I have always wanted to be one of those sportswriters who knows everything there is to know about their beat.
Obviously, one of the people I think of and probably isn’t the best is Robert Duvall’s character in “The Natural.” This year, Vanessa Shippy let me follow along with her turbulent season where she was seemingly breaking a new record or being nominated for another award every week.
I have covered Vanessa since her sophomore year, but this season, with her getting married and obviously having the year she had, it was truly remarkable getting to cover her and the Oklahoma State softball team. I got to feel that feeling of one of those beat writers I always think of.
Whenever I needed a story on anything, from the intricacies of putting down a slap bunt or even the uniforms, sports information director John Langham would get Vanessa because she knew everything there was to know on that team. She was basically another coach. No matter how busy she was in her life, she was always available for an interview and it truly showcased why she was such a special player for OSU and an NCAA Woman of the Year finalist.
This year, on top of planning a wedding, trying to graduate with two majors and keep her already high grades up and still cramming in a few hours of sleep, she just so happened to have a softball year for the ages and won her second Big 12 Player of the Year award.
She was up for so many awards, which I listed in the Top 10 story, that it almost seemed unreal that a player of her caliber could be just so down to earth like she was. One time during a postgame interview, she stopped it because a bug ran across the floor. That’s not something you would usually see from most athletes.
I remember one particular instance, myself and David Bitton went to do a photo shoot for the cover of the summer Stillwater Style magazine. Vanessa, who had done makeup and everything for the cover shot, didn’t mind working again and again on this shot of trying to encapsulate her throwing a ball to first base while dirt was flying all around her. She raked the dirt and continued flinging it over herself.
David didn’t even get to use the photos and yet, Vanessa was just that kind of person that for whatever she was working on, she gave it 110 percent. When she came to OSU, she started at second base, but midway through her sophomore year, she moved to catcher because that’s what coach Kenny Gajewski needed. She was there for two years until she was able to move to third base – her high school position – in her final season.
Even when she got the chance to be a pitcher for a couple of batters during a Bedlam game in Norman this year, her form was pretty good. She played every position during her time at OSU and was the definition of a do-it-all player.
Her season is probably one I will remember for the rest of my life and I’m just 24, so I was happy getting to witness what I hope will be only the beginning of the buildup of the Cowgirl program back into a World Series’ squad. I’m sure that Vanessa, who is now an assistant at Syracuse and lives up in the New York town with her now-husband Matt Fletcher, will help the Orange become an NCAA Tournament team just like she did for the Cowgirls.
One day, the No. 3 jersey will join the wall of Cowgirl greats. I don’t know if it will be there when she returns March 1 when Syracuse takes on OSU in the Cowgirls’ home tournament, but it will be up there soon.
Players like Vanessa Shippy don’t come along often. Heck, people like Vanessa Shippy don’t come along often and this season, we got to see her at the top of her game.
Jordan Bishop is a sports reporter for the Stillwater News Press and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.