Author Archives: Gabe Vertucci

Softball Factory Alum Ariella Jackson Selected for Puerto Rico Junior National Team

Ariella Jackson

Hard work and dedication are two of the most characteristics to have when trying to reach your goals. For Softball Factory Alum Ariella Jackson, these components came naturally because of her love for the game of Softball.

Ariella, an alum of Softball Factory since 2015, attended a tryout on June 12th in Plant City, FL for the Junior National Softball Team of Puerto Rico. The tryout took place at the WBSC World Headquarters, and lasted until June 16th (five days).

Even though the tryout was five days long for most girls, Ariella paved her way onto the roster much quicker. After just two days of trying out, she was sent home and later received a letter in the mail congratulating her for making the team.

“Being able to play for the Puerto Rican Women’s Jr National Team is a huge accomplishment,”  said Ariella. “All but 3 girls are already playing D1 Softball in Power 5 conferences. There were over 75 players trying out, and to be one of the best 17 that spent a week there is amazing. Im excited to compete against other players from across the world.”

The significance of the accomplishment is further shown on a personal side for Ariella, as she gets to represent her family on the field.

“My mothers family being Puerto Rican makes it a matter of pride and a part of my heritage,” she said. “To be able to represent my family on the Mercado and Perez side in Ponce and San Juan is an honor.”

Below is an outlook on the history of the Puerto Rican Junior National Team, and the teams schedule moving forward:

History:
JWWC Appearances: 4
JWWC Participation: 2007, 2011, 2013, 2015
Highest Finish: Bronze (2015)
Previous Finish: Bronze (2015)
Current World Rank: 5
Round Robin Schedule (Pool C):
July 24th at 4:30pm against New Zealand.
July 25th at 11:30am against India.
July 26th at 11:30am against Dominican Republic.
July 26th at 6:30pm against Argentina.
July 27th at 6:00pm against Czech Republic.

Ariella is a First Baseman/Outfielder from Pikesville, MD, which is close to the Softball Factory headquarters in Columbia, MD. She has been working with Softball Factory’s Senior Director, Lea Ann Jarvis and Player Development Coordinator, Julia Rice in her two years with the organization, taking hitting lessons in the batting cages at headquarters.

“She continued to work,” said Lea Ann Jarvis. “When she noticed improvement, she grew as a person and worked even harder. There was a big jump in her game.”

“Ariella was a late bloomer,” said Julia Rice. “She became a completely new person with a new approach, great plan, and an ability to make quick adjustments. She’s mature for her age softball wise, and also in her life outside of softball too.”

Not only did Ariella attend hitting lessons, but also in 2015 attended a College PREP event in Glen Arm, MD and was selected to participate in the 2015 Under Armour Softball Factory Fall Classic (16U). She was a stand out player at these events, and it was shown in an assortment of ways.

“She is a power hitter who hits the gaps consistently,” said Jarvis. “She smashed the ball during the Fall Classic, and her work ethic is always on display.”

Her mentality has been to focus on softball,” said Rice. “Her drive is so strong, and it is coming together at the right time. She has been on top of it since the beginning.”

Ariella’s improvements have been on display for the Softball Factory staff, but also noticed by her parents, Brad and Amy Jackson. Her father, Brad is a former NFL player with the Baltimore Ravens and understands what it takes to perform at a high level in sports.

“The improvement we have seen from Ari over the past couple years has been dramatic,” said Brad and Amy Jackson. “Not only physically in her swing mechanics, but the most important factor, her mental approach in hitting. She goes into the box with a plan, understanding what pitchers are trying to attack her with, and her approach changes depending on what is going on in the game during each at bat.”

As the hard work continued, it started to become apparent that Ariella Jackson had what it takes to compete at a high level, such as trying out for the Puerto Rican Junior National Team.

 

Ariella and her father, Brad

“I think we had an idea she could compete at a high level, but we really trusted Coach Jarvis’s input once she evaluated her and started working with her on a weekly basis.” said Brad. “You could see during tournaments against other top players and teams with the success Ariella was having that she was able to compete at a high level on a national level with her travel team, and now international level playing for the Puerto Rican Women’s Jr. National Team.”

Ariella and both of her parents give credit to Jarvis and Rice for improving her game, giving her advice, and helping her develop into what she has become today on and off the field.

“I have learned so much from Coach Jarvis and Julia (Rice) I don’t know if I could put it all into words,” said Ariella. “From their support being former D1 players, to their knowledge and advice during the recruiting process as former players, and coach Jarvis as a former D1 coach has also been so valuable. They can relate to everything a softball player will go through emotionally, mentally and physically. I don’t think I would have excelled as quickly as I have if it wasn’t for Coach Jarvis and Julia (Rice) and all their help, advice, and time they spend working with me in the cages. They helped me mentally and physically become a better player.

“I think Ariella has learned mental toughness, how to actually be a “hitter” vs just going in the box to swing,” said Amy. “They’ve helped take her talents to a new level from having put in the hours, days, and weeks of hard work needed to be successful, which was one of the first things Coach Jarvis had told Ariella. She told her to not waste her time and that it was going to take 100% dedication and willingness during good and bad times.”

The Under Armour Softball Factory Fall Classic was a big event for Ariella, as she was able to go to Savannah, GA and play with/against some of the best players from all over the country. This event helped her understand where she ranked nationally as a Softball Player.

“One of my favorite parts of attending the event in Georgia was the food. Wherever we travel we try to find places to eat that are famous or well known and that was the food in the south.” said Ariella. But playing with girls from all over the country and practicing against or with some of the best athletes in the country and seeing how you stack up to them is cool. Also, if you see them at a tournament with their travel team or at Nationals later on, it’s cool because you built a relationship and become friends with them from playing together for a week.”

Ariella Jackson has amounted to much success on and off the field, and is a proud and decorated Softball Factory Alum. She has opened doors for her future, and as of now has began her next journey with the Puerto Rico Junior National Team.

“I contribute my success to hard work, plain and simple,” said Ariella. “My father was professional football player and collegiate Hall of Famer so growing up in my house was always about hard work, will always win, competing hard, being humble, and hungry and #DTD or #DominateTheDay. He has a bunch of one liners, like No Excuses and No Explanations, so no one in our house is allowed to have them either. It all comes from working hard.”

Drive and Perseverance Pay Off For Softball Factory Player Hailey Polisano, Committing to University of New Haven

Hailey with Jennie Finch at January’s Softball Factory All-America Pre-Season Tournament

Softball Factory athlete, Hailey Polisano has verbally committed to play softball at the next level for the University of New Haven. Hailey, a slap hitter and outfielder/second baseman for Howell High School in New Jersey, is set to graduate in 2018.

With Softball Factory, Hailey has attended numerous events since coaches first saw her in the summer of 2013, just before she began eighth grade, including two Under Armour National Tryouts and a College PREP event in her home state of New Jersey. After attending her first tryout, she was one of the very few from the event selected to participate in the Advanced Training at the World Cup in Oklahoma and held her own.

Making tremendous strides at each event, she played with athletes from across the country at the 2015 Under Armour Softball Factory Fall Classic, and later, found success at Softball Factory’s biggest event, the All-America Pre-Season Tournament, receiving the honor in 2016 and 2017. She even got to meet USA Olympic Gold medalist and softball legend Jennie Finch at last year’s All-America Pre-Season Tournament.

Hailey on her high school team.

Hailey has been playing softball since the fifth grade, and has been in love with the sport ever since. Polisano, who also runs track in high school, has credited that for helping her stay in shape for softball. She loves to run, making the outfield her favorite place to play on the field.

As a sophomore in high school, Hailey blossomed into a key player for the 2016 Howell Rebels. She batted .385 with five walks, three doubles, 12 RBI’s, 25 total hits and 18 runs scored. This past season, Hailey’s bat helped lead the team to a 15-6 record, posting a .352 batting average with 12 walks, a triple, double, six RBI’s, 19 total hits, 12 runs scored, and an on-base percentage of .640.

With success on the field and in the classroom, the time came for Hailey to begin the grueling process of recruiting, one in which Hailey has relished. After many college visits, Hailey found comfort in her decision to commit to the University of New Haven. She visited New Haven six times, loves her new coach and the connections the university has for her major – Music Production & Recording Arts – made it an easy decision.

Hailey with her Player Development Coordinator, Julia Rice.

“It was a good all around fit for me,” said Haley. “Everything I wanted in a college, New Haven had it.”

Hailey remained proactive throughout the recruiting process, putting a plan in place for her college visits to get on the radar of coaches, something that got her noticed with New Haven.

She did everything the right way,” said Julia Rice, Hailey’s Player Development Coordinator. “Hailey looked at her major first, then looked at softball. There were many schools who liked her, but didn’t have her major. It shows a huge sign of maturity for her to look at majors first and what she wants to do with her life, and then look second at the softball program. Every week she was emailing coaches and calling coaches.”

I think by having a good resume, it gave her the courage to go in front of a coach and say “Come watch me, I’ve got what it takes. Softball Factory thinks so,” said Hailey’s mom, Regina.

The process Hailey went through was made much easier because of her work with the Softball Factory, helping to shape her into the player she has become.

“They gave me the skill set of a D1 recruit,” said Haley. “I had maybe four or five D1 schools recruiting me, and I could never have gotten to that point without what the coaches of Softball Factory gave me.”

To parlay what she learned from Softball Factory coaches, the College PREP event she attended provided her a huge recruiting tool; that being a recruiting video.

“I was able to send out reliable information to coaches and get on their radar,” Haley recalls from her video. “It definitely opened up a lot of doors for me.”

Working on her slapping and getting faster are areas for improvement, but understands that every facet of her game will be a constant work in progress.

“You’re never the perfect player, and there is always someone better then you,” said Haley. “You’re always looking to get better.”

Hailey’s favorite event attended with Softball Factory happens to also be the most challenging one she attended.

“Oklahoma was my first player development event ever, and I didn’t know it was an advanced event,” said Hailey. “ (Coach Lea Ann) Jarvis definitely worked us, it was hard because I wasn’t used to that, it was 110% all the time. It was a great experience that I loved because I knew it would make me better.”

Hailey with Coach Browder (left) and Coach Chavanne (right).

Hailey recalls her time at the 2015 Under Armour Softball Factory Fall Classic in Savannah, GA, where she had to quickly mesh with her teammates within two days and play against tournament teams who had been together throughout the year. They needed to learn quickly how to play with each other, but conquered the challenge and exceeded all expectations.

“We won more games than we lost, which no one thought would happen. You don’t know these girls, so you had to learn to gel with them, basically in the middle of the game. Our coaches were Leah Majeski and Raven Chavanne, which was an amazing experience, because someone who played at the University of Alabama (Majeski) who was a slapper and a slapper from the University of Tennessee and Team USA (Chavanne) and me being a slapper coached by those two players, was something I never had before.”

With her passion and dedication, Hailey has become a natural leader on the field as well.

“She has never been a quiet one, but every event she has been a part of you could she her confidence grow.” said coach Lea Ann Jarvis. “She would step out and lead with her voice but more so with her actions on and off the field.”

Coach Jarvis and the rest of the Softball Factory staff worked the girls to their limits, bringing out the best in Hailey.

Hailey with Coach Majeski.

I think Softball Factory has shown Hailey that she’s not always the best player on that field,” said Regina. “There’s a better girl who wants to outwork you. It definitely humbled her. It put her into a boot camp-type mentality that she needed when she got on the field. It was an eye opener.”

Rice, who began working with the Polisano’s in 2014, immediately saw the role of leader in Hailey, always bringing a positive attitude, hustling on and off the field and taking a vocal role with her team.

When I started working with her she had already been to about 3-4 events, and really understood what the “Factory Way” meant,” said Rice. “She knew what our coaching staff expected of her, and was an amazing leader on and off the field. She tries to absorb as much information as she can to take back home with her. She really emulates the full Softball Factory player.”

When you go out there to a Softball Factory event, there is always someone better than you. It makes you work harder. Being from New Jersey and having played with girls from all over the country and seeing all sorts of competition I had never seen before, it was humbling. Coming from a small town like Howell and only being able to see what other competition is like in the state, I knew that wasn’t going to help me develop as a softball player.”

Those Softball Factory events gave Hailey opportunities to play against the best, further developing as a player, crucial for someone in a cold weather state where they can’t play year around.

Hailey at Factory Athletics HQ’s in Columbia, MD

Coming to Softball Factory events, playing with these players, working with legendary coaches who are giving back, being exposed to all that definitely helps someone like me from the north who doesn’t play all year around.”

Hailey has not only grown as a softball player, but as a person too. Regina has seen the same thing and has mentioned to others about the power of the player development aspect with Softball Factory.

People talk about the costs, and I tell them, it’s not that, it’s what you get out of the experience. You pay for batting lessons, it’s the same thing – you learn a skill from them. People say they get you recruited. No, they give you tools, but no one gets you recruited, you get yourself recruited.”

Looking back on the 13 events attended with the Factory, she’s not done just yet, as she’ll become a three-time Pre-Season All-American when she attends the event next January. Her hope is to someday give back and help coach with Softball Factory once she’s settled into her collegiate career.

I am so excited for her to head off to college in a year and play collegiately,” said Rice. “With Hailey wanting to work Factory events in the future, being able to share her story to the next generation of softball players will really be special.”

“She has done everything we asked of her and more,” said Jarvis. “She has grown so much as a ball player, and it has been a joy to be apart of it every step of the way. She was always in the front, eyes up, ears wide open, and had great questions for me and the staff. She breathed it all in and ran with it! I can’t wait to she her put that uniform on at the next level and live her dream!

“I just love playing the game,” said Hailey. “I give 110% on the field, and I have fun every second.”