Diamond heart: Lindsay Rood’s leadoff legacy of leadership and dedication

Amanda Ramirez/Senior Staff

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T
he praise comes with the same consistency with which she launches softballs into the outfield:

“She’s one of the most incredible athletes that I’ve coached in all of my years;”

“We are talking about a very, very gifted athlete;”

“We kind of saw it from when she was so little — how coordinated and agile and fast she was. … Inside, you just knew she was going to do well.”

And in the time you just spent reading that, Lindsay Rood has stolen home.

With a last name like hers, it’s no wonder Rood is hard to forget. But it’s not her surname that has affirmed her place in the hearts and minds of the hundreds who have watched her throughout the years — it is that auspicious mix of talent and discipline, something at once indescribable, but always acutely perceptible, that sets Lindsay Rood apart from her competition.

S
ome people are gifted with incredible minds and problem-solving skills, others with beauty, grace and kindness, and others still with unmatched athletic prowess.

And some people — namely, Lindsay Rood — possess all of these, but the latter is what the Bears’ star senior is widely known for.

Now Cal’s leadoff hitter and one of the best college softball players in the nation, Rood’s athletic talent was palpable from the beginning.

“Everything she tried, she was very good at,” Lindsay’s mother, Valarie Rood, said of her daughter’s various athletic endeavors.

“I see this kid with red socks on out in the outfield, and she’s moving around, catching the ball really well — just a really good athlete, you could tell off the bat,” explained Martin Garcia, one of Lindsay’s softball coaches in her early teenage years.

At the time, Garcia was working as an assistant travel ball coach, helping recruit young talent. He recounted a conversation with the head coach: “I say, ‘If you don’t pick that kid up, I can’t help you, man. That’s top-notch talent right there.’ ”

Born in Texas but raised in Danville, California, Lindsay started playing both softball and soccer at the age of 5 and didn’t stop either until entering college, at which point softball took precedence.

Despite her soccer and softball teams’ attempts to get her to choose between them, Lindsay led fruitful careers in both sports. In addition to being named All-State first team in soccer during high school at Monte Vista High School and winning multiple state championships starting her freshman year, she also played on one of the most prestigious softball teams in Northern California and was being recruited by some of the most notable college softball programs in the country by the age of 14, including then-No. 1 Cal.

Even today, attempts are still being made to further employ Lindsay’s athletic ability — Neal McGuire, head coach of Cal women’s soccer and former coach at the renowned Mustang Soccer Club that Lindsay won a state championship with in middle school, has been vying for her name on his roster since the day she became a Bear.

“Every time she would walk past my office or her coach would walk past my office, I’m like, ‘When are you giving me Lindsay Rood?’ I’ve tried it for four straight years, and it still has yet to work,” McGuire conceded. “Oftentimes, it’s done in jest — it would be awesome to have her to be part of our program, but we also recognize where her priorities are.”

Lindsay’s priorities lie not only on the diamond, but in the classroom as well. “She’ll come home and she’ll be locked in my office studying. She’s always been very good about the priorities,” Valarie said. “She cares about the important things, and she leaves the other stuff behind.”

In addition to inheriting her mother’s work ethic and dedication to academics, Lindsay has also mirrored her athletic abilities — Valarie Rood earned the Female Athlete of the Year award for her home state of Arizona during her senior year of high school and went on to play both basketball and softball at the University of Arizona.

But even her mother argues that there is something extraordinary about Lindsay’s talents. “I remember thinking Lindsay, at 7 years old, had better fundamentals than I ever had my whole softball career,” Valaire laughed. “It was just amazing — I was just like, ‘Yeah, she’ll play in college somewhere.’ She just picked everything up so quickly.”

“I don’t know if I’ve seen a better base runner in my career as her, and her instincts — I mean, she’s stolen home at least a couple of times this year, which you may never see that a lifetime,” said Cal softball head coach Diane Ninemire regarding one of Lindsay’s more famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask) talents.

Garcia says that athletes are composed of two main parts — who they are on the dirt, and who they are off the dirt. On the dirt, Lindsay is a fighter — she’s competitive, determined and will never bow to a competitor. In Garcia’s mind, and in the minds of many people whom Lindsay faces on the plate, she is a tiger. But off the dirt?

“Beyond her exceptional athleticism, she’s an amazing person,” Neal McGuire said.

From former coaches to current teammates and peers, everyone you ask about Lindsay gives only glowing impressions. They are moved by her character and how, unsurprisingly, Lindsay Rood is the complete antithesis of her last name.

“She can get along with anybody, and she’s not superficial,” Valarie mentioned, pride in her voice.

Having earned 186 runs, 251 hits and 14 home runs over her career, Lindsay is one of six seniors on Cal’s squad and has assumed the leadoff position both on the field and off.

“She is the nucleus of this team as far as her skill in providing the leadership,” Ninemire remarked. “What she does on the field — she’s not such a big talker, but she’s a big doer.”

Lindsay has been a part of a first, second or third Pac-12 team every year she has been at Cal. The shortstop has led the team in batting average during her past three years as a Bear, has stolen base 60 times over the past two seasons (only being caught once) and currently ranks third in the nation for hits with 73. And that’s really not even the half of it.

Yet despite such staggering statistics, Lindsay chooses to avoid knowing where she falls among other softball players. “She won’t talk about stats, she doesn’t want to know where she stands, she doesn’t like to think about things like that,” Valarie explained.

For Lindsay, it’s not about the standings or statistics at all — she has never viewed herself as the breadwinner, despite the narrative the box scores offer. “I think everybody’s a game changer,” she shrugged.

What Lindsay contributes in skill, she also contributes in morale. She and her fellow seniors have made it a priority to encourage all the players on the team to hold themselves to higher standards and focus on their own mentalities during games.

“With every struggle or every obstacle you face, there’s always going to be that thing at the end that just makes it all worth it,” Lindsay said. “When you go through a slump and you’re trying to figure out what you need to do to fix your swing, fix your fielding, when in the end you just need to breathe, relax … you just have to persevere through it.”

 

As the bottom of the seventh inning approaches on her time at Cal and in softball, Lindsay now finds herself on the brink of what she calls “a complex adventure” — that is, the rest of her life.

“I’m ready. Ready for what’s next,” Lindsay said calmly. “I’ll definitely miss it. I mean, I’m hoping softball is going to be a part of my life for a long time, and I know it will — it’s just, you can’t play forever.”

But Lindsay has bore witness to both adversity and prosperity in life before, and despite hardships, she has never backed down from a challenge.

Besides, she loves adventures.

“I think she’s gonna be a leadoff hitter in life,” Garcia smiled.

Emily Ohman is an assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @emilyohman34.