HomeNewsRyan softball and family motivate junior pitcher Velez

Ryan softball and family motivate junior pitcher Velez

Maddie Velez helped Ryan get to the Catholic League championship game. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Winning doesn’t mean everything to Maddie Velez.  

But winning at Ryan sure does.

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Velez is a junior on the Archbishop Ryan High School softball team, and since electing to go to the school when she was in eighth grade has been the best decision she’s ever made not just because she loves the school, but she loves representing the school on the softball field.

“It’s super fun, mostly because of all the girls on the team,” said Velez, who is one of the team’s top pitchers and also an outfielder. “When I was in eighth grade, I was going to go to Basil’s, but then it closed.

“I went on visits to Ryan and just loved it. I loved everything about it, mostly how nice everyone was. The teachers are helpful, they really care, our principal Mr. (Joseph) McFadden and really everyone puts us in the best way to succeed and learn. And the softball coach (John Kidwell) is a great coach. It had everything for me and I really loved it right from the start.”

She has played a big part on the softball team, too, although last year she missed arguably the most fun time of the year.

“The day before the championship game, we were practicing hitting and I got a concussion,” Velez said. “”I got hit in the head. It was a mild concussion, but it was still bad. I didn’t have anything bad like memory loss, but I did miss about a month.

“I missed the championship and then states. We went on a little run in states and I missed it all. It was hard not playing, but I was lucky it wasn’t too bad. The team did great. I was happy for them. I was sad when they lost, not for me, but for the seniors. That was their year and they wanted to keep winning.”

This year, Velez is healthy heading into states, and once again she has the goal of keeping her senior teammates in Ryan jerseys for as long as possible. She’s ready to do her part from the circle and she knows the rest of the team will do their part, too.

“I just want to have a great run this year for the seniors because they’re so important to this team,” said Velez, who lives in Fox Chase. “This year has been super fun, especially because of the girls on the team. I know they’re always backing me up. I know when I get down (the seniors) lift us up. We want to lift them up.”

Velez worked herself into one of the top pitchers in the game this year, and that was a main reason for the Ragdolls’ success.

Behind solid pitching and scorching-hot hitting, the Ragdolls finished atop the Catholic League and went 9-1. They rode that momentum all the way to the Catholic League championship where they fell to Conwell-Egan in a game that took extra innings to decide.

It wasn’t the perfect ending because it wasn’t the ending. The Ragdolls earned the right to play on in the PIAA Class 4A playoffs.

“This year meant everything for us because we just wanted to play as much together as we could,” Velez said. “We went 9-1, nobody expected us to do that because we lost good players last year. We are lucky, we had a great senior class last year and this year.

“We just had fun. I think that’s why everyone is so happy we’re going on, it just means we have more games to play together. Every day we get to practice. And practice is fun. Our coaches work us to get better, but they make it fun. And we like being around each other. That makes it fun for everyone.”

And while she’s in no rush to end her junior season, Velez has a huge summer of softball ahead of her. Not just as a player, either.

“More softball, I have tournaments every weekend until August, so I’ll be playing a lot,” Velez said. “I love it with all of my heart, I’ll watch it anytime I can. At home, I’ll watch every College World Series game. My whole life revolves around it, I’ve loved it since I started playing.

“I’m really excited because this year I got my first real job, I’m going to be an umpire. I’m going to ump games of kids 7 and 8, and 9 and 10. I’ve done a few games and I really like it. I love that I’m working around the game. I just love being around it, and if I can have a job that involves softball, that’s great.”

She loves softball for the game, but also because it means so much to her entire family.

Velez considers herself very lucky because her parents are huge supporters of her career, and so is her older brother Lucas.

“Softball is very special to my family, my mom was a great softball player, and my dad didn’t play it, but he’s really helped me a lot with it,” she said. “He loves it, I think because of me. He’ll watch games with me and we’ll go over things after games. They come to all my games.

“My brother is a huge supporter of mine, too. He was a great athlete, but he had too many concussions so he had to stop playing. I love that he supports me so much. It means a lot. He’ll come to a lot of games. I’m very lucky to have all of them, they’re a great support for me.”

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