Taking charge

As you take the field, you try not to notice all the people in the stands. There are the normal friends and family that come to every game to root you. But, there are also faces you don’t. Faces that are recording your every move.

That’s the nature of the beast when you are one of the better softball players in Western New York, playing on the best teams in WNY. Scouts flock to games to look at your game, and how you handle adversity.

They want to know if you are the kind of person that takes charge during the game - or let the game come to you. They want to see how you react when an at bat doesn’t go your way, or a mishap in the field.

College coaches are looking for the perfect player, or as close to perfect as possible. Every player has flaws even some of the best in the game. All this attention can be daunting, or it can be fun if you don’t let the little things get to you.

Williamsville East High School third baseman Veronica Zimmerman has seen her fare share of scouts since she decided that she wanted to play at the Division I level. If they weren’t at her high school games, they would be following her summer travel season.

One of the schools that came hard at the versatile third baseman was Niagara University. The Purple Eagles showed interest from the beginning, and the fit became a good one for both player and school.

“I started seriously thinking about playing softball in college as a sophomore, so I then began my recruitment process that year. In order to get exposure to coaches, I attended camps specific to the colleges I was interested in, and I constantly emailed those coaches telling them about my summer travel schedule and “pleading” with them to watch me play,” explained Zimmerman. “I also definitely wanted to go to a school that had my major and that had a well-established softball program. I thought about playing at Niagara after several girls on my travel team gave their verbal commitments to that school. Also, I had developed a very good relationship with Niagara’s assistant coach so I felt comfortable how they ran their program. In the end, it just seemed like the best fit over the schools who were interested in me.”

Zimmerman is a very talented player on a very talented player. She is one of a handful of young ladies who is heading to Division I schools. Zimmerman has shown over the years that she can handle anything - which is good considering the position she plays.

It said that you need to be nuts to play the hot corner in softball. With the bases only 60 feet away the ball can get up on a player pretty quickly. To play a solid third base, a player needs to have solid footwork, and they need to be able to think on fly.

Zimmerman checks all those boxes and more.

“Third base requires a fast reaction to the ball with your glove on a hard grounder, or it requires you to read the batters hands in order to charge a soft slap or bunt. I always try to make sure I am ready for what could potentially come, so I game plan in my mind what would I do if I was the batter,” stated Zimmerman. “Solid footwork is key when playing any position, especially third base. Since there is little time to react to the ball, you need good footwork to give you a solid base to throw the runner out.”

Zimmerman has also shown herself as a leader on a very young team. Just like her freshman year, there isn’t a lot of senior leadership. The team is comprised of a lot of young talent which is still learning their way through the varsity grind.

That’s where a player like Zimmerman comes in. She has been through the grinds - and knows what the coaching staff expects during the season. She can relate and is able to help the younger girls on the team.

“When I first was on varsity as a freshman, I think we had eight seniors on the team. The year after we had none, and last year we only had four so this is nothing new to be surrounded by young players,” she said. “Since the team is so close though, the younger players accept the captains and upperclassman taking charge and leading them. As captains, we try to encourage the younger players and keep them focused on the game in a positive way. Personally, I really try to show them that you can be competitive and have fun and enjoy the game. As a team, we work best when we are loose and having a good time. So, I always try to keep the girls relaxed, and I continually encourage them throughout each game.”

Staying relaxed is important trait - especially when playing for a team like Williamsville East. Expectations are always high when playing for the Flames, and coach Chris Durr expects a lot from his team.

Being able to navigate through a season with those kind of expectations is important - and Zimmerman has done just fine over her four years.

“Playing varsity softball at East for the last four years has been incredible. Not only have we been extremely successful, but we are all so close and we love playing with each other, and sometimes against each other in travel ball. The girls on the team are some of my best friends,” stated Zimmerman. “This type of relationship is key to our success. We are all so comfortable with each other as individuals and as teammates. Our approach to the season was to enjoy the game of softball and to consistently play well. We are aware of the talent we have on the team, but we never let it get to our heads. Team always comes first. Our philosophy is to take each game individually and to play our best at every moment. If we do that, then long term success will come from it. My experiences on a team like Williamsville East is something that will be hard to replace, and something that I will never forget. To be part of building a legacy is very rewarding.”