LAKEWOOD RANCH — Ever since she was little, Lakewood Ranch High senior Rachel La Bar has been looking for ways to enhance her softball skills.
She began practicing at The Sandlot at 5 Tools Baseball in West Bradenton to improve her hitting. She joined a more recognizable travel ball team — Team FLA — last summer to attract the attention of college coaches.
But its perhaps her most surprising decision — to quit the Lady Mustangs’ softball team one game into her senior season — that had some people, including her parents, scratching their heads in disbelief.
With a softball scholarship to Pfeiffer University in North Carolina already in hand, La Bar decided her time could be spent more wisely. So after going through Lakewood’s conditioning and preseason practices and playing in the Lady Mustangs season opener, La Bar decided to forego playing the rest of her senior season.
La Bar spent the next month working on basic softball drills, including sliding, hitting and pitching. But after a while, La Bar decided she needed something else to occupy her time, so she decided to look for a job. And after what seemed like countless applications, La Bar landed a job at Applebee’s in March — shortly after her father, Tim, lost his job.
“I just decided that I wasn’t really benefiting from playing, and instead I could do something more productive,” La Bar said. “It was rough though … I went to the Braden River versus Lakewood Ranch game, and I started crying.”
La Bar began playing softball when she was 5 years old. She dappled in other sports and activities, including soccer, basketball and ballet, as well, but no matter how many sports she tried, La Bar always gravitated back toward softball.
In the past 14 years, La Bar has bounced between the pitcher’s mound and first base — both of which she plans to play next year. In 2002, La Bar also began playing travel softball and will play her final season with Team FLA this summer.
Aside from playing travel ball, La Bar spends at least an hour every week working on her swing at The Sandlot, where she has been working out since she was a sophomore.
“I love hitting,” La Bar said. “That’s definitely one of my favorite things. It’s just kind of allows me to release any anger or frustration that I have, and it’s nice just to be able to go out back and hit it off the tee.”
This past fall, La Bar saw her hard work finally pay off when she was awarded a softball scholarship to Pfeiffer.
“I was just really excited because I thought I wasn’t going to be able to play,” La Bar said. “(Pfeiffer) was the only school that offered me a (designated) spot on the team.”
La Bar will now spend the next few months playing travel ball and working on improving her speed and velocity as a pitcher before heading up to North Carolina later this summer.
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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