TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It was several hours later, after the final out had been recorded, after she had been doused with water from the team cooler and after she watched a video with her former players offering congratulations that the moment finally caught up with Lonni Alameda. Alameda, Florida State’s eighth-year softball coach, had just earned the 500thvictory of her career.
She had known for a while that it was coming, but tried to play it off as no big deal.
Turns out it was a big deal.
“At 1:30 last night, I was like that was really, really cool,” Alameda said. “You start reflecting and think, ‘I’ve been coaching a long time.’ But that’s what’s so cool about it. You realize how much sports really affect people.”
There will be another really, really cool moment on Sunday, when FSU honors Alameda in a pre-game ceremony before the Seminoles’ home game against NC State (4 p.m., ESPNU).
FSU is 28-4 on the season, ranked ninth in the country and has a two-game lead atop the ACC standings.
Alameda is plenty pleased with the wins, but she smiles big when reflecting on the family atmosphere that she and her staff have cultivated throughout the program.
“I think people a lot of times say softball doesn’t define you, or baseball or football doesn’t define who you are. Yet it really does,” she said. “Because I think what I define softball as is passion and opportunity and relationships.
“The game brings you so much and then you see former players start to talk about it who are raising families or in a profession or coaching. They’re taking all those core values and using it in their daily lives and that’s what’s so cool.”
Funny enough, Alameda interviewed for the FSU job with no intention of actually taking it.
She was already a successful head coach at Nevada-Las Vegas and was gearing up to head to China for the 2008 Olympics.
“The timing just wasn’t right,” she said.
Or so she thought. A morning stroll around FSU’s campus had Alameda questioning her resolve. And a chat with then-athletics director Randy Spetman sealed the deal.
She accepted the job on the same visit and, a few days later, broke the news to UNLV.
“I met with Spetman for like seven and a half minutes, and I knew I was coming here,” she said. “It was a family atmosphere, a warm feeling you get. I’m a family person.”
Alameda believes that atmosphere has played a big role in the program’s success over the past seven years. FSU under Alameda has won three ACC titles, made three NCAA super regionals and played in the 2014 Women’s College World Series. And Alameda is currently working on a fourth straight ACC coach of the year honor.
Every once in a while, a colleague will tell her to change her style – to become tougher or meaner. She may try it for a while but, inevitably, Alameda reverts back to who she is.
“I try it and I can’t do it,” she said. “I always tell myself I want to win a national championship and I want to know we did it in the way that we did it. And that’s in the community, that’s giving, the whole thing. That’s my drive.”
Alameda’s top memories:
Feb. 22, 2009: Florida State 6, Michigan 5 (11 innings)
“My very first year, we played Michigan here. And there was only like two people in the stands, but it was an epic battle. It was like 11:30, it was freezing cold. We had a couple (fans) ride on Coach ‘Hutch’ (Michigan coach Carol Hutchins) and getting after her and she was so frustrated. We ended up winning that game and that was pretty exciting.”
March 27, 2013: Florida 7, Florida State 3 (Walk-off grand slam in eighth inning)
“The wins are awesome, but sometimes the losses in the games (are memorable, too). The Florida-Florida State rivalry, it brings something special.”
May 19, 2013: Florida State 7, South Alabama 6 (NCAA Regional)
“We asked Kat Allen to get hit by a pitch and she shies away from it and she ends up getting walked. We knew Kelly (Hensley) was going to hit a home run. Like, we knew it. We were sitting there and she was like ‘Get me to the plate, get me to the plate.’“
May 22-23, 2014: Florida State vs. Michigan (NCAA Super Regional)
“Just the whole regional. And I think what was so memorable was Lacey Waldrop shaking me off to throw three changeups in a row. Her confidence to be able to do that? Awesome. Bri (Hamilton) catching that line drive, Courtney (Senas) hitting the walk-off (home run) when Courtney hits here at 10:30 at night every single day and we have those conversations about one moment. Those all stick out.”