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:
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.
“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.”