I make sure I get over there and try to cheer them up. If someone is in a slump, I like to be the one to say ‘Let’s go work on the tee or in the batting cage.'”
As far as looking forward, Grace and the Owls are focused on capturing the A-10 title and advancing to the NCAA Tournament. In Temple’s way is a strong Massachusetts team that currently stand atop the A-10.
The Owls are 15-13 and 1-1 in conference play. The A-10 season continues for the Owls with games against LaSalle, St. Joe’s and rival UMass.
But that does not faze Grace.
“UMass is going down,” she said. “Every year they edge us out but not this year. From one to nine [in the lineup], we are capable of great things. This year is ours.”
Sarah Schultz can be reached at email@example.com.