Despite having two offers in the 8th grade, Emerson Aiken admits she was glad when the Early Recruiting rules kicked in 18 months ago as it allowed her to see “which coaches cared about me by seeing their consistency at tournaments.”
The Virginia All-State pitcher had phone calls from morning til night on September 1, but there was really only one school she had her in heart after attending camps at Michigan in January and June.
When she visited Ann Arbor, the experience was all she needed to clinch the deal.
“I knew with every fiber of my being I wanted to be a Wolverine and that I would bleed BLUE for the rest of my life.”
When Mojo head man Brooks Cherry let us know Monday that Emerson had pulled the trigger, we reached out to the personable junior athlete to ask her about her recruiting experience and other questions.
Emerson jumped out the chance to share her feelings and found a surprising benefit in opening up about her verbal.
“I'm not used to talking about myself,” she explained, “but it's funny how passionate I was detailing my experience at Michigan. It was honestly the most amazing thing that ever happened to me! I'm still pinching myself and feel so grateful.”
Here’s a closer look at how Emerson became a lover of all things Maize & Blue…
NAME: EMERSON CLAIRE AIKEN
Hometown/State: Henrico, Virginia
Grad Year: 2021
Position(s): Right-handed pitcher
Club Team: Tennessee Mojo 2021
High School (City/ST): Glen Allen High School (Glen Allen, Virginia)
College: University of Michigan
Recruiting Status: Verbally committed to University of Michigan on 9-7-19
Top Honors/Accomplishments: 2019: 1st Team All-State (Pitcher) and MVP; 1st Team All-Region, 1st Team All-Academic, 1st Team All-Metro, team won the USA Softball 16U JO Cup; 2018; 2nd Team All-Region as pitcher and MVP.
Other Sports? Swimming
Preferred College Major: Biology for a pre-Veterinary tract
When did you start getting recruited?
My recruiting process started quite early, in the 8th grade. I had two verbal offers, but I did not feel old enough to make any decisions. I was actively calling certain coaches on a set schedule when the recruiting rules changed and shut down all contact with coaches.
When the Early Recruiting went into effect in April of 2018, did that make it better or worse for you?
In hindsight, I feel this was the best thing that ever happened to me. It’s been 17 months of competing without the worry of offers—and getting to attend camps of my choice was such a great thing.
I feel this allowed our team to find its team focus instead of always worrying about our own personal performances. More schools found me and diligently watched and learned more about my skill set and my growth over these 17 months. I learned which coaches cared about me by seeing their consistency at tournaments.
So, finally, Sept. 1 came and colleges could reach out to you as a junior…
Before I knew it, September 1st was here and it was such an exciting day because I was blessed to have many interested coaches calling me and offering me official visits. and some presenting offers over the phone.
That day started at 8:15am and ended at 6:45pm, which was actually quite overwhelming, but I was truly grateful that my top schools on my list called me and asked me to come for official visits.
And you very quickly got invited to take official visits, correct?
My first official visit was with the University of Michigan, which was September 5-7. I had attended camps at Michigan in January and June of 2019 and I knew the coaches were some of the best in the nation. I loved working with all of the coaches, but since I am a pitcher, my biggest priority was having a pitching coach that could grow me.
From the camps, I got to spend a lot of time with Coach (Jennifer) Brundage and found her teaching style just worked for me. During my official visit at Michigan, it wasn’t just the stability of the softball program or the iconic coaching staff led by Coach Hutch (Carol Hutchins), or the top notch academic opportunities .....it was so much more.
What else impressed you on your visit?
The entire university and town of Ann Arbor was a family. Everyone greeted me and wanted to know me and wanted to foster my growth in this legendary school. I had been on seven previous unofficial visits and had never experienced anything like Michigan.
I knew I was home and luckily the coaching staff felt the same way about me. I had crucial conversations with my parents and pitching coach on Friday and on Saturday (Sept. 6 & 7) and I was extended an offer of a lifetime.
I knew with every fiber of my being I wanted to be a Wolverine and that I would bleed BLUE for the rest of my life. I couldn’t imagine waiting or calling Coach Hutch in a week. I’m a people person and, with my parents’ blessing, I verbally committed to Michigan in Coach Hutchin’s office and became a part of the most special family in this nation; the Michigan Family. For life. GO BLUE!
Was there an “aha” moment when you knew Michigan was right for you?
I wouldn’t say it was an “aha” moment, but more an accumulation of moments. I felt like I automatically clicked into every aspect of Michigan. I fell in love with the coaches. The players were all so uplifting and supportive of each other. The whole campus was just buzzing with excitement.
I also knew that with Coach Hutch, Coach (Bonnie) Tholl, Coach Brundage, and Coach (Mary Beth) Dennison, I would be challenged and pushed, but I would also be loved and valued. Michigan doesn’t just set you up for a career, it sets you up for life and I knew immediately that I wanted to be a part of it.
Wow… what a great recap of the recruiting process! Let’s now turn to softball in general: what’s been your most memorable softball experience to date?
I think that would be competing in the JO Cup with 11 players… with two injured and unable to play for a majority of the tournament. We found a way to pull together under adversity and win this championship game. Total teamwork.
Do a “scouting report on yourself: what would you say are your strengths on the field?
I believe my strengths are that I am coachable, I’m very calm under pressure and I’ve got great command of my pitches. Coach Hutch expressed that she loves what I’m about and that she knew without a doubt I was Michigan through and through. Coach Brundage appreciates my variety of pitches, good mechanics, and that I don’t give up a lot of hits.
Have you set personal goals for yourself for this year?
I always have personal goals set. I’m never satisfied. I have really focused on spins and movement my entire pitching career, but I am working on speed increase and increased core and leg strength.
Do you have any softball superstitions?
I have a necklace and a wristband that have a special logo on them and it means a lot to me. I never take them off.
What would you say is your philosophy in life?
Always lay a firm foundation and only use strong bricks when you add to it. Do Good Work.
If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would it be on-field? Off the field?
On the field, I’m a “competitor.” Off the field, I’m “genuine.”
What worries you most about what kids your age are facing in the future?
I worry that kids are trying to grow up too quickly and are forgetting to live in the moment.
What’s been your favorite vacation or place you’ve visited?
Sanibel Island, Florida is my favorite vacation spot and I’m ready to go back!
What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome in life?
I am so fortunate compared to some, but the hardest thing I’ve experienced was the recent death of my dog, Lucy. She was 15 and I’ve never known life without her. It’s the hardest thing ever and I’m not sure when I’ll stop missing her.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what’s the one thing you’d want to have with you?
If you could have dinner with anyone... living or dead... who would it be?
Coach Hutch, because I have so much I want to learn from her.
Finally, what’s one thing or accomplish about you that is unusual or unique about you that few know?
I love to create art, especially watercolors and colored pencils. I have won two Scholastic Gold Key Awards in 2018 and 2019. My mom says that when God made me, he blessed my right hand a little bit extra
Favorite food: Pesto pasta with chicken
Favorite thing in your closet: My Lululemon leggings.
Favorite school subject: Science.
Most recent movie seen: Overcomer.
Did you like it? I liked the message, but the acting was a bit cheesy.
What’s playing in your headphones right now? Beautiful Crazy by Luke Combs
Pets? Hoping for another dog very, very soon. I really miss Lucy.
Favorite motto/phrase: GO BLUE!
Pie or cake (and why)? Neither.....definitely ice cream!
Best talent off the field? Drawing/art
Who inspires you (athletically & non-athletically)? Athletically: Grayson Radcliffe. Her work ethic has always inspired me. Non-Athletically: My Mom (Crystal Aiken). Her compassion and determination are traits I strive for.