There was a time before her senior season, that Macey Jaramillo had decided she wasn’t going to play college softball. Anyone that knew her and the time she’d dedicated to softball in so much of her life, found that hard to believe.
But it was true.
“I was like, ‘I don’t want to do this,’” she recalled. ‘This isn’t me.’”
“I was in a really bad slump,” she explained. “I didn’t believe in myself. I was like, ‘I can’t do it.’
Said summer ball teammate Reagan Sperling whose North Little Rock high school team just ended the season for Jaramillo and the Lady Hornets in the State tourney semifinals Saturday. “I was like ‘That’s crazy. If she doesn’t go on to play college ball, it would be beyond me. She’s one of the best athletes, one of the best softball players in the state of Arkansas, and other states. I couldn’t imagine it.”
It’s ironic, really, because Sperling as well as Jaramillo’s teammates with the Lady Hornets talked about how their confidence was repeatedly being built up by her.
“I was having trouble before the season,” recalled Bryant junior first baseman Brooklyn Trammell. “My confidence was very, very low and her dad (and summer coach Eric Jaramillo) even helped me out with it.
“It wasn’t really hitting,” she continued. “It was more fielding. Macey, she knew I would get down on myself so much. She was like, ‘You’re a good ballplayer. There’s no reason for you to get down. I believe in you. Everybody believes in you.’ Macey was just that teammate that took the extra mile. She was always willing to do whatever, like pushing everything out of the way to make you the better ballplayer. She’d do anything for you.”
Added Lady Hornets catcher Meagan Chism, “I’d get texts from her — I still do — she’s trying to pick me up as a person and just helping me through my day. Looking down at my phone and seeing her name, it puts a smile on my face.
“When I first came on the team, it was as a freshman,” she mentioned. “Every freshman knows it’s hard because freshman year is awful. But, as an upper classman, Macey didn’t only help me, she helped the other people in our class too. As a junior, she was there for us and she helped us get better.”
Gianni Hulett, a freshman on this year’s team, joined in, saying, “She never puts anyone down. If anything, she going to bring you right back up to the place you need to be. She’s going to build confidence in you and she’s going to have the confidence in you that you need. I’ve never had someone build me up like Macey has and I look up to her as a role model, as a sister, as family. I’ve never had someone come into my life and impact me so much.”
So, Jaramillo had confidence in everyone else but herself at that point.
“I got down on myself very badly,” she admitted. “I was down on myself but still trying to build them up because I didn’t want them to go through what I was going through.”
“I got to know her in the fall my first year back,” said Lady Hornets head coach Lisa Dreher, who coached the team from 2003-09 and returned in 2016. “She was a tough cookie. I knew she was talented and, obviously, had a lot of athletic ability. But she was challenging. She’s probably been the most challenging athlete I’ve had since I’ve been back coaching.
“But, by the same token, it’s been the most rewarding stories that I’ve had,” the coach continued. “It took probably a full year to break through to Macey, in that I was okay to trust and I had her best interests at heart and that she was going to do this. When she realized that I wasn’t going to give up on her and that she wasn’t going to give up on her dreams and all of that, that’s when she began to grow.
“I can see a difference since before Christmas with her, her dedication to everything,” Dreher said. “It almost happened overnight. Eric and I talked a lot about it and I don’t know when it was. It wasn’t anything I said, I know, but she just made up her mind. That’s how Macey is and what she’s going to do. It has to be from her.”
And, as it turned out, that change led to renewed interest in playing college ball. On Tuesday, May 16, Jaramillo, flanked by her dad Eric, mother Kelly Mans, step-father Jason Mans and half-brother Landon Mans, signed a national letter of intent to continue her education and her softball career at Bossier Parish Community College with the intent of completing her two years there and joining the program at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia.
So what happened?
“I had actually played on Henderson’s field with my travel ball team and I fell in love with it,” she related. “I went and toured the school and I loved the coaches, I loved the players, I loved the people that were in the school. It felt like home just like Bossier did.
“I think it’s just going from a big (high) school then going to a community college — I know they’re not that big but that one was big,” she said of BPCC. “It was nice. It was brand new. It had only been up for a few years and just pulling into the parking lot, it caught my eye. It was spread out like Bryant is and I felt like I was back in high school all over again.
“After I had played at Henderson, I had done really good and the coaches fell in love with me and I was like, ‘Maybe I do (want to play in college). Maybe I am capable of that.’ It just changed my mind.”
Among other things, said Dreher. “Where she is now — and I think her teammates will agree — is a leader. And if somebody had told me that last year, I would laugh at them. She’s a quiet leader. She led by example. She’s a good teammate. Everything that you think a good teammate should be, that’s what Macey is.
“So when Eric told me that she had decided to commit to Bossier Parish, I was so happy,” the coach continued. “It was right after I saw a difference in her. Just hearing that, I knew that was always in the back of her mind, but Macey’s thing is, she truly didn’t believe in herself to do that until then. I know she still struggles with that but I’m not going anywhere in her life and I know she has a ton of support, people that are going to be there for her, even though she’s going to be far away. I know her teammates will be too because they have genuine love in their hearts for this kid.”
“When I first came on the team, Macey was a junior,” Chism said. “When I first met her, she intimidated me a lot. When you first meet her, she’s an intimidating person. When you look at her, she carries herself with such high confidence. It’s really inspiring to see. I look up to her not only on the field as a player but even off the field.
“When I get older and I become a senior, that’s how I want to be. I want to be able to support people who are younger and that maybe are struggling. She loves everyone and that’s a great quality to have. I know, going off to college, sometimes she may struggle with self-confidence issues but everyone in this room, I’m positive, knows that she can do it.”
“I played with Macey I think two seasons before my freshman year — lot of memories,” said Trammell. “Macey is probably one of the most selfless and driven players I’ve ever been around. She just has that drive. You want to be like her. It’s been such an honor to be able to call her not only a teammate but a friend.”
I just started playing with Macey this past summer,” Sperling related. “Macey has impacted me in many ways in such a short amount of time. She’s always that player to go to with any problems and when the rest of the team might not be focused on the game, I can always look at the expression on Macey’s face and know that she’s beyond focused. Not a play goes by where Macey was not ready and focused on where she was going with the ball when it comes to her.
“Take hitting lessons with Coach Eric almost any week and sometimes twice a week and it never fails that Macey is there almost every single time,” she continued. “She’s got the kind of dedication that the college coaches are going to kill for. Macey’s beyond that dedication. She never stops, pushes herself to the limit and loves every single one of her teammates.”
Said Hulett, “Playing with her as a senior — I never thought that I would be so close to someone off the field and on the field. I get texts from her every day. She smiles at me every day I pass her going to second class. She will brighten up your day.
“I’ve played with her and competed against her,” she mentioned. “When I look across the field and see her, her focus for the ball and for the team — she has the dedication to win. She wants it more than anyone on that field. She has the heart and she has that dedication. Her communication with everyone, she loves it. Macey is the player that you want to be.”
At the emotional signing ceremony, Jaramillo said, “I want to thank by teammates and my coaches for helping me be the person I am today, for helping to push me to be the player I am today. I want to thank my teammates for being by my side through everything. I’m talking games but also outside of softball, everything. And to my family for the support and encouragement they all had for me, for helping me get to this point.”
As a senior, Jaramillo hit .389 with three homers, a triple and five doubles. Her on-base percentage was .481 and her OPS (On-base-plus-slugging) was 1.048.
“Macey had played nearly all positions except for pitching and catching at the varsity level for us and she does it very well,” Dreher said. “She doesn’t prefer infield but that has been where I’ve used her the majority of the time. A lot at second base last year, third base this year. But her best position, the one she’s most talented at is something she doesn’t get to play and that’s outfield. She has amazing cuts to the ball and one of the best arms.
“She’s been totally selfless about it,” the coach noted. “She hesitated. Like last year, she wanted to shy away from the ball. That’s when I learned she didn’t prefer infield. I asked her about it. Even when she’s struggled or had issues, she’s never questioned the coaching staff about where we needed her to play.”
Jaramillo, who wants to go into physical therapy or occupational therapy, reflected on Saturday’s loss to North Little Rock, the last game of her high school career and said, “I was pretty upset that we lost but it wasn’t even that. I was just sad that I’m going to leave the relationships that I’ve had with everybody, the coaches, the players.”
Of course, those are the things, as it turns out, that do indeed last.