Editor’s Desk

Column: Bidding farewell to a humble star

May 16, 2014 

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TAKAAKI IWABU — tiwabu@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

There’s nothing better than a really good athlete who is also humble. It seems like those two characteristics would be mutually exclusive. After all, being a good athlete means being aggressive. Aggressive people aren’t normally shy about putting their skills on display. See Richard Sherman of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, who famously called out his opponent in a rather animated way after Sherman’s team won a game to advance to the Super Bowl.

But, such gracious people do exist.

One of my favorite people is East Wake High School second baseman Jazzy McAbee. The senior softball player stepped off her home field for the last time last week in a win over Knightdale. I’ve had the good fortune to know Jazzy since she started middle school. She’s always been kind and gracious to the people around her. She has an easy smile that makes you want to smile back and she’s outgoing with the folks she knows.

Slightly built, you wouldn’t look at her and suspect she could be the aggressive leader of a pretty good high school softball team. Last week against Knightdale, she made a handful of plays in the field to preserve a win for her senior class in their last regular season home game.

What separates Jazzy from so many others who take the field with her or against her, is her quiet unassuming personality. She’s good at softball. Really good. She’s as comfortable at the plate as she is in the field. And, while she might not yell and hoot and holler a lot, she knows what she’s doing and she can execute. Call it leading by example.

Jazzy has lived and breathed softball for as long as I’ve known her. Her parents, Jay and Elke McAbee, have carted her to weekend tournaments with a travel team, sat in the gnat-infested grass along the third-base fence and become encouraging fans, not only for their daughter but for her teammates as well.

But Jazzy’s drive comes not from parents or family members. Her drive comes from within. She has worked to get better and she’s managed to do a pretty good job of it without lording it over people. That kind of humility draws people’s attention in a good way.

Jazzy’s off to college in the fall, but college softball probably isn’t in her future. She knows how much time she has poured into softball so far in her life and she realizes that the intensity of the game is magnified at the collegiate level.

I suspect she’ll find a way to get back on the field, either through intramural play or a local league. Her blood would probably boil over if she didn’t have some competitive way to let off some steam. But she’s smart enough to know that softball won’t pay the bills. College academics will move to the forefront for her. And, if she tackles that the way she does a line drive, I expect she’ll do just fine.

But you won’t know it. Her quiet humility wouldn’t let that happen.

It’s just a shame we can’t bottle up kids like that and keep them in high school forever.

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