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LSU grad becomes first female to receive Rawlings Gold Glove

A.J. Andrews says being a first is not intimidating at all

For 58 years, the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards Show has been a celebration for professional baseball players to commemorate those who have exhibited superior individual fielding performances. Throughout its storied history, the Gold Glove has been rewarded strictly to the men of baseball — until now.

A.J. Andrews, a current outfielder with professional softball’s Akron Racers, has made history by being named the first female recipient of the prestigious award. Being the first of hopefully many to participate in the ceremony, it would be understandable for her to feel anxious. Maybe even a bit of intimidation of the Major League heavyweights in the room, right? Wrong.

“I think to go in there intimidated would have made it seem as if softball is not equal to baseball, and that’s not how I feel,” said the former Louisiana State University standout. “Professional softball should be looked at on the same playing field as professional baseball. I looked at it as if I’m just going in there with other competitors like me. Competitors that go out on the field to compete the same way I am.”

Looking back at her career at LSU, Andrews’ competitive spirit is apparent. She batted .321 and started 235 of 240 total games played. She left LSU in the top five all time in triples (20), walks (116) and stolen bases (97). She ended her career by helping lead the Tigers to a pair of Women’s College World Series appearances, where the Tigers finished tied for third in 2015.

She credits her father, Michael Andrews, for instilling a sense of hard work in her.

“My dad has always been someone who really pushes me. He has always told me there is someone working harder than you, and that always stuck with me. That’s why I go hard and I put in those extra hours on the field or in the cages,” Andrews said.

The future sports analyst also gave a nod to Jessica Mendoza, a four-time First Team All-American and the first female ESPN Major League Baseball game analyst, for being her inspiration to push barriers and break the mold for women who are still reaching to shatter those glass ceilings.

“She’s one of the women who are the first, and I think it’s awesome how far she has come,” Andrews said. “She’s really inspired me.”

Andrews has been a fan favorite since joining the league after her senior season in 2015. During the 2016 season with the Akron Racers, the Oldsmar, Florida, native made some of the signature plays in the outfield that earned her three All-SEC selections and an All-American nod during her stellar collegiate career. Three of those catches landed Andrews in the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 spots throughout the season on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays of the Day.

“People are so excited for me, and it’s crazy to think about because I’m going out and playing like A.J. I love to go out and go hard. I love to dive for balls,” Andrews said. “I feel like if I haven’t dived for a ball at least once a game then I didn’t do my part. I didn’t play well. So to be acknowledged for playing the way I always played, it feels awesome.”

Andrews finished the National Pro Fastpitch regular season tied for the most stolen bases with 15, while holding a perfect fielding percentage for the Racers. Andrews hit .259 on the year with seven doubles and two home runs, driving in 10 runs and crossing the plate 24 times.

She is a force to be reckoned with and won’t be denied the opportunity to compete at the highest level simply because she is a woman. She hopes to continue to break barriers and to encourage and inspire little girls everywhere to dream big. “Dare to dream big because big dreams break barriers. Big dreams will one day make history.”

Her undefeated spirit and love of the game will carry her far in turning her big dreams into reality, including her quest to compete in the 2020 Olympics.

Toiaya Crawford is writer, public relations guru and a proud Tampa native who is unapologetic about her love of Beyonce, sports and a good book.