Softball Factory athlete Lauryn Brooks, a stand-out 2018 CF/2B at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Maryland, has committed to Hampton University through hard work and reinvention (more on that shortly).
Brooks, who became interested in the sport of softball at an early age, watching major leaguers hit homers and steal bases on TV, wanted to do the same kinds of things. Full of energy growing up, she played any sport involving a ball, including bowling and basketball.
At eight, she played tee-ball and baseball for the Bowie Boys & Girls Club before her parents put her into softball to learn the sport. Since then, she’s played on travel teams in Maryland and Virginia, most recently with Virginia Glory in competitive
tournaments across the country as a middle infielder and center fielder.
This past summer, Brooks joined the Virginia Legends, coached by Kevin Shafer and gave back with community service, coaching under-privileged youth with the Washington DC Grays Team under the Reviving Baseball in Inner-Cities (RBI) program.
Brooks attended her first Softball Factory, an Under Armour National Tryout in La Plata,
Maryland, just days’ shy of her 13th birthday in the summer of 2013. From there, she spent countless hours in the cages and playing in high-level Factory events such as: Spring Training and Christmas Camp at Historic Dodgertown and Softball Factory’s Eastern and Fall Classic Showcases.
“Spring training at Vero Beach was my very first major event and I was so excited to be on the grounds where Jackie Robinson once trained,” Lauryn said. “I learned so much from the drills, all-day workouts and staying on campus with other players which gave me a feel for what
playing in college might be like.”
Lauryn’s father, David, could see the natural, yet underdeveloped softball skills that were
bubbling on the surface when she started with the Factory. It was only a matter of time to
polish that talent.
“After trying out for the Softball Factory, Lauryn received encouraging feedback that she had the potential to play softball at the next level,” David said. “From that point on, Lauryn became more attentive and focused every time she took the field. With every Factory event, practice, and game, her development continued. Lauryn has developed a mindset that there is always a way to get better.”
That mindset has helped Brooks become a standout starting catcher for three seasons at Eleanor Roosevelt High School, as her team won three county and regional championships, while also making three appearances in the Maryland state 4A semi-finals.
Brooks put together an outstanding junior season in 2017, one in which the team went 18-2 overall, reeling off 14 straight wins to start the season as she paced the team offensively,
leading her Raiders squad in home runs (8) and tied for the most RBI (32) before she was sidelined with a broken arm. She was voted a First-Team Softball All Met in 2017 by the Washington Post, becoming the first Prince George’s County (MD) public school softball athlete to receive that honor in the last 15 years, and was nominated for the Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year award.
Despite the injury, Brooks spent five months recovering, which she says, “felt like years.” She
remained determined to get back quick, not letting that derail what she had been working hard to achieve.
“I hated watching from the sidelines. I had too much time on my hands so I did everything the physical therapist required and more and my arm healed. My love of the game motivated me to push myself to get back on the field. Every time I’m on the field, I know it is a gift that I can’t take for granted.”
Accolades aside, realizing her chances were becoming harder to stand out at the next level, Brooks took on the task of reinventing herself: She became a lefty slap hitter.
Brooks already had half the equation that college coaches longed for; her lightning-quick speed was a major factor (recorded a 2.95 20-yard time at a recent Softball Factory event), but now needed a new wrinkle to her game.
The idea to become a slap hitter was first recognized by Factory coaches, Katie Rietkovich and CJ Browder, noting Lauryn’s speed and athleticism and then formulated in the cages of Softball Factory headquarters in Columbia, Maryland, working numerous times with Softball Factory’s Senior Director, Lea Ann Jarvis, in one-on-one meetings. Brooks had to completely start over, learning new skills as Jarvis taught and un-taught her skills that she learned at an early age.
It was a frustrating transition, first learning how to swing from the left side, then, getting the footwork of hitting the softball while moving forward down, all while working to grow the
confidence at the plate to repeat and do it successfully. It took her a year and a half to get the
mechanics down, but in the end it paid off and she began getting solid looks from coaches.
From this situation, came a close bond with Coach Jarvis.
“Coach Jarvis has been my hitting coach for almost four years now. She is like family,” Lauryn said. “She is direct with me about where I need to improve and is very encouraging at the same time. She has supported me through the challenges of switching to the left side to slap hit. I strongly believe that her instruction and the Softball Training have contributed to
improvements in my skill level and are one of the main reasons why I am going to college to play softball at the Division I level.”
“When Lauryn decided to make the change from righty to lefty, it was the best discussion that she made to become a Division I athlete,” Jarvis said. “She is one of the hardest workers that I work with at Player Development events and hitting lessons.”
Lauryn’s Player Development Coordinator, Julia Rice first met the family in 2014 and remembers talking to them about the switch to the left side because of her speed.
“Lauryn has grown so much since I started working with her,” Rice said. “It is amazing that in a few short years, she is a triple-threat slapper at the plate. She can bunt, soft slap, power slap, and hit for power. She has worked incredibly hard with Coach Jarvis and on her own being the best slapper she can be.”
From the beginning, Factory staff were right there for Lauryn, ready to provide encouragement or advice, something David appreciated greatly.
“Throughout our years with the Factory, Coach Rice and Coach Jarvis have maintained open lines of communications to discuss progress, recruiting, and just about any topic Lauryn wanted to discuss.”
Through her work on the field and in the classroom, the Brooks family navigated the sometimes-tricky college recruiting process, leading her to find Hampton University for a variety of reasons.
For starters, Lauryn’s mom, Kim is a Hampton alum. Lauryn said she chose the school because of the way it felt like home as soon as she stepped foot on campus. She also immediately connected with Hampton head coach Angela Nicholson’s vision.
“I liked how she emphasized personal responsibility for staying in shape and working out,” Lauryn said. “I also liked her emphasis on academics. I love learning, being a leader, doing community service, and performing well in school. I feel like I will be able to continue a high-level of academic performance while also playing softball with Coach Nicholson.”
“I am over the moon excited that she has committed to Hampton,” Rice said. “They have everything that she is looking for in a school. It really shows that if someone works hard enough in the classroom and on the ball field, good things happen.”
Brooks could have easily packed it in after her injury and learning to reinvent her game, but didn’t, something Jarvis was proud of.
“When she missed all of the 2017 summer with her injury, she never got down,” Jarvis said. “She knew if she continued to have a great work ethic, great attitude and be a student of the game, she would be just fine. I’m so proud of Lauryn that she will be continuing her softball career at Hampton University.”
The life-long memories made on the fields across the country with the Factory are priceless, according to Lauryn. The All-America Pre-Season Tournament earlier this month was the most fun she’s ever had as she still keeps in contact with several players she met there, and along the way at other Factory events. Along with the care shown by the coaches and other staff, Lauryn says all of these memories will stay with her, well past when she’s done playing softball.
“They (Factory) are people that care about you because they want to see you succeed,” Lauryn said. “The coaches find a way to relate to players because they were in our shoes. Factory coaches/staff want to give back to the game, they want to give kids the advantage of learning softball the right way.”
David agrees that by seeing Lauryn go through it, that it was worth the hard work, determination and sacrifice.
“I would highly recommend the Softball Factory. It’s a professionally run organization with highly qualified, energetic, positive staff. The staff relates well with the players and share their experiences as student athletes to help players understand what it takes to be successful in high school and college.”
“I’d tell them that if softball is really the sport they want to continue playing, then the Softball Factory is a great organization to help increase their skill level,” Lauryn said. “The training may be hard, but it is worth it. I don’t want to be cliché and say that softball and the factory will teach life lessons that you will carry for the rest of your life, but it’s true. Everything you will be taught at the Factory, you will need to get through college regardless if you are play softball or not.”