By John Philip Wyllie
At 13-4, San Diego State’s women’s softball team is off to its best start in school history. The record-setting pitching of senior Celena Velasquez is a good part of the reason why. Velasquez was on her game last Sunday pitching the first five frames of the 5-4 extra innings triumph over 23rd ranked Oregon. After graciously signing autographs for a long line of Aztec fans, she consented to an interview.
“I think I have grown a lot since coming here to San Diego State. And I have been lucky to have had a coach that was herself a pitcher.”
Under the tutelage of veteran coach, Kathy Van Wyk, Velasquez has blossomed into a three-time All-Mountain West selection and owns a slew of Aztec career pitching records. It was love at first sight when Velasquez was introduced to softball.
“When I was little, I was into dancing, but by the time I reached the age of 14, I was very focused on softball.”
Growing up in Tucson, Velasquez was selected to the Arizona high school All-State team following her junior and senior years. She also played a major role in earning two state championships and one national title for the Rincon University High Rangers.
As an Aztec she has increased her velocity, developed a nasty riser and has become deadly accurate. Not one to rest on her laurels, Velasquez is always looking to improve.
“I think the mental side of the game is my biggest weakness. Sometimes I lose my focus, so that is what I need to work on.”
She also needs to stay focused in the classroom where she is pursuing a career in nursing.
“I have to admit it, I am a nerd when it comes to studying,” Velasquez joked. And she has got the grades to prove it.
During the softball season, she is forced to juggle her studies with all the traveling and training she does with the team. She rarely has any time to relax, but she likes it better that way. It helps to keep her on task.
As one of only two Hispanic players on the Aztec softball team Velasquez embraces the job of being a role model for the next generation of Hispanic athletes. With her warm smile and outgoing personality she is a natural when it comes to promoting the sport she loves.
While she plans to enroll in graduate school for nursing, Velasquez is also entertaining thoughts of pitching professionally once she graduates in May. The idea of getting paid to play something she enjoys as much as softball might just be too intriguing to pass up.