By Susie Epp
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
On October 6, 2005, Kansas softball player Alex Jones stepped on the pitching mound in hopes of earning Enid High School its first trip to state in history.
Jones, a freshman at the time, had already thrown two strikes and the third strike would decide the game. Before she pitched, her senses turned past her left shoulder, where her sister, Sydni, played shortstop for the same team. Sydni, a senior at Enid, shouted words of encouragement for her younger sister to hear.
Alex found inspiration from her sister’s encouraging words, struck out her batter and led Enid High School its first ever invitation a state softball tournament.
“I was thinking about her while I was pitching because I could always hear her in my left ear,” said Alex. “Whether or not I was playing with my sister, it was going to be a big deal, but I wanted to do it for her. I would have been more upset for her than for myself if we lost. The feeling that I knew she was happy and happy for me was so great. I wouldn’t take it back for the world.”
Alex, a current freshman at KU, recalls the memory often with the help of Sydni, who is a senior softball player at Iowa State.
Since the day Alex was born, Sydni and Alex have been best friends. Over the years they have looked out for each other, supported each other and even shared harsh criticisms.
“There have been so many times she has been there for me,” said Alex. “At the same time, she would always be there to put me in my place and tell me I screwed up.”
In their first game at state, Alex remembers hitting a great ball into right field only to be called out after her fingers slipped off the base. That play decided the game.
“Sydni came up to me after the game, put her hands on my shoulders and told me to forget about it,” said Alex. “She told me I did well anyway. She always had words of encouragement for me.”
Alex has looked up and listened to Sydni since she was a little girl. She credits Sydni for her success as a softball player.
“My sister has such drive and love for the game,” said Alex. “She literally made me into the player I am. She made me mentally strong in the sport. I learned a lot from her by just watching her play.”
Through the years, Sydni has found her relationship with her sister to be one-of-a-kind.
“We have had a lot of great experiences together,” said Sydni. “I’ve always looked out for her and she has always looked out for me, but we have never been competitive against each other.”
To this point, the sisters have not had to face each other in competition, but that will change on May 8 and 9, when Iowa State comes to Lawrence for KU’s regular season finale.
Alex and Sydni struggle with the idea that they will face off on different teams for the first time ever.
“I have mixed feelings about playing Kansas,” said Sydni. “I’ve always looked out for her and now I will be facing her in competition. I want to beat KU, but I still want her to do well. I am excited to play against her, but a little nervous too. I don’t want her to be pitching and strike me out!”
For Alex, the idea is a little hard to grasp.
“I honestly don’t know what to think,” said Alex. “It is going to be the weirdest thing ever. I don’t want to strike her out. I wish we could alternate good plays, but that’s not how the game works.”
Although Alex won’t be hearing her sister’s encouraging voice over her left shoulder during the game, she will always consider Sydni a sister and a best friend.
“I wouldn’t be who I am without her,” said Alex. “She is my idol.”