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Jamie Goldberg '11 Writes About Her Division III Softball Experience for Her Hometown Newspaper

Jamie Goldberg '11 at bat during a softball game

Jamie Goldberg '11 is an avid softball player, an outfielder who played in high school and wanted to bring her skills to college softball. She's also a journalist: She was the sports editor at her high school newspaper, she's written for The Student Life for three years, and has interned at the Claremont Courier, KPFA radio in Berkeley, and KRON4 News in San Francisco. She also twice received the Art Rosenbaum Sports Writing Scholarship, a Bay Area award for high school sports writers.

A politics major who's also minoring in psychology and English, Goldberg plans to pursue journalism as a career after graduation.

This summer, she'll be undertaking another internship at the Marin Independant Journal. "[The editor there] offered me a chance to intern with the Independent Journal this summer and since he remembered me from my high school days and knew I played softball at Pomona, he asked if I would freelance a column on my experiences as a Division III athlete from Marin and related experiences of other Claremont athletes from Marin."

Below is Goldberg's first article for the Marin Independent Journal, reprinted with the newspaper's permission. In it, she explores the day-to-day life of a Division III athlete, which is more challenging athletically than Goldberg expected when she showed up at Pomona as a freshman.

Jamie Goldberg: Former Redwood standout finds her groove in class and on softball field at Pomona College

Posted 04/12/2010, Marin Independent Journal

Back in 2007, I found myself a cocky freshman at Pomona College, playing catch with my teammate, an all-state catcher from Colorado. Beneath a brilliant blue sky and the row of palm trees outlining Pomona's idyllic softball field, I hurled the ball at her glove with ease. Yet, when she fired back a bullet into my mitt, I was caught so off-guard that I nearly missed the catch. Recovering myself, I took a mental note: This is college softball.

Thirty miles east of Los Angeles under the gaze of the San Gabriel Mountains lie the Claremont Colleges, a consortium of five small, academically rigorous NCAA Division III schools. They are often compared to liberal arts colleges like Wellesley and Amherst, except with a uniquely West Coast vibe. All five colleges occupy a square mile in the middle of the Inland Empire, creating a close-knit community unlike any other in the nation.

As impressionable freshmen, we initially saw Pomona College as "Camp College." Students lazily sunbathed in the quad or donned the typical shorts and flip-flops combo while tossing a Frisbee under the ever-present SoCal sunshine.

Such a laid-back scene would be deceiving, however, on this ever demanding campus. Classes of 14 require rigorous discussions where students put their intellects on display, while outside the classroom, battles rage on the athletic fields, especially when the Sagehens of Pomona-Pitzer take on their cross-campus rivals from Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.

When I graduated from Redwood High in 2007, coach Gary Casassa's softball team was establishing their dynasty. With two MCAL titles under my belt and all-league honors as a left fielder batting clean-up for the powerhouse team, I felt primed to continue my success in college.

Division III sports offer a chance to experience college life as a student first, without losing the opportunity to compete at a high level. Each afternoon, I dedicate two intensive hours to softball. Otherwise, I migrate from lectures, to meetings with professors, to the student newspaper office, to hitting the books late into the night.

College life would not be complete without exchanging stories with my newfound friends from all over the country and the world, while checking out the countless parties and events thrown each weekend at the five campuses.

Other outstanding Marin athletes have also found their way to the Claremont Colleges and the challenging Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

While I was competing for MCAL titles on the softball field, current Pomona College senior point guard David Liss was a key cog in Branson's long run of dominance on the hardwood.

Although Liss' basketball prowess earned him a walk-on spot with the Cal team, he transferred to Pomona before the start of his junior year. While basketball dominated Liss' time in Berkeley, at Pomona he realized he could be both a student and still play basketball at a surprisingly competitive level.

"It's definitely the same kind of desire to win at the Division III level," Liss said. "Guys still really care about it. It's more about basketball and more about the team itself and less about boosters and fans and media."

Likewise, during softball season the intensity rises as players compete for an elusive starting position. For two seasons, I dedicated myself to early practices, weight training, and conditioning, but still found myself humbled as I watched most games from the dugout.

My experience was not unusual. Spencer and Eric MacColl, 2006 Redwood High graduates, earned all-league honors as tennis standouts for the Giants. However, since entering Claremont McKenna College, they have both competed for playing time and, while Eric has earned a slot in singles, Spencer has been on the edge.

"People shouldn't think that Division III is going to be a walk in the park because it's been a lot of work trying to keep up with the caliber of my teammates," Spencer said. "You have to work hard to deserve your spot."

Yet, when practice ends, the teammates you have been trying desperately to outdo are now your best friends. The daily hard practices, team dinners and weekend parties have solidified what I trust will be lifelong friendships with my fellow Sagehens.

Plus, the competition and hard work have paid off for me. After two years of trying to prove myself, I entered my junior season with the confidence and ease of an upperclassman. Heading into the final weeks of my season, I have started all 24 games in left field and, despite a mid-season injury, have managed to maintain close to a .300 batting average, while rediscovering the same power stroke that has been missing since my Redwood days. With only a little over one season left in my college career, I know I must make every inning count.

As immersed as I am with college softball, I return to Marin each summer to coach the Marin Blue Angels girls club team and, despite my collegiate status, still rely on fielding lessons from Marin Academy coach Carter Njus and batting lessons from Tam coach Mike Wills, a hitting guru.

Back at Pomona, I am constantly reminded of my Marin roots. One Saturday earlier this year, while the MacColl twins were serving aces for CMS, Liss was hitting a flurry of jump shots from the point to lead his Sagehens to victory over his CMS rivals.

In the batter's box, I was bearing down, waiting for my pitch, before drilling a double down the right-field line to put my Sagehens up over CMS. This is college softball.

Reprinted with permission from the Marin Independent Journal

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