MANNHEIM, Germany – For just about every kid who plays sports, the ultimate goal is to be able to advance to the professional level. The love of the game and promise of being able to reach that level keeps them striving to be the best that they can be and for former North Georgia College & State softball player Jessica Coan, her dream has become a reality this summer as she traveled to Europe to continue to perfect her craft and even expand her borders; both literally and figuratively.
During her two seasons at North Georgia, the Duluth, Ga. native was one of the top pitchers in both the Peach Belt Conference and Southeast Region claiming numerous awards including three All-American honors and was even the 2011 Ron Lentz National Player-of-the-Year.
Now she is playing professionally in Germany for the Mannheim Tornados and is showing more versatility all around the field, including even getting the chance to scorch the ball from the other side of the plate.
The Tornados is a baseball and softball club based out of Mannheim, Germany. They compete in the Deutcher Baseball and Softball Verband league comprised of 12 teams and are currently second in the south division with a record of 17-7.
"Playing at each different levels of softball through out my life has taught me something different that has molded me into the player and person I am today," Coan says. "The game has been incredibly good to me, allowing me to play in high school and college, and now professionally in a different country. I never imagined that the game of softball would allow me to have an experience like this. I am incredibly blessed to be able to use a game that I love to take me around the world and get to know an entirely different culture, while meeting some incredible people that I otherwise would have never had the opportunity to meet."
While at North Georgia, she was a terror for batters from the circle and that has not changed. She has a perfect 6-0 record and a 0.00 earned run average in 31 innings of work. She has retired 66 batters for an average of 2.13 per inning and her opponents are batting just .070 against her as she has given up just seven hits and walked only two batters all season.
But she has also gotten the chance to play some other positions and is even showing how strong of a bat she has as she is batting .444 for the season with a .600 slugging percentage and a .536 on-base percentage. She already has 23 runs batted in.
This week, her squad is competing in the European Cup which includes teams from all over Europe.
The league has rules to avoid the Americans completely dominating as foreigners are only allowed to pitch the second game of double headers and the pitcher of the first game has to be native to their team's home country.
During her time with Mannheim, Coan has had the opportunity to tour much of Europe including stops in Amsterdam, London, Venice, Tuscany, Rome, Munich and Cologne.
But she is not just playing; she is also sharing her love for the game by coaching and teaching when not competing.
"It has definitely been a learning experience that I will remember and treasure for the rest of my life," says Coan. "The girls here are so eager to learn about the game that you can't help but love coaching them. I am currently coaching pitchers from ages 9-21, from all different levels of knowledge.
"The language barrier has been a little difficult, but most of the girls (except for the younger ones) speak enough English to be able to understand me," Coan continued. "I have also learned quite a bit of German so that I can try and communicate with them better. The biggest challenge has been learning to show the girls what to do, rather than just telling them. They understand much better if they have a visual of what they are supposed to do!"
As a senior last season, Coan boasted a 1.44 ERA in 223 innings of work. She retired 332 total batters (10.42 per game) and posted a 25-8 record. She was sixth in the league for ERA and led the conference with her 25 victories and 332 strikeouts.
She ended her time at North Georgia as the all-time leader in ERA (1.27) and strikeouts per seven innings (10.57). She posted a career record of 52-13 with 49 complete games, 441.1 innings pitched and 666 batters retired.