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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

JJ Smith: An example-setter through quiet confidence

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Junior JJ Smith (25) waits at first base and watches the pitch, Monday, April 10, 2023, at Bobcat Softball Stadium.

With fierce dedication and high-level experience, senior utility JJ Smith came to Texas State prior to the 2023 season in search of a new home. Since her arrival, she has shined through her qualities both on and off the field.
Smith’s talent was well recognized during her time at The University of Texas, where she was awarded Big 12 Freshman of the Year in 2021 and played in consecutive NCAA Tournaments and the 2022 Women’s College World Series. 
However, Smith chose to enter the transfer portal following her sophomore season to find a new environment for the final years of her collegiate career. Within days of putting her name in the portal, she committed to Texas State. 
After transferring, she began to create strong bonds with her new Bobcat teammates through her passion for the game and quickly became a locker room leader by setting an example through hard work. 
“If I had one word to describe JJ, it would probably be passionate,” senior pitcher Jessica Mullins said. “She is very passionate about the game and she’s going to let you know.”
Since her arrival at Texas State Smith has thrived and become a well-respected teammate through her strong work ethic and superlative dedication. Although she may not be the most vocal leader on the field, she has earned herself a powerful voice through these qualities, according to Mullins.
Smith said that moving into her senior season, she feels encouraged to take on a more verbal role on the field. For the time being, however, a conversation to put an anxious teammate at ease is never out of the question.
“People still do look to me whenever times are rough or whenever they’re looking for answers,” Smith said. “I think this year I’m really going to focus on just communicating with the younger kids, just having fun with them, trying to ease the pressure off them as much as I can.”
Smith quickly planted her feet in the culture of Bobcat softball, but the connections she developed with her teammates were years in the making. 
“I was lucky enough to know several of the girls on the team already,” Smith said. “I think the relationships that I’ve already kind of built and I wasn’t even on the team yet was a huge thing.”
Throughout her time growing up playing softball in east Texas, she became familiar with many faces on the current Texas State roster and said she valued these connections before deciding to become a Bobcat. Now that these bonds have tightened, Smith radiates a positive appreciation for her teammates.
“There’s not one of them I can’t just call up and be like ‘Hey, can I talk to you?’ or ‘Hey, can you help me with this?'” Smith said. “All of them will come rushing, you know, they’re just very, very kind people.”
Head Coach Ricci Woodard said that Smith transitioned into Bobcat culture rather smoothly, and added that her ability to be malleable in a new program is not something you see every day.
“A lot of people that transfer in, or that are freshmen, are quiet at first and I didn’t feel like she had to go through that quiet stage,” Woodard said. “She kind of jumped right in and you could tell [she] felt comfortable on the field right away.”
Smith’s appreciation for aspects of Bobcat softball doesn’t stop at personal connections. She said that, compared to softball at The University of Texas, Texas State encourages a more intimate bonding experience through its smaller atmosphere and more cutthroat stakes when it comes to reaching the postseason.
“I just think there’s more of a bonding and a team-fight aspect at Texas State,” Smith said. “We all got to come together from game one all the way until game 60 of the year because even if we take just one game off, that could cost us going to the postseason.”
In her first year as a Bobcat, these values and qualities proved fruitful for Smith as she became acclimated to the competitive Sun Belt Conference. While maintaining a positive leadership role on the field, Smith charted the most walks and the least number of strikeouts in the 2023 Bobcat lineup. Woodard said her plate discipline was an attribute that is scarcely found.
“She walked 25, 26, 27 times this year, which for a power hitter type of person, that’s not normal,” Woodard said. “I thought she did a really good job of being patient and tried looking for good pitches to hit instead of just [trying] to get hits.”
Outside the batter’s box, Smith’s leadership ability can be seen between every pitch as she reassures her pitching staff that she has their back. Though she isn’t always the loudest player on the field, she exudes a sense of quiet confidence according to Woodard. 
“She doesn’t necessarily have to talk about it,” Woodard said. “She’s got that quiet confidence to her that she tries to carry with her all the time.” 
Many factors of Smith’s playstyle have given the Bobcats’ roster an admirable and dependable teammate. When paired with her experience on the big stage, Smith’s ability to compassionately support teammates makes for an ideal comrade on the diamond and friend away from it, Mullins said.
“I’m able to go and talk to her and voice my opinion and she supports me, or she’ll tell me, ‘Hey, that’s wrong,” Mullins said. “I think just her supporting me mentally on and off the field has been a blessing in disguise for me.”

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