NASHVILLE, Tenn. – She is a 5-foot-3 red-headed, super-charged positive force of nature wrapped, based on what day it is, in purple, gold or black on the softball field.
What she does for the Lipscomb Lady Bisons cannot be measured by statistics. But long before the Lady Bisons take the field junior Jordan Abell is, to steal a quote from Major League Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, the straw that stirs the Lady Bisons drink.
“Ever since I have been playing softball I have always been the one to get everyone going and make sure everyone is hyped up and ready for the game,” Abell said. “I feel like it is kind of my job.
“When I got to Lipscomb my freshman year we didn’t have anyone like that. I was scared to step up and do that. But Peck (coach Kristin Ryman) made the point of always telling me to get everybody up. Three years later I still feel like people are looking to me for that. It keeps things fun and we forget sometimes that we are playing the game we love and it should be fun.”
Abell’s impact is only fully realized when she is observed as the goes about her business on the field before, during and after games.
“Jordan does so many things that you normally don’t see on the field,” Ryman said. “Jordan is that player who has been in the shadows for the majority of her career. She has done so many things that define the personality of our team.”
Wanting to play
Abell started three games this season at second base. They are the only three starts of her career. She has made 21 appearances off the bench this season, the most for any reserve player.
“Jordan is very unselfish with how she goes about her business,” Ryman said. “She wants to be out there as much as anybody. But she trusts us. She knows that if we felt like at any moment in her career that she was the best option she would be on the field.”
Ryman stresses that Abell always tries to make the best of her opportunities.
“She understands her role,” Ryman said. “She doesn’t have to like it but she doesn’t let that affect her body language or how she goes about her business on a day-to-day basis.
“She still is going to come out and work hard and bring her enthusiasm and excitement every day. She loves to play softball.”
Since she started playing softball she had always been a starter. All of that changed when she came to Lipscomb.
“Coming here it was a completely different role,” Abell said. “It is ironic, because in high school I didn’t understand it. I would look at the girls on the bench and ask why aren’t you having fun? They would say it was because they weren’t playing.
“I don’t want to say that I was selfish when I first came to college, but I was. I was really upset not to play. I had always been the best, but when you come to college everyone has been the best.”
In many ways it has helped her gain a greater appreciation for being able to participate in the sport.
I love softball,” Abell said. “I love everything about it.
“I used to hate practicing, but I love practicing here because I get to do things on the field that you get to do in a game. I think that I am better for it.”
Finding ways to contribute
Abell has found ways to contribute. She programs pregame music on the bus and for practice, leads cheers from the dugout during games, catches in the bullpen, applies eye black for her teammates and many things that are truly too numerous to mention.
“She unselfishly does the things that make our team go,” Ryman said. “The cheers in the dugout start with her. She is the one who keeps the energy going in the dugout. She is the first person to go and check on someone if they seem like they are down.
‘She is the first person to hand someone their glove as they go on the field. If we need someone to warm up a pitcher in the bull pen in a game or in practice she is ready to do it. And that is a thankless job. I don’t know where the energy comes from.”
Often she discusses with Ryman certain defensive plays and the way opposing batters are performing. She will take note of things that she sees.
“I like learning about softball,” Abell said. “Everything in softball matters whether it is a passed ball or the way the pitcher grips the ball. It is fun to see how it all comes full circle in a game.”
A time to renew
Like most people Abell has experienced some less than happy times. She does have bad days, but she doesn’t allow those negatives in her life to affect her attitude on the softball field whether it is in a game or in practice.
“It is easier said than done,” Ryman said. “We tell our players that when they walk through that gate at the end of the left field line you can’t worry about your classes, the test you have the next day, a family member that is ill or a boyfriend you just broke up with. There is nothing you can do about it once you step through that gate.
“Jordan can legitimately step through that gate and put it all aside. There are times when things are weighing on her heart. There are things going on with her. She has dealt with a lot off the field.”
Abell knows the players need her to be a positive influence. And she needs them to be a positive for her.
“Jordan puts a smile on her face and goes out there and works hard,” Ryman said. “It is her chance to get away from everything else. She is going to enjoy it while she is there. She is going to get the most out of it for herself, but she is also looking to bring out the best in other people.”
For Abell practice has always been the time to not dwell on what is not under her control.
“I know my teammates and even my coaches look to me as the person who is always smiling,” Abell said. “That is something they need from me.
“If I am having a bad day I can still control the way I act on the field with my teammates. That is what I do.”
There is an “A” in team
Under the word “team” in the Thesaurus there should also be the name Jordan Abell. Because there is little doubt she is the epitome of a team player.
“Absolutely,” senior shortstop Bridgette Begle said. “She knows she is not going to see the field as much as some people, but she is going to make her footprint in the sand.
“She is going to have an impact whether it is supporting her teammates, being loud or messing with the other team. The day she missed a game because she had to be at a funeral everyone was asking who is going to lead the cheers? Who is bringing the energy in the dugout? Being on the field it is amazing how much the players in the dugout impact your play when you are hot, tired or freezing.”
Begle knows it is incredibly difficult for a player to do what Abell does with little or no promise of playing on a regular basis.
“She comes in and puts in the same number of hours we do, but she doesn’t get the so-called glory of being on the field,” Begle said. “There are so many roles to fill on a team and she knows her role.
“But she wants to play. She wants to be the starter.”
Her teammates appreciate what she does for them during a game, but they also admire her when she does get a chance to perform on the field.
“Game days would not be the same if it wasn’t for Jordan Abell,” senior first baseman Kristen Sturdivant said. “She is the one in the locker room blaring the music. I bet bus drivers hate us because she plays the music on the bus. She gets everybody excited to play.
“We have a bunch of the same classes in elementary education. She takes everything so personally. She works so hard both on and outside the field. She is so creative. It is really nice to have her around.”
Sturdivant has been impressed with the way Abell performs on the field, especially at the plate, when she does get a chance to play.
“I tell everybody I wish I had the swag Jordan has,” Sturdivant said. “I know that is a weird word to say. The weekend she got to play when Bridgette sat out she walked up to the plate like she had done it a thousand times. I wish I could walk to the plate with that much confidence and that much swag.
“I don’t know if I could be that positive if I wasn’t on the field. I envy her so much. She is the ultimate teammate.”
Junior Brianne Welch is a regular starter this season for the first time in her college career. She doesn’t know how Abell has been able to continue to be such a positive force knowing her playing time is going to be limited.
“She amazes me,” Welch said. “It is hard to just sit and watch everybody play and play. She is one of the best teammates ever.”
Starter or not, Abell has persevered through it all. Maybe she finds that starting role next year. Maybe not. But she is going to be there helping in any way possible.
““My team still needs me and I need every one of them,” Abell said. “I feel for every one of them and I want them to do their absolute best.
“I am not going to say it is easy standing on the sidelines and watching everyone else make the big plays. But the older I get the more I see it is not about me or what this person or that person does. We are a team and we win or lose as a team.”