As we get ready to launch the updated 2024 Extra Elite 100 on Monday, it took me back to the first class I ever ranked, the 2014 graduating class.
I had just come off of working at ESPN where I witnessed the power the football and basketball player rankings generated and as I got into fastpitch softball thought, “Why shouldn’t these athletes who work just as hard get recognized for their efforts?”
As I always tell people, the reason behind the player rankings then, and now, is to honor the athletes and create dialog around the sport.
Below is that Class of 2014 list which was initially published in 2013 when I was with Student Sports.
Many of the names you’ll recognize (and, surely, many you won’t!) but it’s interesting to see the names of yesteryear, their club teams and future colleges—although some, like pitcher Meghan King was initially headed to another ACC school and one famous “Paige” pitcher (#63) initially signed and played with a different university than the one she ended up with.
Another “Paige,” at #36, was definitely too low and when I think of that list I remember that immediately after it was published I had two regrets: 1) catcher Gwen Svekis, who was an excellent writer and blogger for me and whom I knew well along with her wonderful parents, was too low at #16 (I think I was too cautious in trying not to look like I was playing favorites!).
Interestingly, Gwen and her Florida high school teammate and batterymate Meghan King won two state high school championships as juniors and seniors and they beat an outstanding pitcher/hitter on the other team in both title games that I regret to this day forgetting to put on this list. You may have heard of her: Aleshio Ocasio, who went on to star at Florida and has been playing well in the Athletes Unlimited Softball league this summer.
Bringing it full circle, what got me started in doing softball as a full-time, on my own job, was seeing a college game at Cal State Fullerton where #1 Florida and Ocasio played #2 Oregon, led by the #1 player in the 2014 class, Jenna Lilley, and the aforementioned Svekis.
Here were the top two teams in the nation and I realized, at least at that game and as far as I could tell, I was the only media person there. I realized that softball needed more coverage and thus I ultimately decided to honor these players full-time with a website. Now there are many other great sites out there and I’m happy to see the sport get the coverage it deserves!
As to this original 2014 list, certainly with the passage of time we see some panned out, others not so much and certainly there are many NOT on this list who ended up being fantastic players and went on even beyond college.
The point to players, parents and coaches is this (if this isn’t evident already!): you write your own destiny!
If you’re ranked highly… congratulations, your efforts and talent has been noticed so go out and bust your tail to live up to it. If you’re not on the list or not high enough in your mind (and, really, whoever is?!?), then work even harder to prove the naysayers wrong.
I’m happy to be used as a motivator, whichever situation you may be in… on the list or not (yet)!
And, equally important, for you 2024’s out there who will start being honored this week—know that this is a work in progress, just as the 2014 list was. We’ll be watching your progress and improvement, which is never done.
We’ll be updating all the underclass lists until you graduate so never get complacent. There's always a chance to move up the list!
--- Brentt Eads, Extra Inning Softball
Scroll down see the complete 2014 list, 1 through 100!