Up Close & Personal with Jennifer Ponzo
April 19, 2002
Jennifer Ponzo is a freshman on the softball squad. Recently, she took the time to share about her life at Santa Clara, the road she has taken to get here, and gives a special thanks to her dad for helping her out along the way. Plus, hear about her hopes of a future field here on the mission campus.
Q. How long have you been playing softball?
Jenn: I've been playing softball since I was five. I actually started out with T-ball and Rookie League, then I played softball.
Q. So you started out in hardball?
Jenn: Yeah. I have an older brother who played baseball and my dad was big on baseball too.
Q. Have you always been a pitcher?
Jenn: I started pitching when I was seven and I just wanted to pitch because it was frustrating that everyone else couldn't pitch and we lost ever game. I started taking lessons when I was eight from Lisa Mize. She played softball for Chabot and Fresno State and played on the Puerto Rican Olympic team. I took pitching lessons with her until I was a senior in high school, so I stayed with her for about eight or nine years.
Q. What is one of your most memorable moments of softball?
Jenn: I think one of my most memorable moments was the first year my summer team went to USA Nationals. We were just the scrappiest team, really young, underdogs. Somehow we ended up getting picked to win the nationals. It was our first year and we ended up getting second place and we were happier than the team that won because we just couldn't believe what we were doing. So, I think that was one of my most memorable experiences, being there for the first time, just being in such a competitive tournament and that far from home, it was in Rockford, Illinois.
Q. How old were you?
Jenn: I was twelve and we were playing U14.
Q. Name an aspect of the game you are currently working on.
Jenn: Right now, short term, I am working on just being really consistent with my pitching, change-up, off-speed, just really mixing it up. Basically working on setting up batters and working with my catcher on pitch selection and what to call in the right situation. Just really working on finessing my pitches cause I am more of an off-speed movement pitcher. So I am just working on getting those pitches down.
Q. Speaking of catchers, do you have a specific catcher?
Jenn: Both Roni Rivera and Rachel Sherman catch for me. I don't have a specific catcher. Deanna Rodriguez usually works with Roni, and Kelley Johnson usually starts with Rachel, but with me, I throw really well with both of them.
Q. What is the biggest difference you have noticed in collegiate versus high school softball?
Jenn: The girls are huge that we play against. It's just a lot more challenging. In high school you were only worried about batters one, two, three and in college you need to worry about one through nine. You can't give anyone anything, you really have to go your hardest on every single batter, every single pitch. It is a lot more mentally tough. High school softball is more of a joke in comparison. College is more mental that physical I think. That has been the hard part for me, adjusting and being mentally tough on the mound through every single pitch.
Q. Name a person who has been influential in your life.
Jenn: I would have to say my dad. He is the reason I play sports period. My mom and dad have really been completely supportive, but my dad never once made me go pitch or force me to do anything. He was really supportive. Everyday he would want to do stuff with me. He's always been there for me. He's been my personal coach, hitting, pitching, fielding, everything. He's just always been encouraging and pushing me to be my best, but never pushing me to hard, never making me do anything I didn't want to, it all came from me. He let me find it on my own and I really thank him for that. I know a lot of time dad's can just force it on you and my dad didn't do that at all, which was really special.
Q. The softball team recently had a homerun derby where you had the chance to pitch to your dad, what was it like?
Jenn: Pitching to my dad was really fun. He paid for about 50 swings and he practically used all of them. I was trying to give him good homerun hitting pitches. It was really cool because on his last swing he hit a homerun. He surprised me by showing up and I thought it was very sweet of him to participate. After all these years of catching me, it was fun that he finally got to be in the batter's box instead of behind the plate.
Q. Was the homerun derby a success?
Jenn: I thought the homerun derby was a success. We raised about 500 dollars, which will definitely help our program. It was really fun to pitch against our friends and faculty. It was also a good chance to let people get to know the team. Hopefully we gained a few fans because of the derby.
Q. What drew you to Santa Clara?
Jenn: It is kind of funny actually. Marcy did the Stanford camps and I worked with her a lot. I went to the camps when I was younger and she was my coach at the camp. Then I found out she was coaching here so I wrote her a letter and I came down and visited. I visited a few other schools too, but I really like Santa Clara. The team was awesome and so fun. I really was comfortable with Marcy as a coach because I knew her and she knew me really well, so I was really comfortable coming in and playing for her. The school is also really nice and great academically.
Q. Have you declared yet?
Jenn: No, I haven't declared. I'm in the College of Arts and Sciences. I was interested in Combined Sciences, but that was ended shortly after chemistry. Now, I am taking my core classes and I really like psychology. I think I am just going to continue to take my core classes and go on with that.
Q. Have you liked living in the dorms?
Jenn: Yeah! I think it is fun. I think it is a good way of meeting people, but it is hard to get your work done. You really have to go to the library or the top floor of Swig to get anything done, but it has been really fun.
Q. Are you rooming with a player or a random selection?
Jenn: I am actually rooming with a random selection, but she plays water polo, her name is Allison Stover. It has seriously been probably one of the best things that has happened at Santa Clara. She's my best friend and we have so much fun together, it makes living and coming home to my room that much better especially when things are going wrong it is just nice to have her.
Q. Overall, how would you say your freshman year is going so far?
Jenn: I think it is going really well. Sometimes the schoolwork gets hard and the softball. You get tired and the last thing you want to do is work when you get back to your room. I think the good definitely outweighs the bad, by far. It has been an adjustment school wise. I've never worked out and practiced so hard in my whole life. But, it is worth it and I have had a lot of fun.
Q. You practice six days a week, right?
Jenn: Yeah, we practice six days a week and sometimes twice a day, conditioning in the morning and practice in the afternoon, but the team really makes it worth it. In the mornings, once you get there it is fine because everyone is there and in the same position and we are making each other laugh. The team alone made coming here and adjusting so much easier. The upperclassmen and have been so nice and always taking us out and inviting us over.
Q. Do you think there is any one specific person on the team you have really made a connection with?
Jenn: I feel like I am close with a lot of the upper classmen. I think they all just really push me to want to be better. I think Kristi Harrington pushes me really well. For example when I am on the field with her at third base, she really pushes me to do my best. But, in general, I think they all do a great job. They have all been really great role models, they all work so hard, so it's good to look up to.
Q. What is the last movie you saw in theater?
Jenn: I think it was Black Hawk Down. It was really good, very realistic. It was war from the minute the movie started to the minute the movie ended and I am the biggest crying sap, so I was crying and really emotional, but it was good. It was sad to see how guys our age fought like that.
Q. What is your favorite ice cream?
Jenn: Chocolate chip cookie dough, for sure.
Q. Is there anything else you would like your fans to know?
Jenn: I want to say thank you to the fans that do come to our games, they have been really supportive. We have some really loyal friends and a couple of my really good friends come to the games, so I just wanted to say thank you to them and they know who they are. I think that our fans, the ones that do come consistently, that's really cool of them to come and I wish that more people would come to our games. It's hard because I know that the field is really far from school.
Q. Do you see it as a dream for the players to eventually have a field here on campus?
Jenn: Yeah! I know that the freshman and I really want a field on campus by the time we graduate. I think our team deserves it. If we keep working hard and winning I think we really deserve it. I know that Marcy and Mick have been working really hard and so have we. Hopefully one day.