We need to protect our teachers, too

first_imgCategories: Letters to the Editor, Opinion It would sound nice if once in awhile when everyone was talking about school shootings, they would say we have to protect our children and their teachers.It seems that the teachers’ lives should be of great value, just like our children’s. If it was not for our teachers’ actions, many more children would  have died or been injured.Walter “Neal” BrazellRotterdamMore from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationRotterdam convenience store operator feels results of having Stewart’s as new neighborEDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homesCar hits garage in Rotterdam Sunday morning; Garage, car burnEDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censuslast_img read more

Sammy Fernandez struggles with self-doubt despite being Syracuse’s all-time hit leader

first_imgAfter Sammy Fernandez broke the Syracuse softball record for multi-hit games (65), she and her mother, Christine, discussed the upcoming summer. Mandy, Fernandez’s younger sister, had told her mom that she was excited to practice with her sister and role model, who helps out with her travel team, Team Long Island.Everyone on Mandy’s team is “starstruck” by their teammate’s sister, who plays for the same travel team Fernandez grew up on. But SU’s all-time hits leader can’t believe their excitement.“I’m just a mediocre softball player,” Fernandez said to Christine. “I don’t understand why they like me so much.”Fernandez, whose 219 career hits place her 13 ahead of second place in the all-time Syracuse record books, doesn’t like to credit herself. For the career .323 hitter — a top 10 average in program history — it’s the .677 that stays with her. The Carmel native has put together one of the most accomplished resumes in Syracuse history, but she won’t tell you that.The senior’s 12 career triples tie her for most all-time in an SU uniform, and her 72 hits in 2017 pace all Orange softball players in history, but she’ll remain caught up on a fielder’s choice leaving her out at second base.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“I would get mad at myself if I went 2 for 4,” Fernandez said. “I’d get very down on myself, I struggled mentally.”After talking with teammates, a sports psychologist and her parents, Fernandez is beginning to learn that even if she goes hitless at the plate, it’s not always a bad game. She knows she’s more than a “mediocre” player, but that’s taken time.***Two years ago, Sammy Fernandez looked through some of her old school projects and found her fifth-grade final paper. It asked students what their goal in life was.Fernandez wanted to play college softball. Always the best player on her teams growing up, Fernandez wanted nothing more than to continue.“Everyone always says it’s a dream come true, but it really is,” Fernandez said. “It’s always been my dream.”In eighth grade, she made the varsity team and led the team with a .485 batting average, and started receiving attention from colleges. Recruiting camps and clinics, where she’d talk to coaches about their school and softball program, became a staple of Fernandez’s schedule. Since Fernandez was a quiet person on and off the field, her father and coach, Tim, came up with practice questions for Fernandez to ask coaches at the camps.Kai Nguyen | Photo EditorTim always told Fernandez to be the loudest player on the field. Not only because she was a shortstop and had to call out plays, but because he wanted her to be a leader.He implemented new forms of practice for Fernandez and her teammates: when one player hit, the others wouldn’t field. Instead, they cheered for their teammate at the plate.Originally uncomfortable with the practice, the Fernandez soon enough became one of the team’s top supporters and opened up to college coaches about her interest in their programs.“I pushed her out of her comfort zone,” Tim said. “There was probably three or four kids on the team that really wanted to go on to play at the higher level, and she was the one who had to always be the cheerleader in the dugout.”Fernandez switched from batting righty to slap-hitting lefty midway through her college recruiting process, throwing away her team-leading batting average, which stayed consistently north of .500, to redefine her game. It would utilize her speed more and not affect her already-limited power.But Fernandez faced failure. The switch set her back during games because she struggled to settle for weak ground balls. At one point, Tim pulled his daughter aside and told her that they weren’t going to look at her batting average anymore.Oftentimes, Fernandez lined up in the box right-handed, but 50 percent of the time, Tim estimated, she looked at her dad in the third base coach’s box and switched. She accepted the advice, but slowly.“I’m only 5’4”, I’m not gonna go to college and hit home runs,” Fernandez said. “…but speed has always been a threat for me during a game, so I would just (stay) within myself and my own game plan.”***The Fernandez family followed a “24-hour” rule after Sammy’s games growing up. After the end of a contest or tournament, they didn’t talk about softball for 24 hours. Fernandez would put her headphones in, play music, and stay silent until they got home. It’s carried on to college, too.“We’d say, ‘Hey, can we take you out to dinner?’” Christine said. “She’d say, ‘Okay, but there’s one rule. We’re not allowed to talk about softball. The game is over, it’s done, that’s it.’”But it would be rehashed in Fernandez’s head. Even if she went 2-4 or 3-4 at the plate, she’d think about the at-bats that resulted in outs instead of the ones that were productive.Kai Nguyen | Photo EditorOne of the biggest struggles in her career came when she was on the mound, however, pitching in the national championship for her 12-and-under team, the then 71-0 LunaChicks. Fernandez was on the mound during extra innings, and due to the international tiebreaker rule, a runner was placed on second once the inning started. She gave up the winning run and walked off distraught. Her teammates and coaches tried to talk to her, but she wouldn’t respond.It was the last time she ever pitched.Instead of talking to people about her mental struggle with the game, Fernandez turned to hitting in the batting cage in her basement or at the field for mental breaks. Despite her parents’ support and positive results on the field, Fernandez never felt like she did enough.Even in college, Fernandez has struggled to get past her negative thoughts about her performance. After Fernandez’s last regular season ACC series, Tim talked about his daughter with Syracuse head coach Mike Bosch.“Your daughter,” Bosch said to Tim, “it’s been a really rough four years trying to get her to focus on the positive things and not the negative things.”As an antidote to her struggles, Fernandez has turned to teammates and a sports psychologist. Bryce Holmgren, the team’s best hitter, has become Fernandez’s go-to for any negative thoughts regarding her play on the field. Holmgren stresses to Fernandez her role as a slapper isn’t always to get big-time hits or plays. Instead, things like moving the runner from first to second or second to third are what she does best, even if they don’t result in getting on base.While one bad at-bat could ruin a weekend in the past, Fernandez has learned to take it in stride. This year, her season average dipped to a career-low, but she’s remained positive and more comfortable with her performances than in the past.“It’s almost inexplicable how much stronger mentally she has been this year,” Holmgren said. “I think that part of it is being a senior and realizing that maybe softball isn’t everything. Once you kind of stay level and minimize the game a bit, you realize that you don’t need to get worked up about this stuff.”Fernandez wears two wristbands, just above her glove, during games. The first is a SpongeBob SquarePants bracelet, gifted to her by Bosch, shared by her fellow infielders, signifying her love for the cartoon. The other is more thought-provoking. Inspired by Holmgren, it offers three words of advice: “You got this.”Kai Nguyen | Photo Editor“Sometimes you just have to have that positive outlook, no matter what’s coming at you,” Holmgren said. “That’s what I try to tell her…keep it simple.”Fernandez’s struggles with mental positivity are far from simple, but she’s beginning to understand them better. As a senior, she opens up more to people and seeks more outlets to do so. She knows now that if she makes an out, it’s not the worst thing in the world.Yet there are still days when she lets her negativity creep in, like during her conversation with her mom, last week. She may not think of herself as any more than a mediocre softball player, but the people around her know better. And they’ll never stop trying to convince her otherwise.“I said to her the other day, ‘Sam, for one time in your life, I want you to say “I’m awesome” and I want you to believe it,’” Christine said. “I wish she could see herself the way other people see her, because she just doesn’t get it.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on May 7, 2018 at 12:27 pm Contact Eric: [email protected] | @esblack34last_img read more