HINESVILLE, Ga. (WSAV) – Given the chance to join the varsity team, a freshman will do anything to see some playing time. That was the case for Bradwell Institute’s Jacoria Leonard, who did everything her coach asked of her and more when she tried out for the team in ninth grade.
“She’ll play second, shortstop, pitch, she’ll catch if I ask her to. She’ll play anywhere,” Tigers’ head softball coach Misty Eastlake explained. “She got the chance to play varsity and never lost the chance.”
Two years after seeing her first varsity time as a pinch runner, Leonard has played every position on the field and is leading the Bradwell Tigers into the 2021 season with the captain armband.
“I can’t go without it because it helps me move throughout the day, knowing I’m coming to practice and going to play softball,” Leonard explained. “Can’t live without it.”
Even though most dedicated athletes will have their passion tested at practice on a 94 degree day like it was for Bradwell on Monday afternoon, Leonard fights through.
“Practice, I don’t even have to be out here. She set’s up the field, she sets up the girls and she gets everything started,” Eastlake added. “It’s great to have someone like to lean on.”
That’s why even if Leonard’s dream of playing for the University of Georgia and USA Softball doesn’t work out, Eastlake believes her star player has a future in coaching.
“I had a summer camp at the recreation department and she was one of the girls that helped lead the camp. You can hear her right now on the field,” Eastlake said with a smile as Leonard shouted words of encouragement to her teammates in the background. “The parents and players were just proud of her because, at that age, you don’t often see too many leadership qualities.”
Leonard is her own harshest critic, but even she will admit that her leadership skills have grown exponentially since joining the team her freshman year.
“It’s making me open up more because I interact with my teammates more,” Leonard explained. “I’m helping them more in terms of getting better for themselves.”
She has the 3.6 GPA, the respect of her teammates and the honor to say she’s the only junior to ever be named captain. It seems like Leonard has it all. Yet, as practice wound down on that sweltering Monday afternoon, the junior superstar kept working like she was a freshman at tryouts, vying for a spot on the team.
“I got 20 of them that I love and she’s always at the top trying to reach the top,” Eastlake said.
WSAV sports reporter Connor DelPrete introduces you to Leonard and the Bradwell Tigers in the video above.