By Trinity Fellows
The University of Alabama at Birmingham is known for creating diamonds under pressure, especially on the softball diamond. As a first-base player for UAB’s softball team, sophomore Ja’nae Wray represents this well.
Wray is majoring in business management with a minor in marketing and is from Douglasville, Ga., a few minutes outside of Atlanta. When she’s not on the diamond, you can find Janae in the Collat School of Business or volunteering in her community.
Under new head coach A.J. Daugherty, UAB’s softball season begins Feb 10-12 and will continue throughout May. The Blazers are set to play in many conference competitions, as well as against names like the University of Florida and the University of Alabama.
I got the chance to sit down with Janae to learn about her goals, passions and thoughts for this upcoming season.
Janae, why softball? Tell me about your background and the beginnings of your softball career.
I started playing softball because of my brother. He played baseball and I wanted to play with him. I played tee ball first when I was 5 and it was an all-male team. My parents put me in softball when I was 9, but I wanted to continue to play baseball. but girls were not allowed to play on a male baseball team at a certain age. When I was younger, I played all positions, but I was known as a power hitter. As I got older, it was difficult for a left-handed person to play shortstop and third so I had to change my position to first base and outfield. I also played basketball and ran track and field. When I was in 10th grade, I decided to just play softball.
How would you explain your position on the field and playing style?
I play first base, and I think it is a very dominant and impactful position. I am a very aggressive player and I always try to give everything I have every time I play. I dive for balls and communicate with my teammates. I try to encourage my teammates anyway I can because softball is a team game, and we need everyone to contribute as much as we can to win. I like to motivate and bring as much energy as I can when I play because positive words and energy can give us that spark to win the game.
How has your role on the team changed in the transition from a first to second-year player?
My role has changed tremendously this year. It was difficult last year because I redshirted my freshman year. I had a unique role and did not get to play but still contributed any way I could. My approach to the game has changed. Now, I feel more relaxed, and I am in a mindset where I trust my skills and believe that God’s timing is perfect. Just wait for your opportunity to shine. Ultimately, I want to have fun and make the most of what I have.
What game or tournament are you most excited to play this season?
I am most excited to play Tennessee State because I have some friends that play softball there. We play them at home on Mar. 29 at 4:30 p.m.
What’s your favorite road-trip snack for the long bus rides?
Fruit snacks. All day. Every day.
What are some of your goals for the future, both on and off the field?
To improve every day in any way I can. Make an impact on someone and show that anything is possible through God. Trust and follow God’s plan.
Who inspires you in the softball community?
A few people who inspire me in the softball community are Jennie Finch, Natasha Watley and Leah Amico. I had the honor of meeting them in the Breakthrough Series, which is sponsored by USA Softball and the MLB. I got to hear their stories and lives at a young age. I was inspired by them because they showed me that there is more to softball than just playing a sport.
There are so many more opportunities that can leave an imprint on your life. You get to make sisters and best friends on a team that only softball can bring you. Your teammates are the only people who understand that there is beauty in the struggle, and they also understand that feeling of winning. You can also impact the next generation and make a living playing the game you love. What I learned from them is don’t ever put a limit on how far you can go.
What was your mindset and general focus during this preseason under new head coach Daugherty? What is your mindset now going into the season?
My mind set during preseason was to better my skills and learn as much as I can from the new coaching staff. Every day I try to get better and improve because there is always an area you can get better in.
My mindset now going into season is that I have been preparing for this moment for months. Trust my preparation, stay relaxed and give everything you have. I am ready for this moment.
See Ja’nae play at Mary Bowers Field by visiting https://uabsports.com/sports/softball/schedule.