Former Ball State softball player Jennifer Gilbert watches the pitcher in the game against Toledo on April 6 at the Ball State Softball Complex. Gilbert was drafted to the Akron Racers. DN FILE PHOTO BREANNA DAUGHERTY
Ball State assistant softball coach Jenny Gilbert signs 2-year pro contract
Former Ball State softball player and current assistant coach Jenny Gilbert signed a two-year professional contract with the Akron Racers on Nov. 3.
The former two-time National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American was one of six players who signed two-year deals with the Racers.
Gilbert began her post-collegiate career with the Racers, which is one of five teams in the National Pro Fastpitch league. In 2014, the outfielder split her rookie season playing for the Racers and the Canadian National Team.
Competition at this level is nothing new to Gilbert, as she has played against the same players she has looked up to.
“I play against former Olympians who were the same people that I looked up to when I was growing up playing softball. They kind of went from my idols to being my rivals. Everything is just elevated talent-wise,” Gilbert said about playing in the professional league.
During her first full season with the Racers in 2015, Gilbert hit five home runs, scored 13 runs and had 13 RBIs. She was one of three veterans who signed deals with the Racers, as University of Kentucky alumna Griffin Joiner and University of South Carolina Upstate alumna Shellie Robinson will join Gilbert on the squad.
Gilbert racked up a number of accomplishments and accolades during her time representing the Cardinals on the diamond from 2011-2014. She was a three-time Mid-American Conference Player of the Year — the first player in MAC history to accomplish such a task. She was a four-time All-MAC honors athlete and was a three-time NFCA First Team All-Great Lakes Region selection.
Along with shattering records as a Cardinal, Gilbert did some damage playing for Team Canada as well. Gilbert was first selected to Canada’s Women’s Under 16 National Team in 2009. She played for the national team every summer she was at Ball State.
Gilbert served as a volunteer assistant coach for her alma mater before she was hired in June as the assistant coach, under first-year head coach Megan Ciolli Bartlett. Gilbert will still be available to fulfill her coaching duties while playing for the Racers, whose season runs during the summer months.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better situation, getting to coach for my alma mater," Gilbert said. "An absolute dream come true."
Bartlett understands the difficult task that Gilbert will be facing this year, juggling a full-time coaching job and playing for a professional team. Bartlett played for the Chicago Bandits and helped them win back-to-back regular season titles in 2005-06.
While Gilbert will be busy in the coming months, she is eager to improve and help those around her get better as well.
“I’ve played for my country, I’ve played in the pro leagues [and I'm] continuing to get to play with this amazing job at Ball State,” Gilbert said. “It can’t get much better than this.”