Cal players appreciate military ties
Echavarria and Wallace each have siblings serving the country
OKLAHOMA CITY -- When California and Oklahoma State open a full slate of four games at the Women’s College World Series, the teams will be focused on only one thing: staying alive.
The Golden Bears and Cowboys will be playing the first elimination game of the week at noon p.m. ET. This is the time when the clichés come out: Nothing left to lose. Only the winners advance. Leave it all on the field.
Athletes and coaches live by them. And they do have meaning within the context of sport.
When Cal junior Frani Echavarria and sophomore Jordan Wallace say something like that today, you should know that they have a little more than just a sporting interest in sticking around a bit longer. On June 7 during the second game of the championship series, the WCWS and NCAA will honor those serving in the armed forces with a Military Appreciation Night. For Echavarria and Wallace, that event hits home and is something they’d both like to see and participate in in person.
Echavarria has an older brother, Ronnie, who’s signing up for a second four-year stint in the Air Force. Her younger brother, Michael, is finishing his first year of training in the same branch of service.
Ronnie works on an in-air refueler, supporting operations throughout the Middle East, including recently assisting operations near Libya. Franni and Ronnie don’t get to talk often, but, like Wallace and her sister, Tiffany (Air Force, inactive), and brother-in-law, Melvin (Air Force, active duty), they stay in touch with social media like Facebook and Twitter simply because it's the easiest way from such great distances.
Echavarria and Wallace’s siblings stay abreast the games online, but they have not seen their sisters play in person for years.
“I think I was in high school,” Wallace said of the last time her sister was in the stands for a game. “I had to be a freshman or sophomore in high school. It’s been a long time.”
That sacrifice makes it difficult, especially during the winning times like this season.
“I have a really close family and all of my brothers have been really supportive of me with all my goals in softball and everything, so for them not being here, both my brothers, Michael and Ronnie, and I’m in the [WCWS], it’s hard to not have them here,” Echavarria said.
Echavarria's situation is similar as the lsat time her older brother saw her play was once during her freshman year of college. While it’s difficult to be apart during such memorable times, Echavarria fully understands and appreciates their dedication to their country.
“I’ve always had them in the stands cheering me on and stuff, but knowing that they’re out there fighting for our freedom and that I have the opportunity to be here and to be safe in this great country and be able to play on the greatest stage of softball, I’m truly thankful for what my brothers do for not only me but all the girls who are competing and for all the people who are able to enjoy what’s going on this week and for everyone in this country,” Echavarria said.
“And I’m truly thankful and very proud of my brothers and what they do for their country and the sacrifices that they make. I’m truly proud of them and it means the world to me for what my brothers put their life on the line for and what they fight for every day.”
Wallace couldn’t agree more about her sister’s commitment.
“I know that she cares about what I’m doing and what our whole family is doing but she sets it aside to step up for her country and pretty much put aside her own feelings, family, and emotions and serve her country and protect us,” Wallace said. “It’s an honor to have someone in my family doing that. We take advantage of the little things by being able to play softball or being able to walk around freely in this county and not everyone is able to do that. It’s not every people doing that and she’s part of the reason we can.”
So if you see a play this weekend during a Cal game that looks like someone was ‘leaving it all on the field’ or ‘taking nothing for granted’, appreciate the effort. And be thankful they have the chance to do that.
Echavarria and Wallace will be.