Simmons overcomes difficulties at LBW

Published 10:44 pm Tuesday, April 7, 2009

There were a lot of things with which Jasmine Simmons knew she would have to contend upon her arrival at Lurleen B. Wallace Community College in Andalusia. She anticipated having to adjust to a new school, a new town and a new team.

“At first, I hated it because it was my first time being away from home,” Simmons said.

A star shortstop at Demopolis High School, the LBW freshman also figured she may not play her preferred position as the Saints had a returning player entrenched at the spot.

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“She’s a tremendous athlete,” LBW head coach Tommy McDaniel said of Simmons. “We knew she could make a run at short this year. We made the decision with her speed and arm strength to put her in centerfield. And she has turned into a great centerfielder.”

“I’d never played outfield before,” Simmons, a three-sport star at DHS, said. “I was always on the infield. I had to learn different techniques. I didn’t know how hard it was going to be to adjust from the dirt to the grass.”

But, as she did continually throughout her prep career, Simmons met the challenge and exceeded expectations in making the transition to the new position. And, as long as she was on the field and playing, Simmons was able to shut out the distractions that accompanied the unfamiliar surroundings of Andalusia.

However, the LBW speedster’s next challenge was one for which she was unprepared.

It was early in the season and the play was largely routine for Simmons, a competitor accustomed to pressing the issue on the base paths. Attempting to get in under a tag, Simmons slid head first into the second base bag.

Moments later, she noticed noticed blood on her hand. Upon further examination, Simmons realized she had suffered a gash on the index finger of her right hand, an injury that resulted from an unceremonious meeting of her finger and a defender’s cleat.

The injury, initially expected to sideline her for only a week or two, lingered.

“She got hurt in the fall,” McDaniel said. “She got cut. It was really bad and she missed the whole fall.”

The injury sidelined Simmons, who was entirely unaccustomed to watching the game she loves.

“It actually made me angry. I wanted to be there and get back on the field,” Simmons said. But as the timetable for her return continued to be pushed back, Simmons became more frustrated.

“I was very unhappy. I remember telling my coach and a lot of our players that the doctors needed to go ahead and tell me that my career was over because I wasn’t getting any progress,” Simmons said. “I remember thinking I wasn’t coming back this season.”

Unable to play, the generally upbeat Simmons grew more disenchanted with her circumstances in Andalusia.

“There were times with being away from home and watching her teammates practice everyday that it was tough on her,” McDaniel said.

Simmons points to her teammate and roommate, Nicole Washington of Thomasville, as a considerable source of encouragement that helped navigate her through the most difficult stretch of her playing career to date.

“She helped out a lot because growing up playing against her my whole life, I already knew a little bit about her. So I wasn’t uncomfortable being her roommate or being her teammate because I already knew her,” Simmons said of Washington. “She was giving me some words of encouragement. She told me not to give up when I thought my career was over.”

After months on the sidelines and finally getting the opportunity to return home for an extended period over the holidays, Simmons returned to Andalusia with a renewed vigor.

McDaniel points to the first practice of spring, a January day on which Simmons made a sterling pair of diving catches as the turning point for her.

“From that day on she’s been outstanding,” McDanial said.

“I’m going to have to start over from the beginning,” Simmons said of her thought processes upon returning to the field in January. “Actually, it came pretty quickly. It only took a couple days with the defensive part. Offensively, I had to adjust to swinging a bat. And that took a couple weeks.”

Now the everyday centerfielder for the Saints, Simmons is continuing her quest to make up for lost time at the plate.

“She’s starting to turn around offensively and we think in the future she’s going to be a really good offensive player for us,” McDaniel said. “During the fall, before she got hurt, she was one of our top two hitters in the lineup. If she keeps working on it and progressing, I see her being back in that one-two mix again. I think this time next year she’ll be one of our leading hitters on the team.”

Even though she’s back on the field, Simmons admits that her struggles are not yet over.

“It’s still in the back of my mind that I got hurt,” she said.

Despite the hesitation that consciously suppresses on the bases, Simmons said her objectives remain the same. She still seeks to play the game at the highest level she can possibly reach.

“I’m still working toward the same goals,” she said.

Her return to the softball field also helped her to overcome her reservations with her new environment.

“I fell in love with the girls on the softball team,” Simmons said. “I actually have grown to like Andalusia now because of the softball team.”

“We are very, very proud she is at LBW,” McDaniel added. “Not many kids can go through what she went through.”