How One Player Inspired Her Team
Updated: Mar 4, 2019
1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
Jessica “Pook” German did what we expected while pitching in her first high school game of what would end up being a record-breaking and storied career.
Just a doe-eyed freshman, Pook struck out nearly every hitter faced that night for her first of many no-hitters she would throw over a standout career that saw her eventually earn the state’s highest honor, being named as the Player of the Year.
Had you met Jessica back in those formative years, you would have immediately noticed a tall (5’11), lengthy, lanky athlete who often looked a little unsure on her feet, smiling and acting goofy.
But once she stepped into the circle, everything changed. Like superman jumping into a phone booth, she’d come out with a superhero persona - transforming as “Pook”.
In a nutshell, Pook was a highly competitive athlete who pitched at speeds that made you question your own eyes.
Her arms were long, and her legs even longer. The windmill action of her pitch was a blur, her leap frightening for hitters, and the ball seemed to explode from her left hand. Most had never seen anything like her.
Dozens of long-standing state records fell from the record books, as Pook was making her name known – Strikeouts, Shutouts, No-Hitters, Scoreless Streaks, etc. (The list was long, and she was just getting started)
People all over the state were asking, just who is this Pook German?
Later that year, when she pitched our team to the finals of the state tournament, much of the state had learned.
As a sophomore, Pook no longer needed an introduction. Though, she looked nothing like the gangling freshman from the previous season. A year of maturity had brought with it strands of ropy muscle. The on-field results were astonishing.
Through 18 games, she led our team to a 17-1 record, allowing zero earned runs in the process.
But then, while batting in the finals of a weekend tournament, Pook was struck from a pitch, squarely in the face.
She crumbled to the ground, writhing in pain. I sprinted from the third base coaching box and was immediately there as she rolled over. The sight was gruesome. Her mouth was filled with blood, her jaw distorted.
Jessica German was taken to the hospital where she would have surgery to wire shut her broken jaw. We would later be told, Pook's injury would end her season.
Over the next 13 games, our team lost 7 while winning just 6. Even though we had a talented team, we were finding it difficult to outslug the competition.
Meanwhile, Pook never missed attending a game – encouraging teammates, all the while with a painfully frozen look on her face.
After two weeks of a liquid diet, Jessica had lost a critical amount of weight due to the injury. She looked far more like the skinny little freshman from the year before and a shadow of the sophomore-version she had worked so hard to be.
Our last home game of the season was also the 14th without Pook in the circle as we hosted a conference rival. They showed no mercy, outscoring us by ten runs. It was an embarrassing defeat.
As we met after the game in left field, a circle of red faces with tear-streaked cheeks stared at the ground and picked at the grass. At the same time, our rival celebrated loudly in the parking lot before loading onto a bus. On their way out, team members leaned from windows laughing and shouting insults at our team.
My eyes scanned the circle, each member of our team, heads down, except for one.
Jessica "Pook" German held a tear-filled stare and followed the rival’s bus as it drove away.
The next day, Jessica’s father stopped by after practice and asked to visit. He told me that Pook wanted to play in the upcoming weekend tournament, just a few days away.
Knowing her competitive nature, I wasn’t surprised but felt it a bad idea.
Pook’s father asked me to think about it and he would try to get her doctor to sign off.
A few days later, just a day before the tournament, Pook’s father showed up again – this time with a release in hand.
The doctor specifically outlined a plan stating that she would be limited in activity, she had to wear a protective mask, and she’d have to be aided by a tank of oxygen in the dugout – if that set of criteria could be met, then Pook was medically-cleared to play.
However, it still seemed a bad idea.
I sought direction from my athletic director, who also offered reservations about the situation. Though, he admitted, with a doctor clearing her, she was eligible to compete but the decision for her to play was mine and he would support me either way.
The following day, Jessica accompanied our team to the tournament. We won the first two games – she didn’t get to play in either.
Then, upon learning our rival had advanced to meet us in the finals, Pook gave me a look, communicating I had no choice.
Reluctantly, I gave her the ball for the championship game. I was both concerned for her health and her ability to effectively pitch after the injury had decimated her body.
Appearing unable to breathe, Pook toed the rubber with her mouth wired shut, uniform sagging from her bony frame.
It was heartbreaking to watch her warm-up. She was virtually unrecognizable.
Then the first batter of the game stepped to the plate - Pook threw three pitches, resulting in a quick strikeout.
The next batter, same result, then the next, the next, the next, etc.
Meanwhile, our team, without a need for motivation, scored ten runs over five frames.
When their last batter in the bottom of the fifth struck out, Pook had struck out a state record 15 straight hitters without allowing anyone to reach base.
Despite her injury and weakened body - Pook had leveled revenge for the earlier actions of our rival.
Before the game, our team had already decided not to revel in celebration, should we win, but instead, calmly and confidently shake hands with our rival to communicate a clear message - You shouldn't have messed with us."
I stand by the notion that If the game had not ended with the ten-run rule, Pook would have struck out 21 in a row.
There was a look about Pook that day, reminiscent of the one she held watching that bus drive away. I should have never doubted her. For, if there was ever an athlete who was so resilient and determined for retribution – it was Pook.
Our rival had embarrassed our team, rubbed it in after kicking us while we were down, and Pook, oxygen or not, wasn’t ever going to allow it to happen again.
A week later, Jessica pitched our team to another state tournament, but unfortunately, her weakened body ran out of gas in our attempt at a repeat appearance in the finals.
And even though our season ended short of our team goal, Pook’s show of bravery remains seared in my memory for how she demonstrated so much courage, determination, and yes, resiliency.
Jessica "Pook" German's actions were an inspiration to her teammates, coaches, and community. She taught us a valuable lesson that no matter what obstacles we face, and no matter how dire the situation appears, if your heart beats strong enough – you’ll overcome, achieve, and ultimately have the last laugh.
Pook German pitched two more years in our program, leading our team to back-to-back state championships. During her junior year German set the state record for season ERA with a 0.08 Earned Run Average, followed by a 0.26 ERA as a Senior. Jessica earned a scholarship to a Division-1 school, where she started as a freshman and played all four years.
Jessica German - The "Pook"
Jerrad Hardin is a championship coach, author, and clinician. His nationwide camps provide a platform for aspiring athletes to improve their softball skills while working with top college coaches.
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