In the midst of all the recent news surrounding the National Football League’s possible lockout, NPF players recognize the honor of being able to continue their athletic careers beyond college. Former Texas A&M standout Jami Lobpries will enter her third season as a professional athlete this summer.
During her stint at Texas A&M she helped lead the Aggies to two Big 12 Championships, 4 NCAA Regional appearances, and two trips to the Women's College World Series. She was an All-Big 12 outfielder for the Aggies, a three-time First Team All-Academic recipient, and a member of the Women’s College World Series All-Tournament team in 2008.
She signed with the NPF’s Philadelphia Force in 2009 before signing with the Tennessee Diamonds last year where she posted a .293 slugging percentage as well as a .283 on base percentage after an ACL tear in the fifth game of the season. She will remain with the Diamonds for this upcoming summer season. Currently, Lobpries is serving as the assistant softball coach at Monmouth University, a Division 1 school in West Long Branch, New Jersey. In her first season, the Hawks enjoyed their best finish in program history, winning 30 games and finishing second in the conference.
Jami talked about her experiences as a professional athlete so far….
Q: Tell us about your road to being a professional softball player.
Jami: I was first introduced to the NPF when I was a freshman at A&M. Two of our seniors, Adrian Gregory and Nicole Robinson were drafted, and that summer I was fortunate enough to watch one of Adrian’s games when the Thunder were based in Houston. At that point, I started thinking about my goal to one day play in the NPF. As a junior in college, I took a trip with 4 of my college teammates, including Megan Gibson, to visit our friend/teammate Sharonda McDonald who was with the Philadelphia Force. Spending those few days with the players and learning more about the league, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I struggled my junior year with injuries, then hit a turning point in my career my senior year. I ended my college career in the World Series final, and briefly talked to the Force about free agency, but nothing happened. After leaving my cleats on home plate in Oklahoma City, I thought that was it. However, former Force owner Tom Kleinman called me in September following the 2008 season and asked me to join the Force for the 2009 season. I was in grad school at the time and considering an internship for the summer, but realized I still had a passion for the game. I signed as a free agent and couldn’t be happier with my decision to become a part of the NPF and everything it represents. The past two summers I’ve been with the Force and Tennessee Diamonds, and been fortunate to play against and with the best players in the world, as well as help grow the game that has brought me so much.
Q: What is the best thing about the NPF fans?
Jami: The great thing about our game is the rapport the fans have with the players. I don’t think there’s another professional league in the country where the fans have such access to the players from the proximity of the stands to the autograph sessions following every game. Loyalty is the first word I think of, and I believe it’s the personal access that creates that fan loyalty.
Q: What are you looking forward to for the 2011 season?
Jami: I think the USA players made a large statement for the future of our league with their decision to forgo the national team, and commit fully to the NPF this summer. I’m excited to expand the awareness of our league to a new fan base, and I love that we’ll be traveling and exposing more people to the talent that exists in the NPF.
Q: What is it like traveling as a professional player?
Jami: Travel is a big part of professional athletics, and something that can be exhausting. I personally love having the chance to travel around the country, play in different venues, meet new fans, and experience the different cultures of our country.
Q: Do you have a nickname?
Jami: J-Lo....and I totally claimed it before Jennifer Lopez, even though she’s older.
Q: Which athletes or coaches were your mentors or role models growing up?
Jami: My college head coach, Jo Evans, had the biggest impact on me through athletics. I learned so much about life through the way she taught. She emphasized respect, passion, and, in her words, “controlling the controllables”. I still go to her for advice. I also try to learn from all the people and experiences in my life, and maintain a willingness to continuously learn and change.
Q: How would you describe the NPF competition?
Jami: Simply put, the best in the world. It offers fans a chance to see the parity and depth of talent our country has in our sport. How can you not get excited to face some of the best pitchers and hitters to ever play this game? Softball is already based on failure and now you add the best talent in the country and it makes it that much harder, but as a true competitor, that’s what you want to face everyday.
Q: What is your most memorable moment as an NPF Player?
Jami: Last season we were losing 8-0 in the bottom of the 6th inning against the Bandits. In college, the game would have been over due to the run-rule effect. We scored like 6 runs in the 6th and in the bottom of the 7th, Megan Gibson hit a 3-run walkoff bomb to win it 9-8! I’ll never forget celebrating at home plate with the whole team jumping in unison! Felt like the big leagues!
Q: What is your favorite movie and why?
Jami: Juno, I love Ellen Page’s character and there’s quality one-liners.
Q: Coming off of an ACL injury in the 2010 season, what are you doing to prepare for the 2011 season?
Jami: Being that I tore my ACL in the 5th game of the season, I put off surgery until after the season so I could try and help my team. I had surgery October 8th and immediately began physical therapy. This is my second ACL surgery on this knee so I basically know the routine! I was progressing really well and working hard everyday with one of the athletic trainers at Monmouth University, the school I coach at. I’d go in every morning from about 8-9 and follow my doctor’s protocol of a daily workout regime. The first month is all about range of motion and rebuilding my quad strength. Then I gradually added cardio and weights to my workout. By the third month, I was in the pool weekly and began some light jogging. Then I ran into an infection and minor setback that hospitalized me for 5 days. After having the fluid drained from my knee, I’m currently on 3 weeks of intravenous antibiotics. I actually get to inject myself five times a day and I’m learning a whole new appreciation for the medical field. I’m continuing my range of motion work and once these 3 weeks are over, I’ll get right back to my jogging and agility work until I’m full go physically.