When she was about 8 or 9 years old, Jackie Beavers wasn't a pitcher on her youth team in Champion, she was actually a catcher. Until one year her team didn't have anyone to put on the mound.
"My dad asked me if I wanted to try to pitch," Beavers said. "I said yeah, I'll give it a try."
The rest is softball history.
The 1995 Champion graduate is one of - if not the best - softball pitchers to ever come out of Trumbull County. And today, as a part of the Akron Racers' 40th anniversary Title IX celebration, Beavers is being honored as one of the best softball players in the state over the past 40 years.
In conjunction with the Akron Beacon Journal, the Akron Racers professional softball team announced their 40 players, coaches and administrators over the past 40 years in the state of Ohio. The honorees were selected after public nomination.
"I really didn't even know about it until Stacey Corp (an employee of the Racers and a Champion graduate) told me," Beavers said. "I was shocked. I mean, I haven't played softball in so many years. It was such a nice honor to be recognized."
The honorees will be recognized on the field today before the Racers take on the Bandits at Firestone Stadium. Unfortunately for Beavers, who just recently moved to Colorado, she will be unable to attend.
Beavers can add this to a long list of accolades that started back in the days of Champion High School. She was named first-team All-Ohio her sophomore, junior and senior years and was a high school All-American her junior and senior years. During her historic career, she pitched 22 no hitters and 221 innings without giving up an earned run. She is still ranked second all time in Ohio for the lowest career ERA (.012).
She also pitched Champion to a Division II state title in 1994.
Beavers grew up in the post-Title IX era, having opportunities left and right to play the sport she loved. But Title IX did catch up to her when she began her freshman year at The University of Tennessee.
"I was a part of the very first softball team at the University of Tennessee in the spring of 1996," Beavers said. "And we were only the second school in the Southeastern Conference. Without Title IX, we might not have had a team."
The first team in the conference to have a softball team was Arkansas. Beavers said the rest of the SEC caught up with Tennessee and South Carolina in the 1997 season. Vanderbilt still does not have a softball program.
Though Tennessee was well known for its basketball program, which Beavers grew up admiring, being a part of the first softball team was appealing to the pitcher.
"It was a dream come true to play softball for a school that I grew up loving, even if it was for another sport," Beavers said.
The story was different after college, when Beavers went to coach at the University at Buffalo. For eight seasons, Beavers was an assistant coach and the pitching coach for the Bulls.
"When I got to Buffalo, everything was already set in place," Beavers said. "We had great administrators at Buffalo that made sure that it was in place and that everything was equal across the board."
Now in Colorado, Beavers is taking a break from softball. She is working as an occupational therapist, but doesn't think she'll be away from the game forever.
"I do miss it. I'm looking to possibly get back into it in the next year or two, just not at this moment," she said.