April 12, 2002
Life as a Seminole softball player hasn’t always been a bed of roses for senior third baseman Becky Brock. The Macclenny, FL native has struggled with her bat since she stepped on the diamond at FSU in 1999 and she entered the 2002 season with a .198 career batting average. She started just 24 total games as a freshman and junior and last season she had just 24 at bats and posted an average of .083. She entered her senior season as a defensive specialist who was expected to backup freshman Bryttani Lindheim. Brock’s struggles at the plate were quite a surprise considering she had been named Offensive Player of the Year for Baker County as a senior in high school.
“It is hard for me because when I got here there was obviously better pitching and once I started to struggle I just got it in my mind that I couldn’t hit,” remembers Brock. “I was a good hitter in high school but I guess the pressure of the situation got to me a little bit. It took me a little longer to get through it than I thought.
“It was hard to see a freshman get the start over me in my senior season mainly because I felt that I worked really hard to try and correct my problems. I tried really hard to adjust my swing and work on improving my hitting. I don’t have anything against a player who starts ahead of me as long as they are getting their job done. If they are a better player than me I have no problem with that especially since I had my opportunities. I didn’t show what I could do so you can’t blame the coaches for thinking that I’m not hitting well.”
Every time Brock found herself on the bench or not hitting well, she never looked for anybody to blame. She never got down either. It would have been easy to give up but with every hurdle she faced, Brock re-committed herself to try just a little harder.
“I accepted my role and it made me want to work even harder. I would go in to the game in the fifth inning and be a defensive replacement and I was fine with that,” said Brock. “Jackie (Hirschfeld) has been a role model for me. She was playing even less than I was yet she still had a great attitude everyday and practiced hard. I looked up to her for that. She always had a great outlook.
“I have never been bitter about not starting. I knew I had to make the most of my three innings out there and that’s how I approached it. It showed the coaches had confidence in me for what I could do defensively. I knew that was my strong point and they expected me to perform with my glove. I did my job when I got the chance but I often wished I could show them what I was capable of doing with my bat and come through at the plate for my coaches and teammates.”
Brock was a switch hitter in high school and whenever she was struggling at the plate, she would turn around and try to slap the ball. It usually was enough of a change of pace that it would allow her to work her way out of a slump. But that wasn’t something she could do at the collegiate level and she found herself stuck in a dry spell she couldn’t get out of.
In 1999, Brock hit a respectable .273 in just 11 at bats as a freshman. The next season, she started 55 of FSU’s 66 games but only had 76 at bats and she saw her average dip to .224. Her junior season was a low point for Brock at the plate. She started just 21 games, had just 24 at bats and hit .083. As difficult as things got for her personally during the 2001 season, her attitude never changed.
Brock has always been known for being one of the most solid defensive players on the team.
“Even though I wasn’t playing, I still worked hard,” recalls Brock. “I really believe in that. If you are able to do your best, work hard and have fun, you will have accomplished something. That is all that matters. I just wanted to be able to look back and have no doubt that I worked as hard as I was capable of and went as far as I could individually and as a team.”
Brock carried that philosophy with her into her senior season even though she was once again expected to be a late inning defensive replacement in her final season as a Seminole. Highly recruited freshman Lindheim was expected to come in and win the starting job at third base relegating Brock to the bench.
After making just two starts in the first 25 games of the season, everything changed for Brock March 8. The Seminoles were 18-7 and had dropped four of their five games versus ranked teams. The team was fielding .954 and had committed 36 errors. They were just a couple of weeks removed from losing the championship game of the Troy Cox Classic after committing six errors and things didn’t seem to be getting better defensively, It was hard to expect championship level defense with three new infield starters who had a combined three years of experience but Brock’s glove began to become more of a necessity and not just for three innings.
So in the second game of the Seminole Invitational Tournament versus Iowa State, Brock made just her third start of the season. She went 1-for-2 and in her first at bat she knocked in her first RBI since February 17, 2001. She has started 22 of the last 23 games since then.
“This year Bryttani (Lindheim) was penciled in at third and that was fine with me because I like Bryttani,” said Brock. “But we had to reshuffle the infield and she has played very well since she moved to shortstop and that opened up third base for me.
“It is just so great that I got to start my senior year. I worked hard and I am glad it paid off. I’ve gotten to go places I never imagined due to hard work. When the season began, I never thought I would have a starting role but now I’ve started 24 games already this season.”
Brock was only four games into her new starting job before she got the biggest hit in her four-year career. The Seminoles were in Fullerton, CA for the prestigious Kia Klassic. Their first opponent was sixth-ranked Oklahoma who was just over a year removed from a national championship. Senior Leslie Malerich was pitching the game of her life but locked in a 0-0 game that was just entering the fifth inning. Senior Monique Marier led off the inning with a double and was sacrificed over to third bringing Brock up to the plate with just one out in the frame.
Brock had the game-winning RBI versus No. 6 Oklahoma.
It had been almost 13 months since Brock’s last RBI and she only had four in her three-plus year career at that point. When she singled in the eventual game-winning run, things had seemed to come full circle for the senior who had always carried a big glove but a little stick for three seasons. This time she helped her team win a big game with her bat.
“That was great,” said Brock. “I just happened to get a base hit out of it and it felt really good. It felt good since I am known for my glove but was able to help out the team with my stick. I don’t think I’ve had as big a hit as that since I’ve been here but you have to remember that the hit means nothing if Mo (Marier) doesn’t start things off with her double and Bryttani (Lindheim) doesn’t sacrifice her over to third.”
Now she is entrenched at third and hitting the best she ever has (.254). Brock has already surpassed her total starts from 2001 and her three RBIs this year are also a single-season high. Her 59 at bats and 15 hits this season are the most since 2000 when she started 55 games. She has also surpassed her run total from 2001 with nine and most amazingly, she has struck out just one time all year. In her last 81 at bats, Brock has just two strikeouts.
Although she will never blame anyone besides herself for her struggles at the plate, her father’s battle with heart problems had to have weighed on her mind, especially early in her career. When she was deciding where to go to school, coming to Florida State meant that Brock would never be too far from her father and that was important to her.
“Florida State was close to home and that was vital considering the health problems my dad had experienced,” said Brock. “My other options for school were too far away from him and being at FSU meant I was always only a couple of hours away if something happened to my dad. That was important to me.”
Her parents have been a constant source of support for Brock throughout her life. Her mother has missed just two of games her whole life no matter what the sport. The only time she ever missed a game was when Brock’s dad was ill. Both of her parents are fixtures in the Seminole Softball Complex stands and even her grandparents make the trip to Tallahassee on occasion. Brock is one of the only players on this year’s squad who ever attended the JoAnne Graf Seminole Softball Camp. Her parents always made sure to find the money to send Brock to FSU during the summer.
“It is just phenomenal to see their support,” said Brock. “It is so comfortable for me knowing my mom and dad are in the stands rooting for me to do my best. I love to see them in the crowd and it is the best part of my day when they are there. They have given me so much support be it emotional or financial. Unlike many of our players, I came to softball camp at Florida State for years. To be a scholarship athlete now and take some of the financial burden off of them feels good.”
Brock is hitting better than ever this season and is getting to start every day during her final campaign.
“I am the first child in my family to go to a four-year college and I never imagined I would have the kind of success I have had academically,” said Brock. “I know this sounds terrible but academics come easy to me. Florida State was overwhelming at first but I like school and I could go forever. After four years though, I am ready to move on.”
Before Brock moves on though, she still has some business she would like to take care of on the field. She is trying to encourage her younger teammates to rally down the stretch and ensure the program of its third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament. There are only four players on this year’s team who know what it feels like to miss the tournament and Brock is one of them.
Brock feels good about this team’s chances at the postseason since she believes this is the closest team she has ever been involved with. They are not only close to one another but they are winning also and that is a key combination.
“I think the whole team got the point when the seniors talked about how bad it feels to miss out on the experience of playing in the NCAA Tournament,” said Brock. “What is so great about this year’s squad is that they all want to win so badly. The junior college transfers and freshmen embraced what we were saying. I know Tat (George) was one of the freshmen who said that she didn’t want to be sitting here in May and asking “What if” when it comes to why we didn’t make it into the tournament. My worst regret would be not making the tournament and wondering what if we tried a little harder or were able to beat this team.”
But Brock knows that won’t happen this year and she has never had a single regret about her time spent at Florida State. From her struggles at the plate to the pain she felt when the team missed the tournament in 1999, Brock has cherished her time as a Seminole.
“The relationships I have made at FSU will always be with me but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t games I won’t remember either. Even though we lost, last year’s 2-1, 10-inning game versus Cal will always be a good memory because we played so hard as a team. I will always remember some of those special things the coaches have done but I will take the people I have met with me wherever I go. Ten years from now, nobody will remember a hit against Oklahoma or a loss to Cal but the relationships will still be on going.”