If you see DaNia Brooks, she likes to keep it simple. She likes to smile and puts a premium on having fun, which drives her and her team on the softball field.
The 15-year-old, rising Junior for the Tampa Mustangs 16U squad primarily plays the hot corner and pitches for her coach Rene Ciccarello Jr., whom she’s played for since 2014.
“She is a remarkable player, and probably the toughest out to get on the field,” said Ciccarello. “You throw her a change up and you wish you didn’t. You throw her a rise pitch and she gets her barrel on it. DaNia has always been a tremendous athlete with incredible strength and hand-eye coordination.”
“We started the team in 2014, and many of these players have been with us a long time. It’s organically evolved, but every player that has joined us understands our team culture and shares our values,” he says. “We have a lot of selfless players, so when you come on this team, I think that it’s refreshing for a lot of players. We’re competitive, but there’s a chemistry we offer that I think a lot of people gravitate to.”
This chemistry helps the team believe they are in any game, regardless of what the scoreboard says.
“If we had all 25 kids (in the 2023 class) verbally committed, that’s a successful season,” said Blades-Rogers. “Wins and losses are great – and I want to win – but the reality is that it is all about their future.”
Blades-Rogers understands softball success quite well. Her accomplishments as a player are extensive. She was the 2000 Honda Sports Award Softball Player of the year as an All-American pitcher for the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. She’s left her mark on the sport with the second most wins in college softball history while ranking fifth all-time in strikeouts. In 2012, she became a member of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
Sophia Stein likes to be in control of the game…literally. As a five-year-old, she would stand on the pitching mound and chase balls when they were hit, grab them from the outfield, and run to first base to tag players out.
At sixteen, Stein plays shortstop for the So Cal Athletics Wellbaum/Briggs 16U , is a leader who still wants the ball in her hands, and she relishes the pressure of making the big play.
“I would say my effort on the field is one of the most evident things, because it’s the one thing I control,” said Stein. “I’ve been told effort is how people will remember you or don’t remember you, so I always try to give 100 percent. If there was a game on the line, I’d want to be at bat or making a play in the field.”