BREMERTON — The smile that lights up Jadin Left’s face comes to fruition whenever she talks about softball or her Christian faith.
Left is a North Mason graduate who is now the lone pitcher for Olympic College’s softball team. Left never thought she’d be on the mound again, and it’s not that injuries and small numbers have depleted the Rangers pitching staff.
A torn rotator cuff and labrum was followed by a significant knee injury that limited her final two years of high school athletics.
It’s why she never thought she’d be playing again, let alone at the collegiate level.
“I wasn’t supposed to be the only pitcher, I was going to be fourth or fifth, but the season started, and I was No. 1,” she said before practice this week at Lions Park.
Twice softball was taken away from Left, and each time the 19-year-old battled her way back to the field. She knows her time is limited now and wants to do what she can for the Rangers while keeping it all in perspective.
Left injured her shoulder during the basketball season her sophomore year at North Mason. She waited to have surgery until after the spring softball season ended. Then, during her junior season, while playing basketball, Left blew out her knee — she ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament, partially tore other ligaments and meniscus in her left knee.
Although limited Left did play softball, mostly first base, as she worked her way back through physical therapy.
“I pitched a little bit, but I had (limitations) I couldn’t pitch when it was raining, or the ground was soft because it was my planting foot.”
As an athlete, Left had never dealt with the adversity of back-to-back injuries. At first, it threw her for a loop. She felt her resolve weaken and she wondered if she would ever play sports again.
“It was the hardest thing I’d ever gone through,” she said. “A big part of it was I had struggled a lot with my faith with my shoulder. Because I was like ‘Why would this happen to me?’ I had to be like ‘bad things happen to good people.’
“When it (knee injury) happened again I was like ‘All right, God was trying to say something the first time and He’s really trying to say something this time.’”
“I kind of just realized I needed to stop putting sports as the number one thing in my life and I needed to learn that some point in my life sports weren’t going to be everything and that I had a reason to play.”
Her reason to play was The Lord.
It’s not to say Left didn’t have her doubts or have her faith shaken as she went through surgeries and the recovery process as a teenager. But Left realized the physical adversity she endured during surgery and her recovery made her Christian faith more real.
“I kind of just had to surrender everything and give up. It’s not about me anymore,” she said. “I had the mindset that after my shoulder surgery I was going to come out and play for Him.”
Left said her own pride crept back in and she began to think she had enough strength to return from her injury by herself.
After her knee injury, Left never again took a game or practice for granted.
“I knew every time I stepped on that field that I wasn’t born with the ability to play, God gave me that ability every day,” she said. “I don’t do anything on this field for myself anymore. I wouldn’t have any of this if it wasn’t for God. It’s a no-brainer for me. I play because of Him.”
Rangers coach Eric Buss said Left’s heart for the game might be her best asset.
“She’s doing great,” he said. “For a kid that’s a year-and-a-half, two years, off a knee injury the way she had … she’s fun to watch. She works her tail off. You know she wants it because she doesn’t quit.
“You talk to her long enough, and you can see that she has the heart for this game and she’ll put everything she has into it,” he continued.
Buss said Left has already drawn interest from another college and she is improving with each practice and outing on the mound.
“She’s going to get better,” Buss said. “She really wants it.”
The time away from the game allowed Left to be grateful for it.
“If it was over I was going to use what happened to help other people,” she said. “If it wasn’t over then I wasn’t going to give up.”
While a senior at NM, Left was able to help coach the junior varsity basketball team and found out she loved helping people.
“Just because I couldn’t be out there I was still able to influence other kids, and I got to pray with the varsity team every game,” she said. “It taught me to be a leader and a good role model.”
For her time at Olympic, Left wants to enjoy the ride but part of her wants to prove people wrong.
“When doctors tell you that you’re done, that’s just motivation to keep going,” she said. “I’m a nobody from a little town of Belfair, and I never played select ball a day in my life, and I was able to have God open the doors for me to play at a level that very few people get a chance to.”