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  • Matt Ondesko

The game she loves

by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor

Photos: Fredonia State Athletics

Athletes aren’t used to have a lot of down time. Normally it’s playing the season, and if they aren’t playing then they are getting ready for the season during the offseason.

This year has been different for athletes as they have had to navigate through the pandemic that has closed, or postponed, a lot of different things. Back in March, the spring season was canceled, and the summer travel season for sports didn’t start until early July.

That left a lot of time for athletes to figure out what they were going to do to cut through the boredom - as they looked to changed up their routine.

Fredonia State College softball player Alyssa Piniewski has been out of her routine since March. Normally, she would be playing softball every day and bonding with her teammates. That didn’t happen for the senior until early July when she finally was able to get back on the field with her travel softball team.

In the meantime, Piniewski passed the time by picking up some hobbies - and doing crafts.

“I have never been a crafty person, but throughout this summer and all of quarantine I have found myself doing a lot of painting and crafting,” stated Piniewski. “I brought out some old friendship bracelet string from when I was a kid and got back into making those. I painted a few barstools and learned how to use a cricut machine, which was a bit more difficult than I imagined it would be. I try to be outside and active as much as possible, so riding my bike, swimming, or going on a walk were things I did often to pass time.”

What Piniewski really wanted to do was get back on the field. She missed the competition. She missed playing the game that she loved. She missed her teammates. The best part about playing the sport is all the friends that you make throughout the years.

For a brief moment that was taken away from her. Finally when she got back on the field this summer, Piniewski remembered just how much she loved the game - and how much she loved competing.

“I always miss playing the sport I love, but I’ve found that the thing I miss the most is my teammates and coaches,” stated Piniewski. “I always keep in mind that when softball is over and I’m done playing, it’s the relationships that I built during my years playing that last. I do love the competitiveness that occurs in ever game played and really do miss playing with my teammates at Fredonia.”

Not playing also took a toll on her mentality. Having the big unknown, of playing or not, hanging over her head was not easy. Trying to get ready for a fall ball season that might not happen was not easy.

Having to pack up her apartment in March at the drop of a hat was not easy. All this came without warning, and it took some time to adjust to everything that as going on around her.

“At first it was a bit of a struggle, packing up all of my things from my off campus apartment and moving home in March was not something I ever pictured having to do. Taking my classes online at home was not ideal, it was always difficult to stay focused, especially when I was taking very important classes for my major. It took some adjusting but I have great parents, so being quarantined at home with them and Amber was a pretty good setup if I say so myself,” stated Piniewski. “It’s tough to think about, but the best way I’ve been preparing is by staying positive. There’s a lot of things that we have no control over, and I try my best not to worry until there’s something to worry about, which unfortunately isn’t always the case. We just have to hope for the best until we hear otherwise.”

Piniewski hasn’t had to go through this alone. Her twin sister, Amber, has been by her side….well….since birth. They have always played together growing up. They never played son different teams.

Through their time playing little league, to Orchard Park High School to Fredonia, Alyssa and Amber have been connected at the hip. That’s what makes this journey even more the special, the fact that Piniewsk gets to go through it with her sister by her side.

“It’s so great,  I’ve never played on a team without Amber next to me in the infield or being my cut off while I’m in the outfield,” stated Piniewski. “We do everything together, so playing softball, or any sport, without her just wouldn’t feel right. Having her on the diamond has always made me feel more comfortable. I never had to start out on a team not knowing anybody, because we were always together, and I’m very grateful for that.”

Throughout her career Piniewski has gotten used to adopting to different situations. Whether it was playing different positions each year, or having different coaches, Piniewski has been used to changed.

She has been a consistent player throughout her three years at Fredonia, despite numerous changes. In high school, Piniewski was a top-notch third baseman. When she arrived at Fredonia there was already a third baseman entrenched - so she needed to figure out a new position if she weaned to see the field.

“Being able to adapt to a different coaching style and atmosphere I think is one of the most important things about playing college softball. I came into my freshman year as a third basemen, but the second I saw our junior third basemen at the time, Cassie Herman, play I knew there was no way I was beating her out for that position,” stated Piniewski. “So I decided to try and fight for a spot in the outfield, since there were two open positions there. I had played outfield a few times, but wasn’t super comfortable there, but I was open to learn and earned a starting spot in right field for the past three years. However, each season is different and you have to be able to adapt with the players you have each year. This year we needed help in the infield, so we moved some things around and I helped out at second base. I ended up playing two of our four games in Virginia at second with my sister beside me at shortstop.”

This will be her final year of playing with his sister by her side. Both are on pace to graduate and start their post softball careers. If the pandemic has taught Piniewski anything - it’s Piniewski had to get used to not playing softball.

It still won’t be easy, and Piniewski still will need to get her fix of playing.

“Softball has given me everything I could possible ask for: a love and a passion for something, a family, lifelong friends, and experiences I will never forget. I learned so many life skills just from playing this sport for so long like time management, a good work ethic, how to be a team player, etc. It really is unbelievable the amount of people I’ve met playing this sport and I will always cherish those summers spent playing travel softball as kid,” stated Piniewski. “I can’t remember my life before softball, I started playing when I was 5-years old, so when it’s all said and done it’s going to be the end of an era. I do see myself playing on an open team over the summer or even a slow pitch team, whatever NARP’s do you know. But it’s definitely going to be sad and I’ll miss the competitiveness, and fun, of playing at the college level.”


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