Joelle Nesci wasn’t always a softball player, in fact, she grew up with basketball as her sport of choice. However, one night after basketball practice Joelle had a sudden change of heart. She told her father that she was done with basketball and would later swap out her hightops for cleats and a bat.
Baseball runs in the Nesci family. Joelle’s father is very oriented around the sport and even played both baseball and softball at different points in his life. Joelle claims that she always looked up to her father and wanted nothing more than to follow in his footsteps.
Joelle’s first time taking the field was when she was 7 years old. She had joined a local league that played down the road from her house in Liverpool, NY and fell in love with the sport. By the time she entered high school, she was a single sport athlete, focusing all of her athletic ability into being the best player she could be.
Flash forward to what turned out to be a pivotal moment in Joelle’s career. One of the last few games of her senior season in high school. College scouts packed themselves into bleachers, preparing to watch the top players and how they performed in a rivalry match between Cicero-North Syracuse High School and Joelle’s Liverpool High School.
Unfortunately for Joelle, playing time was scarce as she struggled to get any sort of consistent playing time. Her different style of play conflicted with the belief of her coach at the time and she had fallen down the pecking order. This meant Joelle wasn’t on the radar of relatively any of the coaches present that fateful day.
Most coaches, at the high school level of play, look for people that are fast so that they put the ball in play and run, more commonly known as “slap hitters”. That wasn’t Joelle.
“…she hits the shit out of the ball, excuse my language. She hits like a man. She’s a very strong girl, you would never know that from looking at her, but she’s a very strong girl,” Joelle’s trainer and close family friend, Jamie Cangemi, said.
Joelle’s father recalls this moment that got her noticed like a movie he’d seen a million times over. The list of her doubters was long and in the eyes of her coach, Joelle was nothing more than a practice player.
The game between CNS and Liverpool had been a stalemate, with neither team making any sort of breakthrough. That all changed when Joelle’s coach gave her a chance. She stepped up to the plate and smacked the ball out of the park. A home run that ended up deciding the game. Joelle, being the cool-headed person she is, took it in stride.
“That really had people looking at her as not only an athlete, but as a player, the way she handled it. Never got any accolades in the paper for it…and it never really affected her that she didn’t get anything for that stuff. I think that was one of her signature plays that signifies she belonged there and she could play at the level… There was about twenty college coaches there at that point in time and they were all there to see the number ones and twos of the teams and she went forward and stepped ahead of everybody,” Joelle’s father, Jeffrey Nesci, said.
Joelle’s dedication to putting in the hard work paid off in dividends as she earned herself a spot on an Oswego State softball team that, at the time, was looking to rebuild.
Where many athletes looking to play in college would turn away an offer from a school who was at a low point and choose a school where they were guaranteed silverware, Joelle claims that the opportunity to play a big part in the rebuild excited her and that she always wanted to be a part of the organization. This desire led to her eventual commitment to bear the Laker badge, which to her, meant the world.
“It meant so much to be a part of being a Laker, whether our team was good or not, It doesn’t matter. Everyone was connected in our own way and like they say ‘It’s a great day to be a Laker’. Just feeling connected to every sports team there was and being connected as just our own little community,” Joelle said.
Despite being recruited and committing to play for the Lakers, the struggle to retain consistent playing time throughout her career continued to rear its ugly head, just like it had in high school. It seemed as though starting 29 games, bringing in 14 runs and scoring seven herself, somehow wasn’t enough. Throughout her sophomore and junior years, Joelle started to see her involvement on the field diminish.
“She’s definitely had some stresses in her career. A lot of it pertains to playing time, a lot of it pertains to maybe a coach not liking her style of play,” Joelle’s father said.
I wondered how on Earth someone can have the rollercoaster in playing time that Joelle has had and still come away seemingly unphased? It turns out that the playing time isn’t everything to her. What would be a roadblock to many was just a hurdle in her path, as her unselfish nature and willingness to be a team player shined through.
Every team needs someone to raise spirits. They need someone to be the ray of sunshine peeking through the dark clouds. Joelle is that ray of sunshine. What she calls her “positive vibes” rub off on nearly everyone she comes in contact with.
Instead of letting the depleting playing time get her down, Joelle has made herself out to be a supportive member, and a driving force for those around her, lifting their spirits. She has genuine love for the people within the organization as she’s the one person you always hear while on the field. Not many athletes, or people in general, can claim to have built such beautiful relationships.
“I’ve always been one of those people that got along with everyone and never had that big of an issue with anyone,” Joelle said, “Teammates, especially Freshmen coming in, I feel, don’t really know how to specifically read me. It’s different for me because I’m a very personable person, but that’s kind of until I really get to know you… I’m definitely a very personable person. I love to talk, so once I get talking to, especially the Freshmen, they’re like ‘Okay, she’s one of the people that I’m actually going to be going to when I need to talk about something.’ So once they get talking to me they know who I actually am.”
Through sitting and talking with Joelle, I believe that statement to be nothing short of true. Joelle spoke with me about how not only had she never had any problems with anyone during her time as an Oswego athlete, but in fact has held close relationships with not only a teammate or two, but with everyone. From her coaches to the athletic trainers, who she loved to talk to while getting an ice bath, Joelle’s kind heart made room for everyone.
While the loss of game time and whether or not a coach approved of her style of play may have been obstacles dead set on getting in Joelle’s way, what makes her special is her desire to see those around her flourish. Her enthusiasm to continue to support and encourage those around her, despite seeing her number of games slowly decline, is what I believe sets her above and beyond so many athletes and people in general.
Obviously Joelle, like many other spring senior athletes in college across the nation, didn’t know how to believe it when she caught wind that her final season as a Laker was not to be. She described the heartbreaking feeling as this was the season Joelle was dead set on going out with everything she had.
However, in typical Joelle fashion, she yet again, managed to focus on the positive memories she’s made and how while some things happen that are completely out of her control, nothing will ever take away the memories that she’s made at Oswego and while sporting the Laker badge.