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Loara Reserve Softball Player Is a Star During Drills

April 13, 1999|MARTIN HENDERSON

Rain wiped out Loara's scheduled Empire League softball season opener against Cypress and left the varsity field under water and the junior varsity field mushy. As players arrived for practice the next day, senior Sandra Hertzberg was distracted for another reason. Her 6-year-old brother is in the hospital for the third day.

His life isn't in danger, she says, but "it's hard to concentrate on what I'm doing, even schoolwork."

Despite it, Hertzberg is her typical self, mostly upbeat, naturally positive during the Saxons' practice.

As his team loosens up, Coach Scott Weber emphasizes which uniform to wear against Cypress the next day, Thursday. Then, the Saxons are off and running, from home to first, from first to third, and home to third. Players are supposed to touch the inside of the base with their right foot, but it's lost on some of them.

This is a team that runs a lot, even in a fielding drill that keeps them moving from first base to third amid constant chatter.

"C'mon Mandy."

"Let's go, Katie."

This is where Hertzberg excels. Not the running or fielding, but the encouraging.

She is not a starter, and probably won't bat two dozen times this season. A senior who barely gets into the game, it's easy to assume Hertzberg wouldn't be missed. And yet, she would.

"She's always the first one up, telling the team to cheer, the first one to give someone a high-five," says senior Stephanie Ellison, who has drawn the unenviable task of running the bases for much of the practice to simulate game situations. "Every team needs a person like that."

For every star, there are many Sandra Hertzbergs, whose playing days will end with high school graduation. "We might not be Pacifica," Hertzberg said, "but we put out the best effort we can."

While Weber hits fungoes for more than an hour, Hertzberg warms up freshman Katie Joosten on the sideline for 20 minutes. "I like pitching to her," said Joosten, a dropball pitcher who works almost exclusively with Hertzberg. "She's positive."

Hertzberg's participation has rewarded her in ways other than playing time. "You've got relationships, how to deal with other people, trust, loyalty, effort, teamwork," she said. "Nothing's individual. [Learning] those things are important in the long run."

As the ground balls continue and pitcher Gina Vernazzaro warms up with freshman Lauren Lappin, Hertzberg eventually takes her turn at catcher and first base.

The Saxons didn't make the playoffs last season, and "Just Win" is emblazoned on the back of Weber's shirt. He's trying to turn things around.

Hertzberg, like so many others who endure three-hour practices, little playing time and few accolades, makes the coach's job easier.

"Sandra will do anything you tell her to do," Weber says. "If you tell her to stand by the [ball] bucket for the whole practice, she'll do it."

She would too.

"Everyone has a certain position," Hertzberg says. "All the effort that goes into everything, warming up the pitcher, it comes out in the game.

"Even though I don't start, I feel like I've done something whether it's in a game or not."

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