In the sports of baseball and softball, the pitcher could easily be described as the unofficial leader of the team, dictating the progression of the game with every pitch. Such pressure often makes even the best players in the world crack, however one little girl has taken the challenge in stride, and in turn has brought out the best in her.
Nine year old Vanessa Hernandez was faced with an unfortunate reality for many kids: bullying. This resulted in her being extremely shy and quiet, with very few friends.
“I got bullied a lot,” said Vanessa. “I went to go and see a therapist and my mom and dad, they were talking to somebody and they said to put me in sports…”
Vanessa’s parents originally considered soccer and basketball, however their daughter didn’t seem to take to either. It was Vanessa herself who moved in the direction of softball.
Leanna Hall, Vanessa’s mom, has played softball her whole life, but she didn’t tell her daughter about softball for fear of pushing Vanessa too hard towards it. It wasn’t until Vanessa saw a game on TV that she voiced her interest.
Vanessa was enrolled in Downey Ponytail late in the process, and was quickly inserted onto a team a mere week before the season began.
She was placed on Steve Roberson’s team.
Roberson says that Vanessa was extremely quiet when she was first added to his roster. She had little to no skill in the sport, didn’t interact with the other girls, and was “scared to death of the entire process.”
“She couldn’t hardly look at you,” said Roberson. “She didn’t know what end of the bat to even hold, she’d never caught a ball. It was just ‘how do you help this little girl...’”
Despite her lack of skill and extreme shyness, Vanesa continued to show up to games and practices. Eventually, she discovered pitching.
She discovered she had a talent for it too.
Vanessa enjoys how fun pitching is, and that pitchers are often looked towards to determine the fate of the game. She also enjoys the friends that she makes while playing.
Vanessa has spent the last few seasons playing as one of the main pitchers of her team; she’s even made the all-star team.
According to her father, Victor Hernandez, Vanessa’s new found love for the game and for the mound has provided her with a new confidence and attitude, along with a host of new friends.
“Ever since then she’s been more happy,” said Hernandez. “More friends, more outgoing. Happy. Just a happy kid...In my opinion, I think the pitcher is one of the leaders of the team…by having that role as one of the leaders on the team, I think she opened up to be more responsible…you know, helping others out.”
Vanessa hopes to one day take her talents to Westwood and play for the UCLA Bruins.
Until that time comes, Vanessa has recently gone through the normal preseason tryouts and is preparing for her next season of play under the coaching of Roberson.