April 4, 2014
As someone who has overcome adversity in almost every possible way, Antonia Edwards never takes for granted what it means to take the mound for the Siena Softball team.
Growing up with dreams of playing Division I softball, Edwards almost saw her dreams never come true when she battled Lyme disease and mononucleosis simultaneously in high school.
"It was a very troubling time for me because I was extremely sick during the college application process," said Edwards. "I needed assistance getting out of bed and I had to have a home tutor come to my house to help me with schoolwork."
Not having the chance to play softball was the toughest thing that Edwards says she endured. Softball was a part of who she was. Edwards has been an Albany native since the age of seven and comes from a large Italian family. Growing up she was always active and participated in activities and sports such as gymnastics, dance, and basketball but it was not until she had the opportunity to play softball in little league when she was 10, when she knew she could be great at the sport.
"Our coach had each girl try pitching and I seemed to be a natural at it," Edwards said. "I was a very outgoing child and pitching was a position where you received a lot of attention so naturally I loved it."
Her parents started to realize her potential and felt it was best to start taking pitching lessons and pitch in competitive leagues.
"My parents have been the most influential people in my life. I strive to be a better person every day because of them," said Edwards. "My mom and dad had me at a young age so growing up was not always easy. My dad used to work two jobs so my mom could attend college. They worked extra and sacrificed everything they had just so I could get pitching lessons and play on a select travel softball team."
Edwards travel team played everywhere from Ohio to North Carolina. She also played three seasons of varsity softball at Bethlehem Central High School where she was a standout and received two-time Suburban Council Honorable Mention accolades.
After battling her illnesses her senior season, Edwards found it difficult to go back to softball and decided to come to Siena as a regular student. She decided to take a job working at the front desk of the Marcelle Athletic Complex, with the thought that her playing days were behind her.
Two years of not playing passed until one day when opportunity struck. Siena Softball head coach Bill Lajeunesse approached Edwards and asked her if she wanted to pitch for the Saints.
"Coach Laj knew who I was since I was local pitcher in the area," Edwards said. "He frequently saw me at the front desk of the MAC and during my sophomore year, he had a pitcher that quit the team. He was in a bind and he asked me to play and I willingly accepted. I saw it as a second chance to do something I love."
Edwards explained the daunting task of pushing herself to return back to softball shape after taking two years off. After joining the team late, she felt out of shape compared to everyone else but went through intense workouts with the team's strength and conditioning coach, Dan Taylor.
"Dan helped me improve and I am very thankful for his workouts," Edwards stated. "The mental side of pitching is just important as the physical side and before games I spent a lot of time visualizing myself throwing strikes and succeeding."
Last season was a tremendous success for Edwards as she appeared in 20 games making 12 starts, and was a key piece to a Siena team that made history in capturing the program's first MAAC Regular Season Championship.
Just the thought of being on the field was an accomplishment and she describes last season a learning experience.
"It is a very big jump from high school to college ball. Every player in college is good and the other teams capitalize on your mistakes," said Edwards. "It made me mentally tough and going into this year I feel a lot more confident and comfortable on the mound."
This season the Saints have fared well with the hopes of repeating as conference champs and the ultimate goal of winning the MAAC Tournament. Edwards has marked down a May 4 match up with Niagara on her calendar as one of the games she anticipates the most. The Purple Eagles beat the Saints last year in the First Round of the MAAC Tournament.
After Siena, Edwards is planning to attend law school to become a corporate lawyer. But for right now, she is enjoying her time as a pitcher for the Saints.
"The opportunity to play at Siena College has been such a blessing. From the administration to my teammates, everyone has accepted and supported me," Edwards said.